LAS VEGAS -- After spending several years straddling the line between entertainment and gaming, Lenovo is ready to play among the big boys with the power-packed IdeaPad Y900 laptop. Starting at $1,999 and available in July, the 17.3-inch notebook will feature potent Nvidia GTX 980M graphics, overclocking capability, and a mechanical keyboard with customizable RGB lighting. It's a welcome and serious step up from the middle-of-the-road specs of previous Lenovo models.
I had the opportunity to get some one-on-one time with Lenovo's first true gaming behemoth at CES 2016 and was mostly impressed with what I saw.
It looks like Lenovo got my memo on continually using the same design for its gaming laptops. The IdeaPad Y900 still boasts a black aluminum chassis with subtle crosshatching. However, the lid has the bright red Y insignia, which the company has begun to use to brand its gaming equipment. The new accent is further complemented by a pair of darts, giving the laptop a car-hood aesthetic. The undercarriage also got an overhaul, swapping out the circular metal subwoofer and vents for large red-tinted triangles.
While the Y900's new exterior is impressive, the party really gets started when you pop this bad boy open. The red, metal speaker grilles are larger and occupy more of the top of the keyboard deck. Similar to Alienware notebooks, there's a customizable LED strip, which plays up the new customizable keyboard, replacing the usual one-note red backlit keys on previous models of the Y series.
The Y900 is decked out with a 17.3-inch IPS anti-glare display. I was a little disappointed to learn Lenovo is currently only offering the laptop with a 1920 x 1080 screen. Still, during my brief time with the system, I saw bright, vivid colors and sharp details, which gamers will appreciate, especially on titles like Witcher 3 where you can see every strand of the protagonists' hair blowing in the wind.
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Similar to last year's MSI GT80 Titan SLI, the Y900 will feature a mechanical keyboard. The Lenovo rep was reluctant to mention which kind of key switches the keyboard uses. Mystery switches aside, the keys felt nice and clicky, with some firm feedback. However, I'm still eager to get the Y900 in for testing.
Lenovo also took some cues from Alienware and added customizable RGB backlighting controlled by Lenovo's proprietary software Nerve Center. Gamers can designate different colors and effects to five different zones on the keyboard, including the touchpad.
Speaking of the touchpad, the LED-lined device is large and smooth, providing a nice contrast to the faux-leather palm rest. The slightly raised surface helped keep my hands in the correct typing posture, and felt good to boot. It's a design feature I'd love to see implemented on more laptops.
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Although Lenovo didn't provide the exact specs for the preview model, the company did share a few juicy details. For instance, the processor can go up to an overclockable 6th-generation Intel Core i7 CPU with up to 64GB of RAM. You can also get a pair of 256GB PCIe SSDs in RAID 0 configuration with up to a 1TB hard drive.
None of the y900's configurations will ship with Intel integrated graphics. Instead, they'll rely on the sheer power of the Nvidia GeForce GTX 980M with either 4GB or 8GB of VRAM. This is a huge step up from the GTX 960 GPUs the company used in last year's model.
With that graphics card, gamers will finally have the ability to play even the most taxing titles at their highest settings without falling prey to stuttering frame rates. But I wish the company would consider offering a configuration with the GTX 980, Nvidia's desktop version of the card, so players could also use the laptop with the upcoming Oculus Rift and HTC Vive VR headsets.
Virtual-reality capabilities aside, the Lenovo Nerve Center lets you easily adjust the clock speed for both the CPU and the GPU, in case you want to overclock either. If you're looking for a more set-it-and-forget-it approach, the Y900 also has a prominent Turbo button located at the top right of the keyboard above the programmable macro keys.
According to Lenovo, the Y900 will last 5 hours on a charge, which is pretty respectable for a gaming laptop if the claims are true. Last year's Alienware 17 was one of the longest-lasting gaming laptops, with a time of 6:25 minutes. But I'll reserve my judgement until we receive our review unit.
The Y900 is a gaming notebook that has an aggressive new look and a set of impressive specs to match, placing it firmly in competition with the heavy hitters in the category. It's going to be a long wait until July, but I'm looking forward to putting the IdeaPad Y900 through its paces soon.