What I love about Lenovo’s gaming laptops is their subtle design. Their gaming laptops are all Knight Rider black with a red accent and have been since the beginning, which I date back to June 2013 with the Ideapad Y510p. It wasn’t branded or marketed as a gaming laptop - instead Lenovo oddly shoved in 2 Nvidia GT 750m GPUs in SLI and called it “multimedia laptop.” That started the trend of affordable laptops that are capable of moderate-graphics and a good travel buddy for any gamer. Keep this all in mind as you read this review. The Lenovo Ideapad “gaming” line is absolutely relevant to gamers and Lenovo has steadily improved this line of laptops to make them more gamer friendly. Unfortunately, the lack of a true flagship gaming laptop has left Lenovo out of the conversation (just look at LaptopMag.com, CNet, etc.). The “gaming laptop” conversation is dominated by ASUS, Alienware, Razer and now Gigabyte. Those devices are absolutely worthy of a gamer’s attention and the Y700 is too. The Y700 is loaded with above-average specs with an understated design that won’t disappoint.
Hardware & Design
The first specification to consider when comparing gaming alptops is the video card (GPU). Nvidia has dominated this space for years and it’s pretty easy to pick up on the limitations of the laptop by filtering by GPU. Nvidia has produced a mobile-line of video cards that compare to their desktop equivalents: the GTX 940, 960, 970 and 980. Most gaming laptops use the mobile version which is denoted by an “m” at the end of the model. In the case of the Y700, the GPU is the Nvidia GTX 960m with 4GB of RAM. This is the mid-range card that is perfect for 1080p gaming with medium-to-high graphics settings. And that’s the way Lenovo designed the laptop: it’s not overkill in any way, even in the design of the chassis. If you’re looking for a laptop to replace your gaming desktop, this isn’t it. This is arguably the best value gaming laptop available, meaning it won’t destroy your wallet and it’s not VR ready. The CPU is a powerful Intel i7-6700HQ with a core clock rate of 2600 MHz and a max clock of 3291 MHz. That mumbo jumbo means this: it’s the fastest Skylake processor available for notebooks. My unit came with 16GB of RAM and both an SSD and HDD for storage.
The keyboard on the Y700 is fantastic. It feels like a mechanical keyboard without the noise. It’s not a replacement for a mechanical keyboard but it feels great. The red accent lighting is strong and looks gorgeous in the dark. The top portion of the keyboard his accented by two red-grills where the speakers are located. This is a JBL speaker system and it sounds great. I’m not an audiophile but it sounds better than average to me. There is also a sub-woofer mounted on the bottom of the laptop. That’s pretty sweet! On the software end there is a Dolby application that provides some adjustments to your settings such as the audio mode. I haven’t fiddled with it too much but there are some noticeable differences between the modes (Dynamic, Music, Movie, Gaming and Voice).
The display on this Y700 is a 1080p touch screen. It’s not as bright as I’d like but it’s better than the Y50 was. It produces 263 nits which is better that other laptops in this category that I’ve tested. I don’t see the need for a touchscreen on a gaming laptop that weighs 5.7lbs. If that’s your thing, then great. But unlike other Lenovo laptops this is not a 2-in-1 hybrid or convertible. It’s meant for playing games like Heroes of the Storm, Rise of the Tomb Raider, and Fallout 4. Not Candy Crush. I suppose it’s a nice to have without jeopardizing other design aspects; but I wouldn’t pay for it if I didn’t need it.
The pervasive issue with any gaming laptop is battery life. The Y700 is no exception. You can expect roughly 4 hours of battery life if you stretch it out by reducing the screen brightness muting the speakers. But if you are going to be gaming you shouldn’t expect much out of this laptop without plugging it in.
The speakers look and sound great.
Unlike everything else that I evaluate in a laptop review, performance is quantifiable. It has to be done systematically and I’ve been using 3DMark 2013 to accomplish that. Contrary to this practice there is a subjective experience of gaming on the Y700 that I can comment on: it’s great! I don’t like to play games on low settings below 1080p resolution. Fortunately I haven’t had to do that with the games I’ve selected: Heroes of the Storm, Paragon (beta), The Witcher 3 and Grim Dawn. Below are the settings:
Heroes of the Storm: 1080p @60hz. All settings on high.
Paragon: 1080p @ 60hz. All settings on low.
The Witcher 3: 1080p @ 60hz. Nvidia HairWorks - off, All settings on High.
Grim Dawn: 1080p @ 60hz. Textures, Shadows, Shaders, Reflections and Weather on High. Particles and Lighting on Medium. AA and Anisotrpic Filtering were off. V-Sync enabled.
In more conversational terms, I find the Y700 to be a worthy successor of the Y50: updated with Skylake and the 900-series Nvidia Geforce GPU without compromising the cool design, ports or speakers. As with the Y50 and Y40, I know I can walk into a LAN party and not feel like I’m behind on the tech. And when my friends come over for a make-shift game night they have fun with these laptops and can play the latest MOBAs or Team Fortress without compromise. That’s what it’s all about.
Below is some quantifiable data. I’ve compared the Y700 with ghosts from Lenovo’s gaming laptop past. You’ll see a strong iterative trend from it’s true younger brother, the Y50. The two tests I performed using 3DMark are Fire Strike and Sky Diver (the two right-most columns).
2 x 2W JBL Speakers with Chamber + 3.0 W Subwoofer and Dolby® Home Theater™
4 Cell 60 WHr
Red LED Backlit with 2 Level Brightness Control
This unit: Frameless Full HD (1920 x 1080) or
Ultra HD (3840 x 2160) 16:9 IPS Anti-Glare
(inches) : 15.23″ x 10.90″ x 1.02″
(mm) : 387 x 277 x 25.95
Starting at 5.7 lbs (2.6 kg)
Optional External USB 2.0 DVD/BD Tray-In (not reviewed)
LAN 1000 M, Up to WiFi 2 x 2 a/c + Bluetooth® 4.0
2 x USB 3.0, 1 x USB 2.0 + Always-on, DC-in, 2-in-1 Audio Combo Jack, 1 x HDMI, 1 x 4-in-1 Media Card Reader (SD, SDHC, SDXC, MMC)
The Y700 is an excellent value that won’t disappoint you. It has a cool design, excellent hardware and the right combination of specs that you will need for any LAN party. While its battery life is average and it’s not VR-capable, this is an excellent laptop for 1080p gaming on medium-to-high settings for anything demanding today. If your library goes back to 2014 and older, you shouldn’t have any issue running every game at max settings.
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