The IdeaPad Y530 is a fun multimedia system that offers performance, a bright and colorful frameless display, and an impressive Dolby sound system for less than a grand. The Y530 sports the same chassis as its predecessor, theY510, but packs a new Intel Centrino 2 processor to give it improved performance. However, we still aren't huge fans of its design and, given its HDMI output, we wish Lenovo offered a Blu-ray drive as an option.
Lenovo IdeaPad Y530 Build and Design
Like the Y510, the 6.6-pound Y530 looks more consumer-friendly than other notebooks in Lenovo's line form the outside: its black lid has a linen-weave textured surface and an elegant look and feel. At 14.2 x 10.3 x 1.4 inches, the notebook was slightly thicker and bulkier than other mainstream laptops; however, carrying it in a backpack on our walk home from the office didn't cause any aches.
As with the Y510, the IdeaPad designers could have done a better job of continuing the Y530's attractive exterior under the lid. The smooth, black and grey interior is offset by pumpkin orange media buttons, LED lights, and a volume rocker. Unfortunately, the orange reminds us of the buttons on an Atari. You won't find Lenovo's ubiquitous red pointing stick on the inside, but its very responsive touchpad feels soft and has little friction.
Click to enlargeFans of the ThinkPad keyboard will be pleased to find that Lenovo included a similar setup; the matte keys have an excellent, cushioned response, and the full-size layout feels spacious and comfortable. The trade-off is that the keyboard looks like it was lifted from a business notebook, as does the deck that surrounds it.
Improved Touch Controls
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Above the keyboard you'll find the IdeaPad's multimedia control keys. You can change which buttons appear on the touch panel by pressing the Shuttle key to the right; one setting shows all the standard music controls, while the other lets you tweak the Dolby sound settings. On the Y510 the touch controls took a bit of pressure to activate, but th Y530 showed a drastic improvement. We didn't have to train ourselves to press the buttons with a certain part of our fingers; they just worked.
Glossy Display, Sweet Speakers
The glossy 15.4-inch 1280 x 800 resolution glass screen is gorgeous; its lack of a physical frame allows for a sleek, unified look, especially when the system is off, as the glass reaches all the way to the edges of the notebook. Watching Eragon on the standard DVD drive looked quite good; colors were bright, and we saw no motion blur. However, since the screen doesn't sport a 16:9 aspect ratio (as found on theGateway MC seriesor theHP HDX 16), widescreen black bars appeared on the screen during DVD playback. To our disappointment, vertical viewing angles were poor. Moving just slightly off-axis caused a substantial reflection shift. In addition, the screen is extremely reflective. We much preferred outputing the system via HDMI (HDCP-compliant) to a 26-inch flat screen TV to watch a DVD with friends.
We continue to be impressed with the quality of the integrated Dolby Home Theater audio system. Four speakers (two flanking the keyboard and two below the screen) and a subwoofer (on the bottom of the system) reside on the Y530. The sound was full and rich with a noticeable bass response. We listened to a Talking Heads CD and audio on a DVD. In both cases we were able to adjust the speaker settings to create a noticeable separation. The highs and lows were very good for a laptop and almost, but not quite, on a par with a separate 2.1 speaker system.
IdeaPad Y510 Features
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The Y530 has three USB 2.0 ports in addition to HDMI, S-Video, VGA, FireWire, Ethernet, modem, headphone, and microphone ports; the USB and HDMI ports on the left are too close together. The Y530 also has an ExpressCard slot and a 6-in-1 memory card reader.
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The Y530's 250GB hard drive comes prepartitioned; the C: drive contains the system essentials, and the D: drive is intended for personal storage. When the system is turned off, pressing thebutton directly above the power buttonwill launch a One Key Recovery mode. The process will restore the C: partition to its default status but leave the other partition untouched, ensuring the security of your data. The button can be disabled to prevent accidents, and users can set a BIOS password on the system for added security.
Webcam and Facial Recognition
The integrated 1.3-megapixel webcam delivered mediocre video. Using Lenovo's EasyCapture software, video was generally washed out--even after reducing the brightness and boosting saturation--and motion was blurry. Because of the reflective screen we found the webcam generally better in low light than in natural light. It worked decently in a video call over Skype, although our caller mentioned that we looked a bit washed out. Lenovo's Veriface facial-recognition software continues to be one of the best preloaded solutions available; enrolling our face was a speedy process, and logging into the system as the webcam scanned our face took 5 seconds. The software wasn't fooled by a similar-looking individual.
The Y530 is powered by a 1.66-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P7350 processor with 2GB of memory (expandable up to 4GB). It notched 3,020 on PCMark Vantage, which is 142 points below the mainstream average. Nevertheless, we didn't find any system hang-ups during normal activities; we were able to write a document in Microsoft Word, surf the Web in Internet Explorer 8, and run a DVD in the background simultaneously without a hiccup.
While the Nvidia GeForce 9300M graphics card with 256MB of memory isn't going to blow gamers away, it notched 5,165 on 3DMark03--180 points above average, and more than 3,500 points higher than the Y510. The Y530's 3DMark06 score of 1,815 was a little more than half the category average.
When we set F.E.A.R. to autodetect and the resolution to 800 x 600, the game averaged 54 frames per second. With effects set to maximum and the screen to a resolution of 1024 x 768, the average dropped to 16 frames per second. Casual gamers should have a better go of it with the resolution set to 1024 x 768, as we notched an average of 59.6 fps in World of Warcraft.
The system's 250GB, 5,400-rpm hard drive excelled on the LAPTOP Transfer test, copying 4.97GB of mixed media files in 4 minutes and 27 seconds, a rate of 19.1 MBps--3 MBps faster than the average. The drive booted Vista in an acceptable 55 seconds.
Click to enlargeWireless and Battery Life
The Y530's 802.11n adapter delivered above-average throughput. At 15 feet, it pushed data through at 20.7 Mbps (versus 18.1 Mbps for the category average), and at 50 feet 18.2 Mbps (15.4 Mbps is the average). Our Web-surfing experience was smooth; watching clips of Saturday Night Live on Hulu.com were fluid and had no pauses.
The system's six-cell battery lasted 3 hours and 35 minutes on the LAPTOP Battery Test, almost the same time as the Y510, and 10 minutes longer than the mainstream average. Much appreciated is Lenovo's Energy Management software, which allows you to choose among four preset power options, including High Performance, Balanced, Power Saver, and Super Energy Saver. According to Lenovo, the Power Saver mode buys 20 percent more battery life. The LED battery indicator on the back lets you see how much life you have left even when the system is closed.
Software and Warranty
In addition to the Veriface facial recognition, Energy Management, and One Key Recovery software, Lenovo preloads the system with EasyCapture, which allows you to tweak the webcam and take still shots and record video. Also preloaded on the system are Napster, a 90-day trial of both Norton AntiVirus, Microsoft Office 2007, and CyberLink's DVD-burning Power2Go software (regularly $39.95). Lenovo covers the Y530 with a one-year limited warranty and 24/7, toll-free tech support.
Click to enlargeVerdict
As a sub-$1,000 entertainment notebook, the Lenovo IdeaPad Y530 is a serious contender. The integrated Dolby sound system and subwoofer set it apart from the pack, and the Y530 offers significantly better performance than its predecessor. For the price, we prefer the Gateway MC Series. It's not as portable, but it offers a bigger 16-inch display with a 16:9 aspect ratio and a more attractive design for $999. If you can live with its reflective screen and orange accents, however, the $949 Y530 is a solid mainstream laptop.