Lenovo Legion Y520 review

A mid-range gaming laptop at a budget price

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Great Value

Our Verdict

The Lenovo Legion Y520’s budget price belies its true nature: an excellent mid-range gamer. It has flaws, like a dim screen, but none that are fatal.

For

  • Easy on the wallet
  • Stays cool
  • Comfortable keyboard

Against

  • Dim display
  • No chroma or macro programmability

The Lenovo Legion Y520 wasn’t forged in the fires of Mount Doom. It wasn’t injected with super serum. It wasn’t sent here from the future, glowering, naked and semi-mute. It wasn’t trained by master ninjas. It wasn’t built in an underground laboratory by rocket scientists. It wasn’t meant to save the world.

Instead, the Y520 – Lenovo’s first laptop in its new Legion series – eats bologna sandwiches. It drinks PBR unironically. It enjoys Sunday afternoon baseball.

The Y520 is a working class hero.

Lenovo’s mid range gaming laptop is reliable, affordable, and has just enough snazz to keep it exciting. There are many devices in this category, like the Asus ROG Strix GL753 and Gigabyte Sabre 17 that are equal to the Y520 in reliability and panache, but few are as affordable. The Y520 won’t blow you away, but for gaming-on-a-budget, it’s one of the best gaming laptops on the market.

Spec Sheet

Here is the Lenovo Legion Y520’s configuration sent to TechRadar for review:

CPU: 2.8GHz Intel Core i7-7700HQ (dual-core, 6MB cache, up to 3.8GHz)
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti (4GB GDDR5 RAM); Intel HD Graphics 630
RAM: 16GB DDR4 (2,400MHz, PC4-2400, SODIMM)
Screen: 15.6-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) IPS (LED backlit, anti-glare)
Storage: 256GB SSD (M.2 PCIe); 2TB HDD (5,400 rpm)
Ports: 2 x USB 3.0, 1 x USB 3.0 Type-C, 1 x USB 2.0, 4-in-1 SD card reader, HDMI-out, headphone jack, microphone jack, Ethernet
Connectivity: 802.11ac Wi-Fi; Bluetooth 4.1
Camera: 720p HD webcam with array microphone
Weight: 5.29 pounds (2.4kg)
Size: 14.96 x 10.43 x 1.09 inches (380 x 265 x 25.8mm; W x D x H)

Price and availability

Our $1,099 (£1,199, AU$2,408) review unit brings a seventh generation Intel Core i7 processor, GTX 1050 Ti GPU and 16GB of memory to the tailgate, though this configuration is by no means the only one Lenovo packs in the cooler.

The Y520’s CPU, GPU, memory and storage are all tweakable: Core i5 or i7; GTX 1050 Ti or GTX 1060; 8GB or 16GB of RAM; no SSD to 512GB and 1TB or 2TB hard drive. It all depends on how much you want to punish your wallet: the Y520 ranges from as low as as $780 (£999, AU$1,499) to as high as $1,529 (£1,199, AU$2,727).

The ROG Strix GL753 and Sabre 17 have nearly identical stats to our review unit (outside of the Sabre 17’s 17 inch screen) and nearly identical prices. Asus’s mid-ranger costs $1,200 (£1,099, AU$1,522). Gigabyte’s is $1,099 (£816, AU$1,999).

Design

Y520? More like B-2 Spirit. With its beaked, winged and thin profile, the Y520 looks more like a stealth bomber than a laptop. There’s no sneaking on the inside, though: red accents on the keys and touchpad call out for ultraviolence. Neither cartoonish (MSI) nor staid (Origin), the Y520 hits that aesthetic sweet spot that many gaming laptops can’t seem to find.

The Y520’s underside is, of course, bedecked with vents. These route heat to the back of the device, which keeps the base relatively cool during use.

This thermal management strategy is also fairly quiet. Sure, the fan lets its presence be known — it’s spinning its heart out under there — but it’s not so obtrusive that the Y520’s rear-mounted speakers are shouted down.

Speaking of speakers, the Y520’s are what you’d expect from a mid-range gamer: average. They can pump up the volume, but not the jams: the audio is tinny and bass-light.

The odd couple

The default color of gaming inputs is a real-tough red, and the Y520’s chroma keyboard is no different. Nor can you do anything about it. Its color palette is static, and the keys non-programmable — features that were likely cut in order to keep the device working class.

That said, in terms of comfort, this worker bee’s keyboard is fit for finger royalty. The keys are large and run deep, with 1.8mm of springy travel. Its setup, though, is a bit strange: above the arrow keys hovers a rather awkward numpad. Furthermore, the numpad looks like it spent a little too much time in the dryer — the keys are shrunk! Overall, it feels like a throw-in feature.

The touchpad is another stranger in a strange land: its trapezoidal shape will delight geometry teachers, but gamers not so much. They usually prefer their polygons in-game, not in-laptop. Odd shape aside, it works well enough. The ‘touch’ is responsive, as are its distinct left and right buttons. For gaming, it’s a bit clumsy, but so is every touchpad. For the fun stuff, you’ll want a mouse.

Dark Star

The Y520’s major flaw is its display. The colors are uninspired and often just wash out, a nearly unforgivable sin on a device that is meant to provide at least medium levels of bedazzlement.

Adding insult to color injury is the display’s brightness, or lack thereof. The only tolerable setting is maximum. Anything less, and you’ll need a flashlight to see whatever the hell is happening on screen.

One would expect at least middling display performance, but the Y520’s screen is decidedly low end. In this area at least, other mid-rangers far outpace it.