On the surface, Lenovo's Y500 gaming laptop looks like a standard black notebook computer. When we opened the system up, however, we were surprised by a comfortable, full-size backlit keyboard, a high-quality 15.6-inch screen, and above-average audio. Not bad, even if these are expected in a modern gaming laptop.
Digging a little deeper into the Y500's specifications really raised our eyebrows. A Core i7 3630 processor? Not one, but two GeForce GT graphics parts? An SSD bootstrap drive? 16GB of system memory? For $1,250 (£825)?
It's hard to believe, but it's true. And, more importantly, it's fast. Lenovo's load-out puts the Y500 in rarified air, which we'll detail in a bit. As much as we enjoy flashy, we'll take performance and a low price over aesthetics every time.
Aesthetics: Plain Jane looks bely remarkable power
If someone handed you the black, brushed-metal Y500, you'd probably mistake it for a yeoman-class Dell Latitude-type system. In some cases, this might be true - the Y500 comes in a wide variety of configurations ranging from a fairly basic load-out to the ultra-system we tested.
The chassis doesn't look ugly by any means - just simple. It's big (15.2 x 10.2 x 1.4 inches), heavy ( six-plus pounds), and when closed, doesn't look particularly modern. The upside of such a simple look is that, if you're big on stickering your laptop, the clean surfaces are ideally suited for such aspirations.
Thankfully, a number of interesting design elements and features give the Y500 some surprising sizzle. The gigantic backlit keyboard is the first thing that stands out; the red backlight against the black chassis is quite striking, and is about as pure a gaming profile as you can get. It's also essential for gaming and other tasks that frequently take place in the dark.
In addition to looking nice, the keyboard is fantastic. We'll admit that reactions to keyboards are entirely subjective, but the Y500's Chiclet-style keys possess a pleasing, slightly rubberized surface. They feel very comfortable to type on, and are still responsive enough to play games with.
The full range of FN enhancements exist, including sleep mode, keyboard backlight on/off, volume controls, etc. And finally, the inclusion of a numerical keypad on the right-hand side of the system is more than a luxury for some gamers - it's a necessity. Even though these numerical keys are about two-thirds the size of the main alphanumeric keys, you likely won't notice the difference.
This undercover aesthetic emphasis extends to other aspects of this gaming system, as well. Aggressive-looking, asymmetrical speaker grills that house two 1.5 watt JBL stereo speakers sit just above the keyboard. This grilling also exists on the bottom of the laptop, where a large grate allows the Y500 to exhaust some of the hot air that the dual GPUs throw off via an optional (and removable) fan. The lock for the swappable Ultrabay (fan, hard drive, DVD burner) is also here.
Beyond all this, we were pleased to discover that the Y500 possesses a very crisp, very clear 15.6 - inch 1920 x 1080 glossy LED screen. This is particularly gratifying at the $1,250 (£825) price point. There's no touch experience here though, so the system's track pad is forced to function as the gesture control for Windows 8, with mixed results. More on this later.
One last note before we jump into the Y500's system specifications: Partially as a result of the beefy metal chassis and partially as a result of the Y500's heft, this laptop feels incredibly sturdy. This is not surprising, given Lenovo's laptop-making pedigree. However, all things considered, we'd gladly shave off a few pounds if it meant sacrificing a little sturdiness.