A gaming laptop with an elegant design and strong performance for less than $1,000? Count us in. The Lenovo Legion Y530 is a sleek system that offers great looks, a wide range of ports and a solid graphics card. Unfortunately, its display could have better colors and the mushy keyboard won't please everyone. There's also its comically bad webcam placement. Still, the Legion Y530 is a very good choice for casual gamers who want a cheap gaming laptop under $1,000 with a button-up design that can blend in -- and even impress -- no matter the setting.
The Lenovo Legion Y530 is the Porsche of budget gaming laptops. Its minimalist design and blackout color scheme give it a suave look you'd associate with tuxedo-clad big-screen villains. It's a refreshing departure from the garish beasts -- with their flashing RGB lighting and superfluous design elements -- that dominate the gaming laptop category.
The Legion is made of plastic but it looks and feels premium. It has a soft-touch matte-back interior with black keyboard keys illuminated by cool white backlighting. A power button is centered above the keyboard in front of the Y530's sturdy hinge.
Perhaps its best design element is the narrow bezel flanking the display. It's not a feature typical of this price range, and I was shocked to see it when I opened the Y530's lid for the first time.
Speaking of the lid, its surface is textured with slightly raised grooves that make a zip noise when you glide your fingers across them. A three-pronged LED symbol lights up a shiny black Legion logo that would otherwise blend into the background. The Legion's two dedicated fans are visible through a grill on the bottom of the device.
At 5.2 pounds and 14.4 x 10.2 x 1.0 inches, the Legion Y530 is hefty compared with other entry-level gaming laptops, but its slim bezels make for a relatively compact device. For comparison, the Acer Nitro 5 Spin weighs only 4.9 pounds but it's 0.6 inches wider. Similarly, the HP Omen 15 is a tad lighter at 5 pounds but stretches out to 15.1 inches. The MSI GL62M 7REX weighs about the same at 5.3 pounds but has a much larger footprint at 15.1 x 10.2 x 1.1 inches.
The Legion could pass for a traditional laptop if not for the ledge jutting out of its backside. It's on the back of this stepped platform where the Legion Y530 houses some aggressively shaped vents and a wide range of ports, including a USB Type-C port, a mini DisplayPort, a USB 3.1 port, HDMI, Gigabit Ethernet, a power connector and a Kensington lock.
Additionally, the right side of the laptop houses a single USB 3.1 port for peripherals and an LED indicator for power status. The left side contains another USB 3.1 port and a headphone/mic combo jack.
The Legion Y530's 15.6-inch display is sharp, but it could be more colorful. When I watched the trailer for the upcoming film Welcome to Marwen, I could see every wrinkle in Steve Carell's tanned face. And while I had no trouble distinguishing the smallest details in Marwencol -- the fascinating action-figure world created by Mark Hogancamp -- colors looked dull and lifeless. The green tones in the character's army jerseys were faded, and Carell's blue-and-yellow plaid shirt didn't pop off the display.
When I played Middle Earth: Shadow of War, the intricate gilding was visible in Talion's armor but the Orc-infested world looked more dark and dreary than it should have. The purple war paint on the Orc I was hunting down was too brown and its faded green skin seemed more sickly than menacing.
The Legion's screen didn't hold up well in our lab tests. It was able to reproduce only 80 percent of the sRGB color spectrum, well below what the Acer Nitro 5 Spin (105 percent) and the MSI GL62M 7REX (153 percent) achieved. The HP Omen did even worse with a color-gamut score of 71 percent. The budget category average is 88 percent.
Given its dark picture, I was expecting the Legion Y530 to have a dim panel. However, it reached a solid 266 nits of brightness. The MSI GL62M 7REX (198 nits) and the HP Omen (247 nits) fell short of that mark and the entry-level gaming category average (256 nits). The Acer Nitro 5 Spin was the brightest of these budget gaming laptops, hitting 296 nits.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The island-style keyboard on the Legion Y530 is great for typists, but it may disappoint gamers. Although they are comfortable to press, the Y530's keys are quiet and soft -- don't expect the tactile feedback of a traditional gaming keyboard.
The keyboard has an undersize number pad positioned above large arrow keys. I noticed a fair of flex toward the center of the keyboard when I pressed hard on the F, G or H keys.
Thanks to an actuation force of 63 grams and generous key travel of 2 millimeters (at the top of our minimum recommended range of 1.5mm to 2mm), I was able to blaze through the 10fastfingers.com typing test, achieving 124 words per minute with a 95-percent accuracy rate. That's significantly faster than my 109-wpm average and around my typical accuracy.
The two Harman-tuned speakers on the bottom of the Legion Y530 pump out decent sound. When I listened to The Weeknd's "Call Out My Name," the Canadian R&B singer's vocals sounded crisp and clear, but the drum beats and symbol hits were weak and messy. I had the same critiques when listening to City and Colour's "Lover Come Back." While Dallas Green's smooth vocals sounded hollow at times, the percussion instruments in this stripped-down indie tune were all over the place.
The speakers sounded very good when I played video games. During a short Middle Earth: Shadow of War session, I heard Orcs mumbling in the background. The sound of my character unsheathing his sword sounded realistic and I could make out a soft dramatic soundtrack above the clashing of metal as I slashed away at my foes.
Gaming, Graphics and VR
The Lenovo Legion Y530's Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti with 4GB of VRAM is powerful enough to play casual games, but struggles to run new titles at high resolutions. Don't expect to play virtual-reality games, either.
When I played Hitman at 1080p resolution, the Y530 just missed our 30 frames-per-second- playability threshold, averaging 29 fps. The Acer Nitro 5 Spin (31 fps) and the HP Omen 15 (32 fps) -- both of which include an Nvidia GTX 1050 GPU -- hit similar marks, but surpassed the golden number that denotes a smooth gaming experience. None of these laptops got anywhere near the budget gaming laptop average of 51 fps.
The Legion Y530 was far from playable in our Rise of the Tomb Raider (17 fps) and Metro: Last Light (16 fps) benchmarks at the same very high graphics settings. That particularly demanding game also stumped the Acer Nitro 5 Spin (17 fps) and the MSI GL62M 7REX (22 fps).
During our GTA V benchmark, the Y530 hit 33 fps, ahead of the Acer Nitro 5 Spin (24 fps) and the MSI GL62M 7REX (31 fps). Middle-Earth: Shadow of War played at a smooth 35 fps, though that falls short of the budget gaming category average of 40 fps.
If you intend on playing VR titles, the Y530 isn't the laptop for you. It scored an unplayable 1.2 in our SteamVR performance test. The MSI GL62M 7REX, with the same GPU, nearly tripled that result with a score of 3.4, which is still below the entry-level category average (5.2). The Acer Nitro 5 Spin fell flat with an embarrassing 0.1 score.
It breezed through the heavy workload I threw at it, which included running 15 Google Chrome tabs, two of which played Twitch streams while four ran YouTube videos at 1080p. Also running in the background was the Lenovo Vantage software and an ESPN CourtCast for the Wimbledon tennis tournament. After it loaded everything without the slightest hint of lag, I fired up a World Cup livestream for good measure. Amazingly, it didn't buckle under the pressure.
The Legion Y530 also impressed in our lab testing, scoring a 13,866 in the Geekbench 4 test, which measures processor and memory performance. That score beats the MSI GL62M (13,648), the HP Omen (11,769) and the entry-level gaming category average (12,887), but falls just short of the Acer Nitro 5 Spin (14,974).
In the Excel Macro Test, the Lenovo Legion Y530 took 57 seconds to match 65,000 names with their corresponding addresses. That outpaces the Acer Nitro 5 Spin (1:25), the MSI GL62M 7REX (1:00) and the budget gaming average (1:11).
In our File Transfer Test, the Y530 duplicated a 4.97GB folder of mixed media from one hard drive to another in 44 seconds for a rate of 115 megabytes per second (MBps). That's well short of the entry-level category average of 218.3 MBps and the rate achieved by the MSI GL62M 7REX (141.4 MBps). The Y530 did beat the Acer Nitro 5 Spin (103 MBps).
Battery life on the Legion Y530 is decent for an entry-level gaming machine. The laptop lasted 4 hours and 44 minutes of continuous web surfing over Wi-Fi at 150 nits. That practically matches the budget gaming category average (4:43) and even beats the MSI GL62M 7REX (3:33). The Acer Nitro 5 Spin ran our test for a superior 7 hours and 8 minutes.
The larger, separated dual fans that make up the Legion Y530's new thermal system do a decent job of preventing overheating, for the most part. After playing a 15-minute video at 1080p resolution, the touchpad remained at a chilly 82 degrees Fahrenheit and the area between the G and H keys warmed to only 90 degrees. Unfortunately, the underside of the laptop peaked at 97 degrees, above our 95 degree comfort threshold.
The Legion Y530 got too hot for comfort during a 15-minute Middle Earth: Shadow of War gaming session at 1080p resolution. It reached a concerning 107 degrees between the G and H keys, 112 degrees on the underside and a boiling 117 degrees between the two bottom fans.
The webcam on the Y530 is hopeless. Because of the laptop's thin bezels, Lenovo was forced to drop the webcam below the display. Unlike the Dell XPS 13's notorious "nose cam" or the Huawei MateBook X Pro's keyboard-embedded "knuckle cam," the Y530's webcam doesn't even try to look up at you. If you want your face in its frame, you need to push the lid back to at least 135 degrees. The resulting image from these poor decisions isn't just unflattering, it's practically useless.
It's a shame because the quality of the 720p camera is pretty good. I could easily make out the small white dots in my shirt. The blue color of my button-up, while a tad teal, was fairly accurate. The webcam even picked up a slight red glaze on my sunburnt skin and the individual hairs in my beard. Tragically, I still have no idea how the top half of my face looks.
Software and Warranty
The Lenovo Legion Y530's version of Windows 10 Home comes with a combination of utility apps and bloatware. The LenovoUtility software is designed to support hotkeys on the keyboard. Also included is the Lenovo App Explorer, which gives you a customized collection of what it considers to be the best apps in the Windows marketplace. Of course, Lenovo also loaded its Vantage software onto the Y530. The program lets you see important information about your laptop, such as its CPU, GPU, RAM and HDD usage. It also gives you manual control over the fans with a "Cooling Boost" setting.
As with most Windows 10 laptops, the Y530 comes with Microsoft's typical bloatware, including Bubble Witch 3 Saga, Candy Crush Soda Saga and Disney Magic Kingdoms.
The Legion Y530 ships with Lenovo's standard one-year warranty.
The Legion Y530 I reviewed costs $899 and was outfitted with an Intel Core i5-8300H, 8GB of RAM, a 1TB 5400-rpm HDD, a 128GB SSD and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti GPU. The base model costs $749 but drops the SSD and has a less powerful GTX 1050 GPU. The highest-end version costs $1,099 and upgrades the processor to an Intel Core i7-8750H and doubles the memory to 16GB.
The $899 Lenovo Legion Y530 is a very good gaming laptop for the price. Packaged in an elegant, slim design, it has solid overall performance, a compact footprint and enough gaming power to play titles at low settings. Its biggest shortcomings are a display with poor color reproduction and an embarrassingly bad webcam placement.
If you're looking for something with a bit more versatility, consider the ($899) Acer Nitro 5 Spin 2-in-1, which has a better display in a more flexible design, but with a less-powerful GPU. The $1,100 Dell Inspiron 15 7000 is a great choice for gamers who can splurge for more power and the ability to run VR games smoothly.
Ultimately, if you can overlook its quirks, the Legion Y530 is one of the best gaming laptops for the price and a good value when compared with other 15-inch laptops.
Credit: Laptop Mag