Lenovo IdeaPad Y500 review

Smart component choices by Lenovo result in amazing performance for the price

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In the configuration we tested, Lenovo's Y500 has the following core specs:

  • 2.4GHz Intel Core i7 3630QM
  • 2x Nvidia GeForce GT 650M
  • 16GB RAM
  • 1 TB 5400 rpm hard drive
  • 1 16GB SanDisk SSD

Normally, the inclusion of Intel's high-end quad-core 2.4GHz Core i7-3630QM processor would be the star of any gaming laptop. But Lenovo's decision to include dual Nvidia GeForce GT 650M adaptors carries the day.

Lenovo IdeaPad Y500

The GT 650M is a mid-range DirectX 11-compatible Kepler part that Nvidia introduced at the beginning of 2012. Each adapter here has 2GB of GDDR5, and the cards operate in SLI mode, which results in a very real gaming performance.

The GT 650M is capable of supporting up to four displays, although you'll only get three out of the Y500 because the laptop only has two video-out ports. These graphics parts are also capable of running display resolutions up to 3840x2160.

The best part about this particular laptop's SLI configuration is that, because one of the GT 650M adapter snaps in via the system's swappable Ultrabay, you can theoretically adjust your system configuration to be storage-heavy for work/productivity purposes, and then switch back to gaming when the time comes.

The presence of the Core i7 3630QM 2.4 GHz, released by Intel in Q3 2012, is very nice. A high-mid-range Intel Ivy Bridge quad-core, the 3630QM is capable of single-core burst modes up to 3.40GHz. The CPU has a 6MB cache and is capable of running eight threads at a time. In other words, it's also ideally suited for gaming.

(In case you're wondering, there are two key differences between the 3630QM here and the 3632QM that appears in other gaming laptops, including Razer's Blade system. First, the clock speed of the Core i7 3630QM is 2.4GHZ to the 3632QM's 2.2GHZ. Second, the Core i7 3632 is rated at a maximum Thermal Design Power - TDP - of 35 watts, while the 3630 runs at 45 watts. A lower TDP = improved power consumption.)

Another aspect of the Y500's design that gamers will appreciate is the presence of 16GB of SSD storage, a nice load-time accelerator for apps and games.

The Y500 has two USB 3.0 ports, two powered USB 2.0 ports, one VGA port, one HDMI connector, an Ethernet port, a 1/8-inch SPDIF stereo headphone output, and a microphone jack. A DisplayPort adapter would have been a nice add-on feature because it would allow for support of higher resolution displays.

One of the great things about the Y500 model is that it's available in a number of configurations and price points. CPU options range from a Core i3 3110M to a Core i7 3820, with 10 other processor options in between. System memory runs from 8GB to 16GB, and the presence of the Ultra Bay allows another set of alternatives, including a DVD read/write drive.

Prices range from $800 (£525) up to $1,700 (£1,120) . Unfortunately, if you'd rather use Windows 7 than Windows 8, you're out of luck. The only two OS options here are Windows 8 and Windows 8 Pro.