Table of Contents (in short):
- In the box
- Build quality, Case and design and looks
- Keyboard and Trackpad
- Sound and Speakers
- General subjective performance experience
- Gaming Performance
- Thermals, Throttling & Noise handling
- Screen / Screen quality
- Problems / WiFi
- Competiting gaming laptops / alternatives
++ Main reason to consider:
Good package of extra features (best speakers, very good touchpad, good looking) along very high gaming performance for the price and an SSHD (US version).
— Main reason to avoid:
The 1080p display quality is very low.
Lenovo B&N gold discount – should be aroun $950-$1000 with an I7
+ Good gaming performance for $1000, with the GTX 860M.
+ Very quiet for a gaming laptop
+ Very good touchpad.
+ Simple stylish design
+ Acceptable battery performance at around 4-4.5 hours surfing the web
+ Very high build quality
+ Best speakers for a gaming laptop in this price range
+ Backlit keyboard
+ Screen is easily replaceable
+ With an I5, heat is not really a problem while having excellent gaming performance
+ SSHD storage delivers responsive laptop
– Bad 1080p display (but the UHD is good)
– With an I7, CPU might get throttled under full load
– Keyboard is not the great and typing fast is a problem due to missed characters (seems like others don’t think so)
– The Intel 3160 WiFi card disconnection – drivers? (7260 card optional).
– no mSata / extra space for another drive.
|CPU||I5 / I7 |
Tested configuration: I5-4200H, 2.8-3.5GHZ
|GPU||GTX 860M GDDR5 (Maxwell), core@1100MHZ, GDDR5@1.25GHZ|
|RAM||Hynix 2x4GB DDR3@800MHZ|
|HDD||Usually : 1TB SSHD (8GB SSD)|
Tested local version: WDC WD10SPCX-24HWST0, 5400RPM 1TB HDD
|LCD Panel||In review: AUO B156HTN03.6, eDP |
|Weight / Dimensions||~2.4kg / 5.3lbs|
|Keyboard||Backlit (red), full numpad|
|Connection Ports||right side: USB 2.0, card reader, microphone/headphones, SPDI/F, kensington lock|
left side: 2xUSB 3.0, Ethernet, HDMI 1.4a
Front, Rear: nothing
|WiFi||WiFi: Intel 3160 HMC Dual band, 54Mbps|
Ethernet: RealTek Semiconductor RTL8168/8111 PCI-E Gigabit Ethernet NIC
|Speakers||2.1 JBL speakers|
|Battery||6 cell, 53Wh|
This Lenovo Y50 review is for the basic Y50 with an I5 and an 1080p display. The Lenovo Y50 is Lenovo’s new main gaming laptop. It’s the last heir of the no-so-ancient Lenovo Y gaming laptops dynasty : Y570 -> Y580 -> Y500 (650M SLI and 750M SLI) -> Y510p (750M SLI and 755M SLI) and now the Y50. The current price for the I5 version is around $1000.
The heart of the Y50 is the Nvidia GTX 860M GPU which is actually almost the same as the desktop part GTX 750 Ti. Therefore, the Y50 can deliver a high midrange gaming performance, for a laptop, equaling or surpassing the previous generation GTX 770M. For $1000 this is a very good gaming performance. The question is, how good is the Y50 in other aspects, especially the 1080p display – we already know that this is not an IPS display (which I have to admit I was sure it was).
Furthermore, unlike previous generations, the Y50 doesn’t really add to the gaming performance. While the 860M is powerful for a gaming laptop, it’s not faster than the 755M SLI in the Y510p which is cheaper. However, it costs much much less in power consumption and heat. We’ll see how it goes.
The higher end versions come with UHD IPS display and an I5/I7. Lenovo did disappoint with the initial prices and the non-IPS display, but the review might reveal something new and moreover, the prices will get lower in time.
UPDATE: I’ve updated the display section. It seems that it is very easy to replace the display. Read the update in the display section.
I don’t even know what I write this section – it’s almost always the same : The Lenovo Y50, PSU and drivers.
One strong point of the Lenovo Y50 is its case build quality. Only the keyboard surface and the right side after the keyboard yield a bit, but otherwise, the case is quite firm, including the bottom. Moreover, the display outer lid is more firm than any other laptop I have tested and while it won’t hold against some good punching, it is indeed strong enough to hold some high pressure. Definitely better than previous generation Y500/Y510p and better than many gaming laptops competitors in this price range. I’m not sure, but I think the outer display lid and bottom lid are metal. Hinges also firmly grip the display.
The upper and bottom parts of the Y50 cover one another in the edges, so dust and other enemies are not easily getting in. However, the touchpad is not in one surface as the case and the keyboard keys also have some space between them and the surface (as expected).
The Y50 case, like my soul, is all black. The outer lid and bottom lid has the brushed metal finish and it looks good. It is not bulky in looks and Lenovo did invest in making it stylish, also combining the black case with red keyboard backlit, USB 3.0 ports and red speakers grills.
Connection ports Not enough really. Only 2 USB 3.0 ports and one USB 2.0. HDMI, no VGA (not needed for almost no one). A DisplayPort port should be used more, I feel.
Maintenance and inner parts Some screws standing between you and the most of the motherboard. I’ve added some images – I hope they are good enough. No option for an mSata, at least in this version and at least from this side of the mother board.
Two fans are cooling the GPU and CPU. We’ll test their efficiency soon. Hot air is blown out of the rear of th Y50. Air is taken in from the bottom of the Y50 and hot air is thrown out from the rear. The CPU and GPU are not replaceable. You can see the subwoofer near the fans.
The Keyboard. Lets start by saying the good things – the keys are well spaced and comfortable to the finger. It is also a bit stylish as keys are not totally square (though it doesn’t mean a lot). Numpad is apparent for those who need it and the red backlit is useful. However, I find it hard to type really quickly since a fast typing does not result in characters being typed. You’d find that you have to press the keys more than you’d want in order to get a result. Feedback is also so-so and that’s part of the problem. I think the Y510p was better in that manner.
UPDATE: seems like others think that the keyboard is good enough with one redditor saying he can hit 88wpm with it (compared to his usual 90). Now, I don’t believe it’s only me as I’m not too picky about keyboard, but it might be just my specific laptop that has that problem, though it would be strange.
Touchpad. The touchpad, however, is good. Lenovo really fixed that since the Y510p. It is large, feels good on your fingertip, responsive and does not act funny. Two buttons are integrated into the touchpad. You can’t click them both simultaneously, but other than that, they are responsive and comfortable.
Another strong point for the Y50 which is a continuing trend from the days of the Y570. The 2.1 JBL speakers are pretty good. You get both the high and low sounds and the speakers delivers rich deep sound which adds a lot to the experience. The difference between the Y50 and other gaming laptops is obvious in this aspect. It doesn’t mean that the Y50 is perfect for audiophiles and even I can hear some misbehaved sounds, but you won’t even consider it annoying as the overall experience is very very good.
Just a note – even the Asus N550XX and MSI GTs sound is not as good.
I was using Windows 8.1 fully updated with all drivers in place. My local version of the Y50 does not have an SSHD and it shows. Some operations takes more time than you’d expec – stuff like opening some folder and some application at once and so. The Y510p felt much better. I don’t think that the US version has a non-SSHD and I for sure haven’t seen one, so it’s not a problem. Other than that, the Y50 felt good.
The test includes the 3DMark synthetic benchmarks and a small amount of games and the point is to give a reference benchmarks compared to other machines. For more numbers are available over the web in sites like Notebookcheck.com. I had no real problems and stuff. Generally everything run as expected.
Using Nvidia 340.43 drivers, Windows 8.1 fully updated as I write these lines. HWInfo was used to measure temperatures. The settings I used in each game differ from one to another and the reason is that I tried to find the highest settings which still let you play smoothly. All games are tested with 1080p resolution. There are enough standard benchmarks over the web to compare performance of different GPUs. For each game, I also wrote how I felt playing, if it was smooth or not.
I’ve removed unwanted results, like scene loading times.
I apologize in advanced for the little mess I have with the graphs, visually. It will take me time to get it right, but the numbers are correct.
Let’s start with the gaming performance for highest graphics settings@1080p resolution. These results are the lowest I could get, running the games on the most demanding scenarios (~60 players BF4 MP) What’s highest? In games with predefined profile, highest is the highest profile possible (BF4, Bioshock, TW2R, Thief, Tomb Raider, WoT). Otherwise and / or exceptions:
- Titalfall: highest settings, MSAAx4
- Skyrim, “ultra” settings, FXAA on and Ambient Occlusion set on “quality” using Nvidia control center
- Borderlands 2 : highest on everything, including Phsyx
- Crysis 3 : Very high ‘texture details’ and ‘system specs’, SMAA = 2TX
- LoL, Team Fortress 2 and Dota 2 – everything set on highest, VSync disabled
Quick glance will load into your concessions the observation that all games more or less, played on the highest (reasonable) graphics settings, are running on at least ~24FPS, averagely, and that includes the very demanding Crysis 3. I’ve tried to test these games at the most demanding scenes and ways I could find. The numbers you’ll get are mostly higher than that and usually considerably higher. Also, remember that you can reduce the graphics settings a bit. Titanfall, for example, is not so stable yet probably – I has some strange artifacts and micro stuttering, sometimes. In some maps, I got 40FPS and not 29, but I still used the lower value I got, just to be on the safe side.
Now, lets compare the GTX 860M GDDR5 vs GTX 850M GDDR5 (from the MSI GE40 review) vs GTX 860M GDDR5 from the Notebookchech tests. We are talking here highest settings@1080p, unless otherwise stated. The GTX 860M results come from these notebookcheck GTX 860M tests, taking the highest numbers. Here:
Interestingly, the 850M GDDR5 matches the 860M several times and the expected 15% difference in performance is not there. True, my testing methods are not the same as other benchmarks over the web, but the built-in benchmarks of some games show it to (Bioshock, Tomb Raider, Thief). Two reasons seems right to me : First, the I7 tests include the fact that the I7 laptops sometimes get hot and throttled and even few hundred MHZs can make the difference. Secondly, the GDDR5 clocks might be limiting the GTX 860M (explaining the higher GTX 750 Ti performance).
Anyway, it’s clear that either with an I5 or I7, the midrange GTXs are very close in performance – GTX 850M GDDR5 and 860M. And also, again, there is no reason to prefer I7 over an I5 just for gaming almost at all.
I’ve tested world of tanks using the highest settings only as I feel it suitable in this case. World of tanks usually doesn’t need a lot of FPS and the gaming experience is quite good on highest settings. It might feel a little too slow for some, so you can reduce the setting a bit and it will be fine.
For Crysis 3, I’d start with “High” settings as they felt the best and mostly you’ll get a very smooth gameply. Medium is ofcourse smooth too, but you lose too much graphics.
I have used bioshock built-in benchmark to test it. The performance is quite good as you can see, with average FPSs of 41.6. Don’t mind too much the minimal FPSs – these are usually the parts where the screen is loaded and stuff like that. There was no slowness while running the benchmark. I want to mention the fact that it is very close to the notebookcheck GTX 860M bioshock benchmark with an average of 44FPS.
|Average FPS||Min FPS||Max FPS||Scene Name|
|38.72||14.71||49.86||Scene Change: Disregard Performance In This Section|
|61.68||37.07||101.19||Benchmark Finished: Disregard Performance In This Section|
AO = Ambient Occlusion. It is forced through the Nvidia control panel.
For some reason, with AO set on “quality”, Skyrim feels a little jumpy, like micro-stuttering. You could try “performance” mode or AO or disable it at all (default). Without AO enabled, Skyrim is totally smooth.
The 25FPS result, I got on the “Boom” scene with the huge guns, after the Hammerlock residence – there are a lot of flying debris, physx stuff, fires and flashes. This is what I got after getting shot for few minutes and it was for a split second. You can except very high FPSs and smooth gameplay on highest settings + phsyx on @ 1080p resolution and that’s what I’d suggest.
Battlefield 4, even on ultra settings@1080p runs mostly ok, but not really smooth. I would suggest something between High and Very high settings or simply using “High” settings with MSAAx2-4.
These are the lower results I got, running in the Baku scene, with a lot of soldiers, trucks, landscape and stuff.
Well, nothing to say – you won’t have problem in TF2.
I used the Tomb Raider built in benchmark
The results are from Tomb Raider built-in benchmark tool. You can see that even on the highest settings (“Ultimate”), you’d get rather good average FPSs, though “Ultra” settings are much more playable and would be my suggestion.
Notebookcheck tests with GTX 860M and an I7 results in 45-46FPS average, for ultra settings, which are the same as my results. Tomb Raider is known to be less effected by the extra I7 cores.
Highest settings, 1080p resolution.
Smooth. You could run Dota 2 on highset settings easily.
1080p resolution. Thief built in benchmark.
You can that the SMAA is a major performance hit. I would start with very high settings and try reducing some of the graphics settings, like SMAA and Tessellation. Generally, Thief is highly playable on the highest settings as most of the scenes are not that demanding. I would suggest, as I said, starting from the highest settings and cut stuff down from there.
From my experience, even on ultra settings, it’s quite playable, though not smooth – I’d go with “Very High” settings and try to add things like ambient occlusion and other features, seeing what can I get without too much performance hit.
1080p resolution, Multiplayer.
Benchmarking Titanfall was a bit hard, as there seem to be some bugs or some kind of glitches in the game. Sometimes there are microstuttering issues and sometimes not at all, in the same map. These results are the lowest I got, but actually most of the time, even on heavy action, you could expect at least 35-40FPS.
The GTX 860M runs very well Titanfall and I don’t think you should go higher than that.
1. Prime95: Torture test, In-Place large FFTs. CPU clocked at thehighest and 2.6GHZ (throttle).
2. Prime95 + FurMark 1280×720 burn-in test. CPU clocked at 2.8, 3.0 and 3.2-3.3 (full clocks)
4. Windows power mode on “high performance”
The Lenovo Y50 thermals can be described as good. On highest core clocks, the CPU will get too hot, but most other laptops in this price range will throttle with even lower core clocks. I would suggest using ThrottleStop 6.0 in order to limit the CPU to 2.8-3.0GHZ in order to overheating.
However, for those with a I7 – you’ll get higher temps than that, so I’d suggest using ThrottleStop 6.0 to limit the CPU to 2.6-2.8GHZ.
About the case itself – the keyboard surface gets warm, but it doesn’t get too hot for use. The same area in the bottom plate also gets hot a bit, but nothing that is too alarming. These are the areas around the CPU and GPU and the cooling systems.
I think it is time for ARM CPUs for gaming.
The Lenovo Y50 excels in the noise department. Lenovo chose to deliver a quieter laptop with higher temps. I can’t blame them, though I think they could make a better cooling solution.
The Y50, even under full load, is rather quiet. Under light load you won’t hear it.
The 1080p display of the Y50 is a non-IPS one, like the Y510p display. But unlike the Y510p, it has terrible colors and viewing angles. There is no point where you can see the image well. Ofcourse, for gaming it will be enough, but the display is no good. People who use it for photo editing work will find it insufficient, even if they are not too professional. The viewing angles from below are especially bad.
UPDATE: Seems like the second panel version is better than the one in this test unit. Some people over reddit say it is not as bad as this one.
UPDATE 3: The new Y50 with a GTX 960M has an IPS display which is relatively good. Some reviews show a mediocre IPS display and some good – I think that the newer version with GTX 960M has a better display.
Colors are bad also, at best – less than 60% sRGB is covered and it shows. You’ll notice the red is almost dead.
Contrast at worst can be as low as 1:80 which is really bad. You won’t need graphs to see quickly that black is non-existent in practice.
Hmm. A little disappointing. At most, you’ll get around 4.3-4.5 hours of battery, under very low load (reading) and around 3-3.5 hours browsing the web and doing usual stuff. This is strange since the single GPU Y510p was better (though it had bigger battery, I think).
Update 1: Notebookcheck review shows 4.5 hours of light use and web browsing. I couldn’t get such results. We used different drivers, so it might be the reason. It seems like some devices are not going to sleep and continue sip energy, so my suggestion is to wait before you update drivers and try using the Lenovo built-in drivers.
Update 2: I’ve retested. This I tried to trace what makes the Y50 consumes more energy. It seems that there are some services that were running and took a significant toll. In this case, I’ve ended the task Service Host: Local Service (Network Restricted), and activated “conservation mode” through the Lenovo Settings panel (I’m not sure how much it was of help). I’ve also stopped the search index service, following some advice floating over the web. It changed the results dramatically:
Keep in mind that my Y50 version does not hae an SSHD and it has also some small impact.
I added this section to summarize the main issues of the Lenovo Y50 as I see them:
- The 1080p display is the main issue. Can be replaced quite easily – check the display section updates.
- Heat. People with an I7 will find they have to handle the heat somehow – I’d suggest throttling and maybe undervolting the CPU.
The Intel 3160 seems to be not that good at long distances, unlike other laptops I check. I was wrong, it was some problem with my router, sorry for that.
You can check the $1000 gaming laptops recommendations, but these are the best competitors, in my opinion:
- 15.6: The Lenovo Y50 UHD version – the UHD IPS display is a much better display and negates the main drawback of the 1080p Y50 version. Currently selling for $1200 from Lenovo, but price will probably get lower (wait for retailers). However. it seems like replacing the display is not a problem.
- 15.6″ : The Clevo W350SS with more upgrade options (link), same performane, higher fan noise, bad speakers, but a place to an mSata drive and better display option for around the same price. Looks are more bulky though
- 15.6″ : The upcoming Acer V7-582PG with GTX 850M DDR3 and an IPS display. Currently for $1100, but price will be lower soon. The IPS display and 6-7 hours battery (V7) are the main reason to consider it as you get lower gaming performance (around 30-40% lower).
- 15.6″ : Asus N550JK. Also has 1080p IPS display, I7 and GTX 850M DDR3. Gaming performance is also considerably lower, but for many the much better display is a must.
- 17.3″ : Acer V3-772G pose an excellent value with high gaming performance for the money (GTX 850M GDDR5), better display and place to put an mSata drive. For $800 it’s an excellent laptop, especially for those who want a 17.3″ gaming laptop.
- 13.3″ : Clevo W230SS with a very good 1080p IPS display and GTX 860M. Bad speakers, heat and no OS for $1000, might be drawbacks. Also, it looks rather bulky.
- 14.0″ : MSI GE40, but it remains to be seen how’s the not-initial price. With 1080p IPS display and GTX 850M GDDR5, this is a very good option. (Read the MSI GE40 barebone review)
Th Lenovo Y50 is a good machine. You get a good looking model, with low noise cooling system, very good GTX 860M gaming performance which is the best for $1000 currenty. You also get very good speakers – probably the best for gaming laptops around $1000 and below. The touchpad is good and the build quality is high, even compared to the other gaming laptops.
However, the 1080p display simply makes it false. The display is bad – colors, viewing angles, contrast, it’s all bad. The thermals are not great too, but not worse than other laptops (N550JK, MSI GE40, Y510p, MSI GE60, Clevo W350SS), so it’s OK for the competition.
The solution is either to get the UHD version or to replace the display yourself (you can find a good 1080p IPS display for like $80-$100 including shipping). I would suggest waiting for the UHD versions price to come down to around $1000-$1100 from retailers.
*UPDATE: The screen is easily replaceable. Check the the display section updates for more info – it really changes things. For around $60-$90 you can get a very good 1080P IPS display or more.
Overall, this is a very good machine except the screen. I think Lenovo could do a lot more in the battery department, though. The keyboard is not a premium keyboard either and it’s not as good as the Y510p one. But, all in all, for $1000-$1100 with a good display, this should be a very good gaming laptop option, especially since it packs some features others don’t have – good speakers, the good case build quality and good touchpad, along the very high gaming performance for the price and good looks.
Compared to the competition, as I mentioned, the Y50 has some extra features other don’t have, especially the Clevos (bad speakers, bulky looks, so-so touchpad). Gaming performance for price is about the same (with the exception of the Acer V3-772G which set a new bar.
Final words – it’s a
hard not too easy recommendation. I’d say that for around $900-$950 it’s a sure bet for gamers who do not rely on the keyboard for typing too much. The screen can be easily replaced and the extra value (namely: speakers and noise) make a very good case, in my opinion, over many other laptops, like the Clevos. However, better ask before and think with other people before you buy.