If you're looking for a big gaming laptop with a price that'll leave some money left over to buy games, Lenovo's Y700 could be right up your alley. Starting at $1,049 ($1,349 as reviewed), the Y700 offers a colorful 17.3-inch full-HD display, speedy performance from its Intel Core i7 processor and Nvidia 960M graphics, and compelling audio from its JBL speakers. While I wish the laptop's keyboard were a little more comfortable and that Lenovo offered a choice of higher-end GPUs, the Y700 is an affordable gaming notebook that can take on all of today's AAA titles. That is, as long as you don't turn the settings up to maximum.
Like a lot of gaming laptops, the Y700 comes with a black-and-red color scheme. It's not ugly, just a little boring.
The top and bottom are made of fingerprint-loving brushed-aluminum panels with a subtle plaidlike pattern, while the inside sports a smooth matte-black plastic deck. There are a lot of hard edges and sharp angles that evoke a sci-fi spaceship design, but when closed, the Y700 doesn't feel as pointed as its design would suggest.
The Y700 measures 16.65 x 12 x 1.10-inches and weighs 7.7 pounds. That makes it a little bigger, although slightly lighter than the Alienware 17 (16.93 x 11.49 x 0.94-1.35-inches and 8 pounds), and predictably larger and more than 1.5 pounds heavier than the 15.6-inch Dell Inspiron 15 7000 (15.1 x 10.4 x 1-inches and 5.9 pounds).
Keyboard and Touchpad
The Y700's blood-red, backlit keyboard features an above-average travel distance, at 1.8mm, but an unusually light actuation weight of 45 grams. (A more typical actuation weight is around 55 grams.) This makes typing on the Y700 less comfortable than on other laptops, because you tend to bottom out hard while putting more weight behind every stroke.
I'm also still not a fan of Lenovo's cut-sized Right Shift key, which is annoying because years of PC gaming has trained me to reserve Left Shift for controls such as walk or crouch in first-person shooters.
That said, I still managed a swift 83 words per minute in 10fastfingers.com's typing test, which is slightly above my typical 75-80 wpm range.
The 4.1 x 2.8-inch touchpad features a smooth, matte surface, but like the lid, it picks up fingerprints and smudges with ease. Thankfully, the excess oil didn't impede the system's ability to accurately track mouse movements or multitouch gestures like two-finger scrolling.
With good brightness and rich, vibrant colors, the Y700's screen gives images and videos a little more pop than competing systems do. This was most evident when watching the X-Men: Apocalypse trailer on the Lenovo's display; Beast's deep-blue skin took on a rich sapphire look, and Scott Summer's blinding eye lasers took on an even more saturated magenta tone.
Lenovo says the 1920 x 1080, 17.3-inch nontouch display has an anti-glare coating. While it's certainly not as shiny as many touch-enabled displays, you can still see your reflection staring back at you, especially in well-lit rooms or when looking at bright backgrounds. Fortunately, I enjoyed fairly wide viewing angles.
When we tested the display for brightness, the Y700 produced a solid mark of 319 nits (more are better). The desktop replacement average is 281 nits, while the Inspiron 15 7000 and Alienware 17 registered just 222 and 253 nits, respectively.
The Y700's color range was also above average, with the screen covering 117 percent of the sRGB spectrum. This is why colors on the Y700 looked slightly more saturated than on the Alienware 17 (106 percent) and much richer than on the Inspiron 15 7000 (70 percent).
The Y700 also had strong color accuracy, as it notched a Delta-E rating of 1.11 (closer to zero is better). The Dell Inspiron 15 7000 was slightly better, at 0.4, although the Alienware 17 was a decent ways away, with a mark of 5.4.
The Y700 features big red-and-black JBL speakers positioned on either side of the hinge. To further enhance your listening experience, Lenovo includes a Dolby Audio app, which can be used to select from various audio presets (dynamic, movie, music, game and voice), or to set up your own using the customizable EQ.
When playing music, the Y700's speakers did a good job re-creating the synthy organ sounds in Metronomy's "The Look," and in Rainbow Six Siege, the bass added impact to exploding grenades while still capturing the sound of enemy footfalls coming up from behind you.
When it comes to gaming, the Y700's Nvidia GeForce 960M GPU with 4GB of vRAM is capable of playing modern titles smoothly at its native resolution of 1920 x 1080, but only if you're OK with not pushing all the settings to the max.
On 3DMark's Fire Strike synthetic graphics test, the Y700 earned a score of 4,075. As expected, that's a little better than the $799 Dell Inspiron 15 7000 (3,929) with its less-powerful Nvidia 950M graphics, but half the score posted by the more expensive $1,850 Alienware 17 (8,234) with its Nvidia 980M GPU.
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On World of Warcraft, the Y700 pushed out 102 frames per second at full HD and max settings. In the more demanding Metro Last Light, the Lenovo notched a good 77 fps at full-HD resolution on low settings, but it mustered only 17.6 fps with the settings on max.
By comparison, the Inspiron 15 7000's 58 fps was a few frames short of what we saw on the Y700 and about the same as the Lenovo on high settings. The more powerful Alienware 17 reached 32 fps In Metro: LL at full-HD and max settings, although at low settings, it mustered only 58 fps.
Our Y700 came equipped with a 2.6-GHz Intel Core i7 6700HQ CPU, 16GB of RAM, a 128GB SSD and a 1TB HDD for extra storage. That means that, aside from gaming, the Y700 doubles as a good machine for video editing or 3D modeling. Anything less tasking, such as browsing the Web or streaming movies, doesn't even register as work for the Y700. Performance was perfectly smooth even when I had 20 tabs open in Edge browser and two 1080 fps videos streaming from YouTube at the same time.
When we used Geekbench 3 to evaluate overall system performance, the Y700 earned a score of 13,540. That's a good deal higher than the desktop replacement average of 10,791, and the Inspiron 15 7000's showing (8,800), and slightly better than the scores of other similarly sized gaming laptops such as the Alienware 17.
The Y700's Core i7 CPU also blitzed our productivity test, which involves matching 20,000 names and addresses in OpenOffice. This notebook's time of 3:35 was 15 to 20 seconds faster than the Alienware 17 (3:58) and the Inspiron 15 7000 (3:58).
The 128GB SSD copied 4.97GB of mixed media in 49 seconds for a transfer rate of 103.8 MBps. The Alienware 17's transfer rate was higher at 149.7 MBps, but the Inspiron 15 7000 and its traditional HDD were significantly slower, at 34.62 MBps.
The Y700 remained fairly cool during use, measuring 91 degrees Fahrenheit on the bottom, 89.5 degrees between the G and H keys, and a cool 76 degrees on the touchpad after streaming HD video for 15 minutes. We consider 95 degrees uncomfortable. The screen reached 101.5 degrees, but that's not an issue since this isn't a touch-screen system.
Ports and Webcam
The Y700 features a standard assortment of connectivity options, including three USB ports (two 3.0 and one 2.0), a combo headphone/mic jack, HDMI and an SD card reader.
The 1280 x 720 webcam above the display takes decent pictures, producing a nicely exposed photo that even captured some of the details in the office behind me. My only complaint is that in darker areas of the image, visual noise and grain become more noticeable.
The Y700, like a lot of gaming machines, doesn't offer a lot of battery life. On the Laptop Mag Battery test, which involves continuous surfing over Wi-Fi at 100 nits of brightness, this laptop posted a run time of just 4 hours and 19 minutes, a bit short of the 4:37 desktop replacement average.
The Alienware 17 and Inspiron 15 7000 both lasted over 2 hours longer, with times of 6:25 and 6:45, respectively.
All 17-inch Y700s come with an Intel Core i7 6700HQ CPU, Nvidia 960M GPU and 1920 x 1080 anti-glare screens. The $1,049 base model starts with 8GB of RAM and a 1TB, 5,400 rpm hard drive, with prices increasing based on memory and storage. The Y700 maxes out at a relatively affordable $1,499 for 16GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD.
I really would have liked to see more customization options. The Y700's big, boxy case feels like it has room to grow, and it's a shame gamers don't have the ability to select more-powerful graphics cards, such as an Nvidia 970M or 980M, for better performance.
Software and Warranty
The Y700 comes with Windows 10 and a one-year limited hardware warranty. Windows 10 offers some nice gaming features such as built-in game recording (just hit the Windows key + G after setting up the Xbox app), DirectX 12 for better graphics performance, and the ability for Xbox One owners to stream games from their consoles to their PCs (useful for times when someone else is hogging the TV).
Additional software includes the traditional set of Lenovo system-health utilities and a little bloatware, such as McAfee LiveSafe and Candy Crush, but overall, nothing too offensive.
With one of the best displays in this category, great speakers and an affordable price, the Y700 gives you more for your money. The downsides are below-average battery life, no option for a more powerful GPU, and a keyboard that could stand to be better for both typing and gaming. The latter is a real shame, because Lenovo makes the best keyboards in the industry, and there's a sea of ThinkPads and Yogas to prove it.
While the entry-level Y700 is a good deal, competitors offer better performance for around the same price as our $1,349 review config. With a new lower starting price, the $1,400 Alienware 17 comes standard with the same Intel Core i7 CPU and a more powerful Nvidia 970M GPU. This offers a big improvement for gaming, and will let you turn on more graphical bells and whistles. And Alienware will let you upgrade to a 980M (or the company's beastly graphics amplifier, if you want).
Overall, the 17-inch Y700 is a solid gaming machine that lowers the barrier to entry without lowering expectations.