What's hot: Very fast, strong dedicated graphics, great specs for the price.
What's not: No switchable graphics, it's Radeon all the time.
Reviewed January 26, 2011 by Lisa Gade, Editor
Lenovo’s IdeaPad Y series laptops target gamers and multimedia types on a budget. You get a fast Intel CPU, dedicated AMD Radeon graphics with 1 gig of VRAM, HDMI and excellent speakers. The Y just got faster thanks to a second generation Intel Core i7 CPU, and battery life is better as well. The Lenovo IdeaPad Y560p is one of the first Sandy Bridge (second gen Intel Core i CPU and chipset) notebooks to hit the market. Available now, the Y560p runs on the Intel Core i7-2630QM CPU with 4 or 6 gigs of DDR3 RAM in retail models (up to 8 gigs if ordered direct from Lenovo’s website), AMD Radeon HD 6570M graphics and a 15.6” 1366 x 768 LED backlit glossy display. It weighs a reasonable 5.95 lbs. (not including the 1.75 lb. charger and cords) and runs for 4 hours with the standard 6 cell battery.
Design, Keyboard and Ports
The Lenovo Y560p eschews high end design for reasonable pricing, and that means it doesn’t look like a tricked out gaming rig (Alienware) nor does it have the classy looks and metal casing of the HP Envy or Lenovo’s own IdeaPad U260. The design hasn’t changed significantly from the outgoing first gen Core i Y560 line. The lid is a mid-gloss faux brushed metal affair that’s made of plastic and it has some flex that’s most notable when pressing down on the closed lid. The keyboard deck is gloss plastic that loves fingerprints, while the bottom is the usual matte plastic with plenty of air vents. The fan fires out the left side toward the rear and the DVD burner (optional Blu-ray available) opens on the right side. The DVD drive’s door curves around the edge toward the bottom on this relatively slim 0.79"-1.3” computer, and as a result it’s easy to accidentally open the drive tray when moving and carrying the running machine.
The keyboard is excellent, as you’d expect from Lenovo. It’s a standard desktop keyboard design rather than the island style keyboard that’s popular on notebooks (especially smaller ones) these days. We were able to type insanely quickly almost immediately on the Y560p. Unfortunately the keyboard isn’t backlit (remember, this is a budget-friendly machine that does away with some fineries), but the IdeaPad logo on the keyboard deck and LED status lights are backlit. The Lenovo has touch sensitive buttons for power settings and webcam settings as well as their SlideNav touch controls above the keyboard.
The touchpad has a stippled texture with a glossy feel and we found it a bit fast but manageable. It’s roomy and supports both multi-touch gestures and side-scrolling. The mouse buttons are mushy and feel like worn piano keys. Two 2 watt JBL speakers live above the keyboard under chrome and black mesh grilles. These put out plenty of volume and fairly high quality sound: both gaming sound effects and movie sound tracks sound excellent. Likewise, audio output via HDMI sounded quite good when hooked up to our AV system.
Deals and Shopping:
The IdeaPad Y560p has the usual set of ports: 3 USB 2.0 ports (one combined with e-SATA), HDMI, VGA, gigabit Ethernet, ExpressCard/34 slot, SD/MMC/Memory Stick slot, stereo out and mic in. There’s a slider switch on the front right edge for wireless control (Bluetooth and WiFi, there’s no 3G option) but no switchable graphics control. Nor is there software control that might allow you to switch to Intel’s newer, faster, better integrated graphics. That’s a real shame since Intel’s new graphics controller in Sandy Bridge offers up to 30% better performance from last gen Intel HD graphics, and it would use less power than the dedicated Radeon graphics included on the Y560p. Will we see a software update that adds switchable graphics? No word yet.
Despite the very fast 2GHz Core i7 CPU and Radeon graphics, the Lenovo runs just warm to the touch. Underside temps and fan exhaust temps are 86F during normal productivity use and keyboard temps are a cool 78F. When gaming, the fan kicks in strongly and bottom temps rise to 95F. Core temps average 45C under normal use and 59C when gaming and the GPU hits 56C when gaming. The GPU has a dedicated fan that ran at 30% when gaming. During normal use the fan runs quietly (you’ll barely notice it) except when it kicks up for 20 seconds every few minutes.
There are 3 doors on the bottom of the computer secured with Philips head screws, making it easy to access the RAM slots, hard drive and two Mini PCIe slots.
The Lenovo has a 15.6”, 1366 x 768 LED backlit gloss display. That’s average for 15.6” laptops, though we wish Lenovo offered a higher resolution display option so we could make even better use of the powerful CPU and graphics card when watching HD video and playing games. That said, for the price, the display quality and resolution are average. Display brightness is fine for indoor use and averages 190 nits across the display. Viewing angles aren’t terribly wide but side viewing angles are wide enough for two friendly folks to watch a movie side by side. Colors are strong and contrast is good though it doesn’t exceed the category average. We found the Lenovo easy on the eyes and pleasing for movie watching.
Is Sandy Bridge that much better than the first gen Intel Core i platform? According to our benchmarks, it is indeed faster in terms of CPU performance and better in terms of power management, even if we can’t test Intel’s latest generation HD integrated graphics on the Y560p. The Intel Core i7-2630QM (second gen CPUs add a leading “2” to the CPU model number) is a 4 core/ 8 thread 64 bit processor with Turbo Boost and 6 megs of level 2 cache. It uses 32nm lithography and consumes 45 watts (impressive for a Core i7). It supports virtualization VT-x but not the newer VT-d directed I/O virtualization (if you don’t know what this means, you probably don’t need this feature). The 2GHz CPU can Turbo Boost to 2.9GHz, and it can address up to 8 gigs of DDR3 PC3-8500 1066/1333/MHz RAM.
Retailers currently have 2 versions of the new Sandy Bridge IdeaPad Y560p that vary in RAM and hard drive capacity only. The $999 model has 4 gigs of RAM and a 500 gig, 7200 RPM SATA hard drive while the $1,099 version has a 750 gig, 5400 RPM drive and 6 gigs of RAM. Lenovo offers these configs on their website at higher prices, though they often send out coupons that bring prices down. Lenovo direct also offers a $1,449 model with 8 gigs of RAM, a 750 gig hard drive and a Blu-ray drive. All models ship with 1333MHz RAM, a 1366 x 768 LED backlit gloss display (there are no hi-res or matte options), WiFi 802.11b/g/n (Atheros AR9285), Broadcom gigabit Ethernet, Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR (Broadcom), AMD Radeon HD 6570M graphics with 1 gig VRAM, a 6 cell battery and Windows Home Premium 64 bit.
If you bought a Y series machine 6 months ago or less with the Intel i7-720QM and Radeon HD 5730M, the speed improvements don’t warrant an upgrade. We saw a healthy increase in PCMark Vantage from 5947 on the outgoing system to 7803 on the new system, and 3DMark 06 went from 7291 to 8427. Those numbers put the Lenovo Y560p at the top of the heap among competing brands at the same price. If you’re a hardcore gamer who wants the fastest rig, you clearly will see a significant speed increase from your late 2009 to early 2010 Core i7 laptop with dedicated graphics. The Y560p outperforms our late 2009 Envy 15 with the 1.6GHz Intel Core i7-720QM and Radeon 4830 graphics with 1 gig VRAM: gaming frame rates increased by up to 12fps. It’s hard to beat the Lenovo right now in terms of speed and features vs. price. We’ll have to wait and see what HP, Acer and others offer to counter the Y560p since few Sandy Bridge systems are on the market as of this writing.
We use PCMark Vantage to benchmark laptops, and include the Y560p's scores along with older generation Intel Core i5 and i7 multimedia and gaming machines for your reference.
Lenovo IdeaPad Y560p with 2GHz Intel Core i7, 6 gigs RAM and 750 gig 5400RPM hard disk:
PCMark Suite: 7803
Memories Suite: 5153
TV and Movies Suite: 5500
Gaming Suite: 6879
Music Suite: 6827
Communications Suite: 6648
Productivity Suite: 5621
HDD Test Suite: 3674
3DMark 06: 8427
HP ENVY 15 (Intel Core i7 1.6GHz quad core, ATI Radon 4830):
PCMark Suite: 5927
Memories Suite: 3824
TV and Movies Suite: 4414
Gaming Suite: 6072
Music Suite: 5517
Communications Suite: 4739
Productivity Suite: 5185
HDD Test Suite: 3833
PCMark Suite: 6195
Memory Suite: 4536
TV and Movie Suite: 3672
Gaming Suite: 5688
Music Suite: 6292
Communication Suite: 4617
Productivity Suite: 5202
HDD Test Suite: 4076
We tested YouTube streaming over Wi-Fi and were very impressed by the performance. The IdeaPad Y560p played 1080p video full screen at a solid 35 fps. Hulu streamed 480p video over Wi-Fi at 24 fps. DVDs played at 59-60 fps. The “slimtype” DVD drive was oddly slow for file copies and disc burning in our tests, but it performed fine for movie playback.
The IdeaPad excelled at video production using Windows Live Movie Maker. We took two 1080p AVCHD 330 meg clips and imported them into a new project in seconds. We added a variety of transitions, made a few edits and then exported a 1080p WMV file in 4 minutes. Nice.
Clearly, the IdeaPad Y560p is a gaming machine. The only thing missing is a higher resolution display option, but you can plug the laptop into an external display, projector or 1080p HD TV for big screen gaming and movie-watching. We tested many of the latest shooter games including Mass Effect 2, Left 4 Dead 2 and Wolfenstein and we found that the Lenovo played all of them fluently. We recorded a gameplay and cinematic video compendium that you can check out below. We’ve also included game settings for your reference.
As you can see in the video, gaming performance is smooth and fast with most video and graphics options set to the max. The IdeaPad Y560p is well suited to playing the current crop of FPS and MMO games.
With the resolution set to 1024 x 600 running in full screen mode, the cinematic scenes in Mass Effect 2 ran at a solid 60 fps. Frame rates in gameplay ranged between 30-60 fps, but often stayed at 60 fps.
Mass Effect 2 video Settings:
Resolution: 1024 x 600
High Quality Bloom: On
Film Grain On
Motion Blur: On
Dynamic Shadows On
Light Environment Shadows: On
Number of Cinematic Lights: 3
Use Spherical Harmonic Lighting: On
Anisotropic Filtering: 2x
Like with other games, Left 4 Dead 2 ran smoothly on the IdeaPad Y560p with cinematic scenes running at 24 fps (likely the max recorded frame rate) and with gameplay running at 60 fps in single player mode.
Left 4 Dead 2 Video setting:
Resolution: 1366 x 768
Film Grain: 40%
Anti-Aliasing: 4X MSAA
Anisotropic filtering: 8x
Shader Detail: Very high
Effect Detail: High
Model/Texture Detail: High
Multicore Rendering: enabled
Paged Pool Memory Available: High
Wolfenstein cinematic scenes ran at 60 fps and gameplay ran at solid 60 fps.
Resolution: 1366 x 768
Refresh Rate: 60
Machine Performance: High
Shadow Quality: High
Post Process Quality: High
Detailed Maps: Enabled
Texture Filtering: Anisotropic (middle setting)
How about playing games at higher resolutions? We connected the Y560p to a big screen 1920 x 1080 flat screen TV and set the TV as the only display. We then cranked in-game settings to max resolution and let FRAPS (frame rate reporting utility) tell the story. Wolfenstein, an older game, had a max compatible resolution of 1680 x 1050 and ran at 24fps average in fairly action-packed settings. Newer games like Left 4 Dead 2 ran at full 1920 x 1080 at 55-60fps for cut scenes, 38-48fps in slow to moderate action settings and 34fps in heavy action settings. Excellent.
Lenovo ships the IdeaPad Y560p with a 6 cell, 57Wh Lithium Ion battery. Mid to large size Intel Core i7 machines aren’t Energizer bunnies, but the Lenovo put in a respectable 4 hours of real world productivity use with brightness set to 60% and both WiFi and Bluetooth on. If only we could switch to Intel HD graphics and thus squeeze out another hour! We tested streaming video playback time using Hulu with Lenovo's default Energy Star power management settings but we changed screen brightness turned to max. The Y560p lasted 2:10 hours when streaming Hulu over WiFi. DVD playback with the same battery settings lasted 2:15 minutes.
The notebook ships with Windows 7 Home Premium 64 bit and the usual assortment of both useful and bloaty software. Lenovo’s own excellent OneKey Rescue, SlideNav, OneKey Theater II and VeriFace (log in using the webcam and your face) are here. Bloatware and dubious-ware includes a trial of McAfee Virus Scan, MS Office 2010 Starter Edition, ooVoo, Windows Live Toolbar, Cyberlink YouCam, Power2Go, Media Show and Lenovo Direct Share.
Though the competition hasn't yet kicked in with myriad second gen Intel Core i7 laptops in this class, we suspect that the Lenovo IdeaPad Y560p will hold its rank near the top for performance vs. price just as did the last generation IdeaPad Y series. The laptop's performance is top notch, yet it remains cool and battery life is surprisingly good given the CPU and GPU inside. Gaming with the latest demanding 3D titles is simply joyful and the Y560p cut through 1080p video production. As an everyday productivity machine (hey, we all have to work sometime), the keyboard is superb, the display is sharp and solid for the price class and you get plenty of storage space for files, music and video. Our only complaint is the lack of graphics switching-- especially annoying because some of Lenovo's marketing literature and the included printed guide refer to this feature. For those who need more unplugged time when doing everyday tasks, this feature is sorely missing.
Pro: Very fast machine, solid dedicated Radeon graphics with 1 gig VRAM, runs cool and fairly quiet, battery life good for such a powerful machine, excellent keyboard, good selection of ports.
Con: Looks are acceptable but uninspiring, some flex in lid plastics, no switchable graphics.
Price: $999 for 4 gigs RAM and 500 gig hard drive.
Display:15.6", 1366 x 768 LED backlit glossy display. AMD Radeon HD 6570 dedicated graphics with 1 gig VRAM. HDMI and VGA ports.
Battery:6 cell, 57 Wh Lithium
Ion rechargeable. Large world charger included (charger and cords weigh 1.76 pounds).
2nd generation Core i7-2630QM CPU (Sandy Bridge). 4 gigs or 6 gigs DDR3 PC3-8500, 1333MHz RAM (max is 8 gigs). 500 gig 7200 RPM or 750 gig 5400 RPM hard drive. Dual layer DVD burner (Blu-ray optional).
x 10.04 x 0.79 - 1.3 inches. Weight: 5.95 pounds.
Camera:1.3MP webcam with dual mics.
in JBL stereo speakers, dual mics, 3.5mm stereo headphone
jack and 3.5mm mic jack. Dolby Home Theatre surround sound.
Networking:Gigabit Ethernet, Atheros AR9285
WiFi 802.11b/g/n and Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR (Broadcom).
7 Home Premium 64 bit. Lenovo OneKey Rescue, Lenovo VeriFace, Lenovo webcam software and Lenovo ReadyComm. MS Office 2010 Starter Edition, trial version of McAfee Virus Scan Plus, Cyberlink YouCam, ooVoo and more.
Expansion and Ports:3 USB 2.0 ports, eSATA port (combined with 1 USB port), ExpressCard/34 slot, 6-in-1 card reader, HDMI, VGA and Ethernet.