Lenovo IdeaPad Y500 review

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

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We liked

By far, the best thing about the Y500 model that we tested is that it's screaming fast. We would have never expected that $1,250 (£825) could buy anyone such a fast, off the shelf gaming laptop. Not today, at least. This is the kind of system that you can not just wow, but completely shock your friends with.

Lenovo IdeaPad Y500

Above and beyond the outstanding price-performance, we're also appreciative of the Y500's top-notch keyboard and steady, sturdy chassis. Together, the two create a top-notch typing surface.

We also appreciate the lack of annoying Windows desktop bloatware that so many other software developers bundles onto so many other PC makers' systems. Aside from anti-virus protection, desktop capture software, and a few other apps and applications, there are very few distractions and performance-reducing software suites.

Finally, we think that speaker quality on laptops is under-rated and largely ignored, mostly because the audio coming out of even high-end portable systems is so medicore. That's not the case here, and this is something to be appreciated.

Tying this section up, we also think that the use of a swappable bay that is capable of housing a bigger hard drive, a separate discreet graphics chip, or a ventilating fan is a great idea. It's something that Lenovo has been doing for ages in its corporate-class offerings.

We disliked

Truth be told, there's not a whole lot to dislike here. There are no gripes that are of the same caliber as the great news about the Y500's system performance, that's for sure.

The biggest complaint we have is regarding the Touch Pad controls. Given how great a keyboard this laptop has, we found the non-responsiveness of the track pad itself as well as the buttons on the track pad surprising. Granted, most people will get used to it over time, and the vast majority of gamers will use a mouse anyway. But there are some fairly well established designs here that Lenovo could have easily mirrored.

The only other significant concern here is the size and bulk of this system. It may be hard to believe, but a six-pound laptop is fairly heavy these days. By way of comparison, Apple's MacBook Pro has a similar-sized screen and load-out, but only weighs a little under 4.5 pounds.

Aside from these concerns, everything else feels fairly minor. It's easy to complain about Windows 8, but there's not much to be done about this aside from simply buying a copy of Windows 7 and re-installing it. It would be similarly easy to complain about the lack of a touch screen, but who needs that in a gaming laptop? Not us.

Final verdict

The more we play games on the Y500, the more impressed we are with Lenovo's minimalist design aesthetic. It's a worthy sacrifice to get the kind of performance the system builder has generated at such a low price point.

From the slightly nerdier perspective of a PC system-builder, the Y500's component selection reflects an intelligent, well thought-out design process. Lenovo's decision to pair a powerful, modern Ivy Bridge mobile proc with a pair of older, high-mid-range GeForce parts is the kind of decision-making that savvy, performance-oriented DIYers make all the time when constrained by dollars.

You can get faster laptops today, but at nowhere near the price tag of this one. That makes this an easy call. If you're on the market for a gaming laptop, you should buy the Y500 (in the same trim as we reviewed it) as soon as you possibly can. It's an ultra-rare combination of fast, versatile, and affordable. And while it is a bit bulky, it's not so big that you can't carry it with you.

We can only hope that other system manufacturers learn from Lenovo here, thereby ending the string of over-priced, kitchen-sink gaming laptops we still occasionally see in favor of more chaste and powerful configurations.