The Lenovo Y series of gaming and multimedia laptops are relatively affordable yet powerful machines that are an alternative to the slimmer, more stylish and significantly more expensive Dell XPS 15, Asus ZenBook Pro UX 501 and the 15" Retina MacBook Pro. At times they've been innovative with features like a bay for a second dedicated graphics card in SLI, but this year's Y700 models pay more attention to slimming and price than innovation or compelling new features. Granted, there's only so much you can ask from a quad core i7 powerhouse with NVIDIA GTX 960M graphics and readily serviceable internals that sells for $1,100 nicely configured. There are precious few similarly spec-d laptops that sell for this little, with MSI's Apache Pro series being among them. Lenovo also makes a 14" Y700 that's available at a lower price point with your choice of AMD or Intel inside (we didn't receive the 14" for review).
Design and Build
The Y700 15.6 (5.7 lbs.) and 17 inch (7.7 lbs.) models we have in for review are hardly lightweights, but that might be too much to ask for the price. They're comparable to the Dell Inspiron and MSI Apache Pro line in terms of weight and footprint. If you're buying a Y700 to tote around campus, keep in mind that these are fairly hefty machines. Though MSI manages to fit a DVD drive in a similar size and weight chassis, the Y700 foregoes the optical drive (it was one an option that slid into a multipurpose bay on old Y series models). Port selection is a bit anemic and not exactly cutting edge: 2 USB 3.0 ports, 1 USB 2.0 port (why are we still seeing old fashioned 2.0 here?), HDMI 1.4, an SD card slot, Ethernet and a 3.5mm combo mic-headphone jack (no separate audio jacks with a fancy audio DAC like the MSI Apache Pro). The port selection is competent, but for those of you who want to drive a 4k external monitor at 60Hz, there's no DisplayPort, nor is there a USB-C port.
Styling is relatively understated for a notebook that appeals to gamers. There are red accents and cutouts at the rear sides for a little gamer flair, while the top and bottom are matte black brushed aluminum-- a mainstay of the Y series. The lid and bottom panel are metal, though they might look like plastic. Both machines share the same styling and port selection and internal slots for RAM, M.2 SSD, 2.5" HDD and wireless card. They're nice enough looking and casing rigidity is good; again fair stuff for the price.
The 2 watt JBL speakers with 3 watt subwoofer that fires from the bottom are really good: loud, full, rich and clear. Lenovo uses Dolby audio software for EQ settings, and the default out of the box settings sounded equally good for movies, games and music. We're always pleased to hear quality sound from a multimedia and gaming oriented laptop.
You'll be able to hear the speakers even when gaming thanks to an efficient dual fan system and good cooling. The Y700s weren't hot to the touch when gaming except near the Enter key and the corresponding spot on the underside. The hotspot hit 99F, which isn't really terribly hot. The rest of the keyboard area and the undersides measured 80F (this review was done in winter). We didn't see excessive thermal throttling and CPU and GPU temperatures were ideal when gaming (75C).
Both our 15 and 17 inch models have full HD 1920 x 1080 IPS displays. There's no touch option for the 17" Y700, and there's no 4K option for the 15" (it is available for the 17"). The resolution suits gaming well since the laptop has the horsepower to game at high settings at 1080p but not at 4K (few laptops are strong enough for 4K gaming). Display quality has sometimes been a sore point with the Y series over the years; after all Lenovo had to cut corners somewhere to bring these in at just over $1,000. The Y700 15 and 17 inch have some of the best displays yet on a Y machine, with a few caveats. Though they look fairly pleasing, color gamut isn't a high point for the 15.6" full HD touch screen model. It represents a paltry 66% of sRGB and 50% of Adobe RGB, where other similarly priced laptops manage 95% of sRGB and 75% of Adobe RGB. If you're looking for a serious photo editing laptop, this display isn't a top pick. It has reasonable brightness at 249 nits. It's not among the super-bright laptops but it's more than adequate for indoor use, and Lenovo's anti-glare layer helps combat reflections. It produces an OK contrast ratio of 560:1 and a black level of 0.44 at max brightness. The non-touch 17.3" full HD display is brighter at 349 nits and it thus has a higher contrast ratio of 700:1 despite slightly worse 0.5 black levels. It too has an anti-glare film to combat reflections. It has a higher color gamut than our 15.6" 1920 x 1080 model, and it represents 92% of sRGB and 71% of Adobe RGB.
Deals and Shopping:
Lenovo IdeaPad Y700 Video Review - 15 & 17 Inch Models
Performance and Horsepower
Like the Dell XPS 15, MSI Apache Pro, MSI Ghost Pro and the updated Asus ZenBook Pro UX501, the 15 and 17 inch Lenovo Y700 models are available with the 2.6 GHz Intel Core i7-6700HQ. That's a quad core, 45 watt, 6th generation Intel Skylake CPU with Intel 530 graphics. It has NVIDIA GTX 960M dedicated graphics (again like the Dell, several MSI lower end models and the ZenBook Pro), with most configurations having 4 GB DDR5 VRAM. That's more generous than the more common 2 GB DDR5 VRAM available in pro apps oriented laptops like the XPS 15, though the added RAM is more useful for resolutions above 1920 x 1080 for today's tier 1 3D games. As you might guess, the Lenovo doesn't cut corners when it comes to performance and it has the computational power for speedy software compiles, number crunching and turn calculation in RTS games. The GTX 960M is a respectable GPU that's at the lower end of NVIDIA's top graphics card tier, and it's powerful enough to play any game at 1080p resolution at high or a mix or medium and high settings.
For those who are budget conscious, there is a Core i5-6300HQ option, and that's still a quad core CPU running at 45 watts, and it's nearly twice as fast as the average Core i5 Ultrabook running on Intel 15 watt CPUs. The machine has two RAM slots that are accessible once you remove the bottom cover (beware the bottom cover wraps around the back and has tenacious plastic clips). There'a an M.2 SSD slot fitted with a SATA interface SSD and a 2.5" HDD bay as well as a socketed wireless card (fitted with an Intel dual band WiFi 802.11AC + Bluetooth card). Once you remove the bottom cover, the battery is readily accessible should it require replacement in a few years. The laptop has two fans, one for the CPU and another for the NVIDIA GPU, and these work efficiently and fairly quietly for both the 15 and 17 inch Y700 models.
PCMark 8 Home : 3303
Geekbench 3: 3768 / 13,475
wPrime: 11.6 seconds
Unigine Heaven 4 (1920 x 1080, high, no tessellation) : fps: 44.8, score 1128. Max GPU temp: 69C
3DMark 11: P5561, X1823
3DMark Cloud Gate: 17,492
3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited: 118,768
3DMark Fire Strike Extreme: 2006
Keyboard and Trackpad
Lenovo makes some of the best keyboards on the market, but those are in the business ThinkPad series. The Lenovo Y700 is a member of the IdeaPad family, and like the non-ThinkPad Yogas, gets a decent but not fantastic keyboard. Key travel is good at 1.5mm and tactile feel is OK, but the flat keys aren't as responsive, tactile and well-damped as the ThinkPad line. The keyboard has red backlighting--there's no configurable multi-color zone backlighting as with MSI and Asus gaming laptops and the HP Omen 15. Personally, I don't think that's a deal breaker, even though I do game often on laptops.
The Synaptics trackpad is old school Windows 8 quality stuff. In other words, it's not great. The Dell XPS 15 has a superb trackpad in comparison, while the Asus ZenBook Pro UX501's is about as mind-numbingly annoying as the IdeaPad Y700's. It's not as predictable as we'd like for simple tasks like scrolling through a list of folders, and I had to use extra care to not accidentally drag folders and files. Could this be improved with new trackpad firmware? Maybe. Will it be radically improved? Probably not.
Both the 15 and 17 inch IdeaPad Y700 laptops have 4 cell, 60 Whr batteries that Lenovo claims are good for 4.5 to 5 hours of use (when using integrated graphics, no doubt). For email, web, MS Office and streaming video they indeed do run that long with brightness set to 40% and WiFi active. That's not impressive battery life, though quad core large gaming laptops don't tend to have great battery life. The ZenBook Pro fares no better, but MSI's recent gaming laptops are regularly hitting the 6 hour mark, and the Dell XPS 15 and 15" Retina MacBook Pro exceed that. The laptops ship with a 120 watt power brick that provides enough power to drive the laptop when gaming and still top up the charge.
"Budget" and "gaming laptop" are rarely said in the same sentence. Lenovo is one of the few companies to offer a relatively affordable true powerhouse gaming laptop in this price range. Some call them entry level gamers, but they're really more powerful than that since they can run most recent games at 1920 x 1080 in a mix of medium and high settings with good frame rates. They're also well suited to CPU-intensive chores and can handle 1080p video editing in Adobe Premiere easily, though the limited color gamut of the 15" full HD model is a concern for video and photo editing. The laptops are heavy but fairly slim, decently constructed and they have an understated gaming style that's staid enough to take to work. If you're a student compiling software, playing games and streaming video, the Lenovo IdeaPad Y700 is worth a look if your budget says "no" to high priced alternatives.
Display:15.6" IPS full HD 1920 x 1080 touch screen with anti-glare coating. 17.3" full HD 1920 x 1080 IPS non-touch display with anti-glare coating, 4K UHD available as an option. Intel HD 530 integrated graphics, switchable via NVIDIA Optimus with NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M 2 GB DDR5 or 4 GB DDR5 VRAM. HDMI 1.4 port.
Battery:4 cell, 60 Whr Lithium
Ion rechargeable, sealed inside.
Performance:2.6 GHz Intel Skylake
6th generation Core i7-6700HQ quad core processor, 45 watt. 16 gigs RAM in two slots. 128 gig M.2 boot SSD and 1 TB, 5400 RPM HDD in our units.
Size:15": 15.23" x 10.90" x 1.02". Weight: 5.7 pounds. 17": 16.65" x 12.00" x 1.10". 7.7 lbs.
Camera:720p webcam with built-in mic.
Audio:Built-in 2 watt JBL stereo speakers with 3 watt subwoofer, and 3.5mm combo stereo out/mic jack.
Networking:Integrated Intel dual band
WiFi 802.11b/g/n/ac (Intel AC8260 on 15" and Intel AC 165 on 17"), Bluetooth 4.0 and Gigabit Ethernet.
Software:Windows 10 Home.
Expansion and Ports:2 USB 3.0 ports, 1 USB 2.0 port, HDMI, 3.5mm audio, Ethernet and
SD card slot.