Lenovo IdeaPad Y460 Review

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$1049

Pros: Strong graphics and overall performance ; Innovative SlideNav control ; Good audio quality ; Great webcam

Cons: Expensive ; Narrow viewing angles ; Irritating trialware

Verdict: Lenovo delivers multimedia and gaming power in a portable design, complete with a one-of-a-kind navigation control.

Who said multimedia notebooks have to be bulky and heavy? With its switchable ATI graphics, powerful Core i5 CPU, and excellent speakers, Lenovo's 5-pound IdeaPad Y460 is good enough not just for watching HD movies, but to play demanding games as well. Priced at a somewhat steep $1,049 (but starting at $899), this notebook offers more than just sweet specs. The Y460 comes with a unique slider above the keyboard that lets you do everything from changing desktops (work and play mode) to skimming through shortcuts for your favorite apps. Although we wish it had a better keyboard and lasted longer on a charge, this thin-and-light laptop stands out.

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Design

At 13.4 x 9.2 x 1.2 inches and 5 pounds, the Y460 sits in between competitors like the lighter Dell Inspiron 14 (4.8 pounds) and the heavier Toshiba Satellite E205 (5.2 pounds). Like the Y450 before it, the Y460 has a black lid with a hexagonal pattern that reminds us of the Q*bert video game, and a copper-colored accent that surrounds the lid. However, the newer model has an attractive dark gray keyboard and deck, while its predecessor had a cheaper-looking white interior.

The top of the deck is lined with five white LED buttons. There's volume up, volume down, and mute, as well as buttons to launch the power manager and OneKey Theater, a feature which improves the picture quality for video playback.

SlideNav Control

The coolest feature of the Y460 is a touch-sensitive bar above the keyboard. If you touch it, you'll see white lights that correspond to shortcuts for things like Documents and Sound Recorder, and you can launch these items just by sliding your finger in the direction of the icon and then lifting your finger. You can also customize these shortcuts. Sliding your fingers left to right locks the screen, placing a giant zipper across the desktop; sliding them right to left again unlocks the screen. Sliding right to left with the screen unzipped/unlocked changes the wallpaper.


If you install an updated version of the slider, as we did, you can also switch between virtual desktops or "workspaces" by pushing two fingers together on the slider. This didn't always work the first time, but it's a neat feature.

Keyboard and Touchpad

Although it looks ThinkPad-like, the keyboard on the IdeaPad Y460 didn't feel like it. When typing we had to be careful to hit the keys with maximum force because of their stiffness. However, we were still able to achieve our typical rate of 80 words per minute on the Ten Thumbs Typing Test, albeit with a slightly higher than usual 2-percent error rate.

The textured touchpad, on the other hand, has a perfect balance of friction and comfort. We were able to navigate around the desktop seamlessly and perform multitouch gestures like pinch-to-zoom. The two mouse buttons offered just the right amount of feedback.

Heat

Throughout our testing, the Y460 remained relatively cool. After playing web video at full screen for 15 minutes, we measured the keyboard at only 90 degrees Fahrenheit and the touchpad at merely 88 degrees. We consider temperatures below 95 to be quite comfortable. However, the bottom of the system reached 102 degrees, which is a little toasty.

Ports and Webcam

The IdeaPad Y460 has all the ports you'd expect from a multimedia notebook, including HDMI and VGA for outputting video, audio/in out, three USB ports, and a USB/eSATA combo port. The front lip of the system sports a memory card reader for getting photos and video off of your camera. The only important connection the Y460 lacks is an ExpressCard slot for attaching expansion cards like a USB 3.0 adapter.

The 1.3-megapixel webcam provided remarkably sharp, smooth, and colorful images even under adverse lighting conditions. We conducted a Skype call from our dim living room at night and were amazed with the quality of the images our caller received.

Display and Audio

The 14.1-inch, 1366 x 768 screen produced sharp, colorful images, but its glossy surface reflected a lot of ambient light and created poor viewing angles. Colors began to wash out at 45 degrees to the left or right. Video playback was smooth and sharp, both when we streamed a 720p episode of Fringe from Fox.com and when we played a 1080p WMV clip from Microsoft's HD Showcase. When we played a DVD of Dark City, images were still sharp and colorful, but we did notice a little noise in dark scenes.

Hitting the OneKey Theater button allowed us to switch between Normal, Movie, and Intelligent mode, the last of which promises to automatically switch between the first two. When toggling from Normal to Movie mode on our own, we noticed that the colors looked richer and edges smoother in all of our videos.

When we switched from the integrated Intel GMA graphics to the discrete ATI Radeon GPU, the DVD and episode of Fringe seemed a lot noisier and blockier. We'd recommend sticking with the integrated graphics and using the OneKey theater movie mode when you watch videos.


The JBL Speakers are good enough to substitute for an inexpensive stereo. When streaming "Holy Diver" from Napster, every note sounded true, and the music was loud enough to fill our living room.

Performance

With its 2.4-GHz Core i5 CPU and switchable graphics that feature an ATI Radeon HD 5650 chip with 1GB of video memory, the IdeaPad Y460 provided strong performance. On PCMark Vantage, the Y460 scored a whopping 6,443, well above the thin-and-light category average of 3,714 and comfortably ahead of the Core i5-powered Toshiba Satellite E205 (5,396) and Samsung R580 (5,804).



The 5,400 rpm, 500GB Seagate hard drive booted into Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) in 67 seconds, which is over 10 seconds behind the 56-second category average. It took 3 minutes and 25 seconds to complete the LAPTOP Transfer Test, in which we copy 4.97GB of mixed media files. That's a rate of 24.8 MBps, a little higher than the 22.4 MBps category average and well ahead of the Dell Inspiron 14 (20.5 MBps) and Toshiba Satellite E205 (21 MBps). The Samsung R580 was a tad faster at 26.2 MBps.

The Y460 took only 54 seconds to transcode a 114MB MPEG-4 to AVI format using Oxelon Media Encoder. That's 12 seconds faster than the category average of 1 minute and 6 seconds, but about on par with other Core i5 systems like the Toshiba Satellite E205 (57 seconds) and Samsung R580 (55 seconds).

Graphics

The Y460 has switchable graphics, which means that software will transition between the integrated Intel Graphics Media Accelerate HD chip and the discrete ATI Radeon HD 5650 chip. For most tasks, including watching HD video, integrated graphics mode is highly recommended because it uses less power. However, discrete graphics mode gives you a welcome burst of power for intensive tasks like playing games; this GPU also provided a noticeably smoother and more detailed street view in Google Earth.

On 3DMark06, which measures overall graphics performance, the Y460's discrete mode provided a stellar score of 7,482, which is about 400 percent above the category average of 1,829. That's also way ahead of the Samsung R580 (3,889), Dell Inspiron 14 (1,485), and Toshiba Satellite E205 (1,939).

In discrete mode, the Y460 can be a solid gaming system. At 1024 x 768 resolution, it got an amazing 214 frames per second in World of Warcraft, which is nearly three times the category average of 84 fps. At 1366 x 768 resolution with the special effects turned up, the rate dropped to 59 fps, which is still more than double the category average of 26 fps.

In the more demanding Far Cry 2, the Y460 managed a rate of 74 fps at 1024 x 768 and 35 fps at 1366 x 768. Those numbers blow away the category averages of 22 and 9 fps and are way ahead of the Samsung R580 (46/15 fps). These games tested on the Toshiba Satellite E205 and Dell Inspiron 14 were unplayable at any resolution.

Battery Life and Wi-Fi

In integrated graphics mode, the Y460 lasted 4 hours and 38 minutes on the LAPTOP Battery Test, which involves continuous web surfing over Wi-Fi. That's a little worse than the category average of 4:52 and the 4:53 provided by the Toshiba Satellite E205. The Dell Inspiron 14 (3:54) and Samsung R580 (3:22) fared worse. When we switched to discrete graphics mode the battery life dropped to 2 hours and 55 minutes. Unfortunately, the system doesn't automatically switch modes when you unplug.

The Intel WiFi Link 1000 802.11b/g/n card returned reasonable transfer rates of 35.5 Mbps and 19.8 Mbps from distances of 15 and 50 feet from the router, respectively. The Toshiba Satellite E025 (36.2/20.5 Mbps) and Samsung R580 (37.5/27.2 Mbps) achieved slightly faster throughput.

Green Testing

The Y460 took just over an hour to charge to 80 percent, and 2:16 to reach 100 percent of capacity. That's a little faster the category average of 2 hours and 34 minutes, and much faster than the Toshiba Satellite E205 (3:02). The Samsung R580 (2:05) and Dell Inspiron 14 (2:12) charged a little faster. During the charging process, the Y460 used an average of 59.1 watts. This gives the notebook a LAPTOP Battery Efficiency Rating of 28.9, which is a little worse than the category average of 21.9 and the Toshiba Satellite E205 (21.8), Samsung R580 (25.2), and Dell Inspiron 14 (25.4).

Configuration Options

Lenovo sells the IdeaPad Y460 in only two configurations. The $1,049 model we reviewed has a 2.4-GHz Core i5-520M CPU, a 500GB hard drive, and switchable graphics. The $899 configuration has a 2.13-GHz Core i3-330M CPU, 320GB hard drive, and integrated graphics only. We recommend the configuration we tested, because $899 is a bit pricey for Core i3 power and integrated graphics; the discrete graphics chip on our $1,049 config turns this into a capable gaming system.

Software and Warranty

In addition to the aforementioned SlideNav software, Lenovo bundles a number of interesting and unique applications with the IdeaPad Y460. Lenovo SplitScreen is like Aero snap on steroids, because it allows you to cut the desktop into custom zones you can snap to. We used it to create four zones we could snap windows to.

Also included are OneKey recovery for backing up and restoring, Lenovo ReadyCom for managing wireless connections (something Windows can do well on its own), and Veriface facial recognition software. CyberLink YouCam provides decent webcam photography. CyberLink Power2Go burns discs. MediaShow provides video playback functions in a slightly nicer interface than Windows Media Player. OneKey Theater, as mentioned above, enhances the look of videos.

Lenovo DirectShare is a file sharing program that allows you to sync files, Outlook e-mails, and even browser bookmarks between computers. However, it requires you to install software on the client computers you want to sync with, and is a bit of a hassle to set up. In our tests, we were able to get DirectShare to sync with another notebook that was connected to the same Wi-Fi router as the Y460, but not with a desktop that was connected to the network via Ethernet. In order to sync, both computers must be on and connected to the same router at the same time. We prefer easy-to-use cloud-based syncing software like Dropbox for files or Xmarks for bookmark sync, because these work across networks and don't require the syncing computers to be connected simultaneously. We also find Windows 7's built-in HomeGroup feature to be a much easier file sharing solution.

Unfortunately, the IdeaPad Y460 comes preloaded with some annoying trialware. When you first boot the system, you're solicited to create an account for the Oovoo video chat software; if you choose not to, you're hit with that dialog box every time you boot until you uninstall the software. McAfee Internet Security also wants you to register and give out personal information. The free version of ID Vault, a password encryption application, periodically pops up an alert box in the lower right hand corner of the screen that demands you to activate it.

Like other IdeaPads, the Y460 comes with a standard one-year warranty on parts and labor. To see how Lenovo fared in our Tech Support Showdown, click here.

Verdict

Those looking for a portable multimedia notebook with strong enough graphics performance to play demanding games will find a lot to like in the IdeaPad Y460. However, at $1,049, it's a bit expensive for a multimedia system that doesn't have Blu-ray or a high-res screen. Some may prefer the heavier 15-inch Samsung R580, which comes standard with a Blu-ray reader and costs more than $200 less. And if gaming is your main goal, you might want to go for the 15-inch Acer Aspire 5740G ($749). But if you care about mobility and don't want to sacrifice power, the Y460 is a high-quality notebook.

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Author Bio
Avram Piltch
Avram Piltch, Online Editorial Director
The official Geeks Geek, as his weekly column is titled, Avram Piltch has guided the editorial and production of Laptopmag.com since 2007. With his technical knowledge and passion for testing, Avram programmed several of LAPTOP's real-world benchmarks, including the LAPTOP Battery Test. He holds a master's degree in English from NYU.
Avram Piltch, Online Editorial Director on
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Laptop Mag & Tom's Hardware
CPU 2.4-GHz Intel Core i5 M520
Operating System Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)
RAM 4GB
RAM Upgradable to 4GB
Hard Drive Size 500GB
Hard Drive Speed 5,400rpm
Hard Drive Type SATA Hard Drive
Display Size 14.1
Native Resolution 1366x768
Optical Drive DVD+/-RW DL
Optical Drive Speed 8X
Graphics Card ATI Radeon HD5650 Switachable with Intel Graphics Media Accelerator HD
Video Memory 1GB
Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n
Bluetooth Bluetooth 2.1+EDR
Mobile Broadband
Ports (excluding USB) Microphone
Ports (excluding USB) Headphone
Ports (excluding USB) HDMI
Ports (excluding USB) Ethernet
Ports (excluding USB) eSATA/USB
USB Ports 3
Card Slots 6-1 card reader
Warranty/Support 1 year parts and labor
Size 13.4 x 9.2 x 1.2 inches
Weight 5.0 pounds
Company Website www.lenovo.com