Lenovo showed off its latest Ideapad Y700-series gaming laptops, leaving me feeling conflicted. The slick and sophisticated design offer a lot to love, as does the powerful Intel Skylake CPU, but including a mid-level graphics card is perplexing.
Starting at $949, both the 17 (Y700-17ISK) and 15.6-inch (Y700-15ISK) Windows 10 laptops are pretty as a picture. Instead of understated black brushed aluminum, the Y700-series laptops have been outfitted with faux carbon-fiber lids while retaining the blood-red rear vents from past models. When the units ship in October, they will be one of the first notebooks to feature Intel's new 6th-generation Core-i7 Skylake processors. Intel's new CPUs promise to deliver longer battery life and better overall performance, particularly when playing 4K video. Bleeding-edge gamers can also get the 15-inch laptop with optional Intel RealSense 3D camera technology.
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Despite equipping their laptops with one of the most powerful mobile processors on the market, Lenovo went for the mid-entry Nvidia GeForce GTX 960M GPU with 4GB of video memory for both the 15 and the 17-inch notebooks. Fans of AMD cards will have to make due with the R9 GPU, which also features 4GB of VRAM.
Each configuration of the Y700 should have the ability to play games like Witcher 3: Wild Hunt or Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, just at lower frame rates. This wouldn't be so bad if the Aorus X7 Pro-Sync didn't manage to pack not one, but two GeForce GTX 970M GPUs in SLI configuration in its 0.9-inch thick chassis.
Graphics cards aside, the Y700 series has some solid specs including up to 16GB of RAM, two JBL speakers with a subwoofer and 802.11ac Wi-Fi. Lenovo has a number of display configurations. The Y700-15ISK will offer both 1920 x 1080-pixel and 3840 x 2160-pixel multitouch panels. The Y700 with RealSense, Y700-17ISK and the AMD configuration will only offer a 1080p screen. The 15.6-inch display on the demo unit seemed vivid enough, but we need to get it back to our lab for real tests. Last year's models, the Lenovo Y50, Y50-70 Touch and Y70 Touch, failed to impress on either brightness, color reproduction and accuracy benchmarks. Hopefully the Y700's can succeed where others dropped the ball.
It appears that Lenovo is keeping the red-tinted, island-style keyboard with the smile-shaped keys featured on previous Y series notebooks. I didn't have the opportunity to perform a full typing test, but a cursory probing revealed the keys had a good key travel with a nice bounce. Storage options include a maximum 1TB hard drive with a 512GB SSD or a 1TB SSHD with a 8GB SSHD for the touchscreen configurations and either a 1TB hard drive, 512GB SSD or 1TB SSHD with a 8GB SSHD for the non-touch RealSense model.
Lenovo's gaming laptops have always been on the chunky side and it doesn't look that's changing with the Y700 series. In fact, both notebooks have gained a little extra junk in their respective trunks. The Y700-15ISK measures 15.2, 10.9 x 1.02-inches, 5.7 pounds while the Y700-17ISK comes in at 7.7 pounds, 16.7 x 12 x 1.1-inches. They're both slightly larger than last year's models the Y50 (5.4 pounds, 15.23 x 10.37 x 0.9 inches) and the Y70 Touch (7.6 pounds, 16.6 x 11.4 x 1.0 inches).
Although, I'm apprehensive about the graphics cards, I can't deny the appeal of a sub-$1,000 gaming laptop. A Nvidia GeForce GTX 960M GPU should have the ability to run most games at a decent frame rate. However I'll reserve my final judgment for the laptops upcoming debut.