Lenovo Gaming Laptops – 2017 Brand Rating and Report Card
Lenovo offers a handful of solid mobile gaming rigs as part of its Legion and IdeaPad Y series, but the top-rated laptop maker overall has a long way to go if it wants to compete with the likes of Alienware, MSI and Razer. The company's design language is attractive but safe, and its keyboards are snappy but lack the lighting customizations you'll find on competitors.
Lenovo also eschews the high end of the gaming market, as it doesn't offer any systems with Nvidia GTX 1080 graphics and only recently began selling a system with GTX 1070 graphics; all of its other laptops are limited to midrange GTX 1060 GPUs.
The two Lenovo laptops we reviewed during the test period, the IdeaPad Y900 and the Legion Y520, earned a respectable 3.5 stars. We loved both machines’ sleek chassis, the IdeaPad’s mechanical keyboard and the Legion’s strong performance and value.
Lenovo is the king of the understated gaming laptop. The Legion Y520 is fairly typical of what we've come to expect from the brand: a sleek aluminum lid with delicate crosshatching, a magnesium base and a red backlit keyboard. It's nice, but won't get the heart racing.
But the IdeaPad Y900 takes that same look and jazzes it up, adding a funky red Y to the center of the lid, some red-and-black rear vents and a raised texturized palm rest. It's definitely a head- turner. However, we're not fans of the extra plastic Lenovo placed around the touchpad, as it doesn't add anything to the overall functionality.
Lenovo's on the right track with its displays. The 17.3-inch, 1920 x 1080 panel on the Y900 is plenty vivid and luminous, reproducing 107 percent of the sRGB gamut and offering 306 nits of brightness.
But as good as the Y900 is, the Legion Y520 is that bad. The 15.6-inch FHD produced only 67 percent of the sRGB gamut with 220 nits of brightness.
The Legion Y520 is the latest laptop outfitted with a programmable, backlit proprietary mechanical keyboard, and it's a big difference. Not only do the keys feel great (3.1mm, 71g), they look awesome, too. That's not to say that the Y900's (1.8mm, 77g) scissor-switch keys aren't comfortable, but there's just something great about the click-clack from a mechanical keyboard that's missing here.
Also, we like having the ability to program the color of our keyboard as we see fit. We're hoping that Lenovo will take things a bit further with the next version of the keyboard and allow for individual key programming similar to what you get on Razer and MSI laptops.
Lenovo’s gaming offerings stick squarely in the budget-friendly space, never straying too far from the straightlaced image Lenovo has long cultivated. Lenovo’s Y-Series laptops lagged behind other brands in adopting Nvidia’s current-generation Pascal graphics.
However, the upcoming Lenovo Legion Y720 boasts a few pleasant surprises, like a built-in receiver for Xbox One controllers, Dolby Atmos sound and a cool bit of software that lets you enjoy movies in a VR theater and upscale several traditional games to VR. These and other tweaks — like a mechanical keyboard with customizable RGB lighting and the addition of Thunderbolt 3 support — do signal that Lenovo is starting to take the gaming category more seriously.
Lenovo's offering two tiers of gaming software: Nerve Center on its Ideapads and Nerve Sense on its Legion machines. Nerve Center, as seen on the Ideapad Y900, introduced adjustable keyboard backlighting to Lenovo's laptops. It also packs a performance-enhancing Turbo Boost, bandwidth-adjusting Network Priority and Sound Enhancement.
Lenovo's newer Nerve Sense tech is more important, as it brings the company's gaming notebooks to parity with the competition. It helps record, replay and upload gameplay footage, so you can capture and share your most epic moments. Nerve Sense also enables adjustments to system cooling, as well as network bandwidth allotments, so other programs don't hinder your online gaming and/or streaming.
Selection and Customization (2/5)
Like HP, Lenovo's gaming lineup features just two systems to choose from: 15- and 17-inch versions of the Lenovo Legion. While we do like that the smaller Legion Y520 starts at just $850, with specs that top out with Nvidia 1060 graphics, your choice for parts is pretty limited. If Lenovo wants to accommodate a wider range of laptop gamers -- not just the most mainstream ones -- the company needs to expand its customization options to include more powerful components.
Lenovo's gaming systems come standard with one-year warranties that cover the shipping costs if you need to send them in for service. You can purchase one- to three-year extended warranties that add accidental damage protection and on-site service. Upgrading your RAM or storage doesn't void your warranty.