Can you really get a good gaming laptop for just $700? Despite being the smallest and least-expensive laptop in Lenovo's gaming line, the Y700 features an attractive design, a 14-inch full-HD display and an Intel Core i7 CPU, along with an AMD Radeon R9 M375 graphics card to power your games. However, there are some trade-offs you'll have to make to get a gaming laptop at this price. Lackluster battery life, not-so-vibrant color output and a GPU that can't quite keep up with its Nvidia counterparts make the Y700 merely a good deal instead of a great one.
With a stylish, black-on-black, carbon-fiber pattern and red-accented JBL speakers, the Y700 might be the best-looking sub-$1,000 gaming notebook on the market. And when you open the lid, it gets even better -- menacing red backlighting oozes out from behind its keys, while a smooth, brushed-metal deck offers a great place to rest your wrists. This laptop's solid build has very little flex, and Lenovo even added a little flair to the underside in the plastic honeycomb grille that runs across the bottom vent.
Measuring 15.23 x 10.9 x 1.02 inches and weighing 4.8 pounds, the 14-inch Y700 feels closer in size and weight to the pint-size Alienware 13 (12.9 x 9.25 x 1.04 inches, 4.53 pounds) than to some of its 15-inch competitors, such as the Dell Inspiron 15 7000 (15.1 x 10.4 x 1 inches, 5.9 pounds) and the Asus ROG GL552 (15.1 x 10.1 x 1.3 inches, 5.6 pounds).
Keyboard and Touchpad
The Y700's keyboard offers a decent amount of travel, at 1.42 millimeters (1.5 mm and up is ideal). But despite the healthy 62 grams of actuation force required to depress them, the slightly mushy keys could use a little more snap. On 10fastfingers.com's typing test, I hit a brisk 82 words per minute on my first attempt, which is actually slightly higher than my traditional 75- to 80-wpm pace.
Unfortunately, the relatively small one-piece touchpad often left me with a stiff, lifeless response when I tried to left- or right-click. It got to the point where I had to actually look down to see if I was pressing the touchpad correctly. Thankfully, the touchpad responded swiftly to multitouch gestures, such as two-finger scrolling and pinch to zoom.
Unlike the displays on its bigger siblings, the 14-inch Y700's screen looks a bit dull. I appreciate that Lenovo crammed a full 1920 x 1080 display between its black plastic bezels, instead of the unsatisfactory low-res 1366 x 768 panel on a $1,000 Alienware 13. But when I watched the trailer for War Dogs, the flashes of gunfire and neon club lights just didn't pop the way they did on other sub-$1,000 systems, such as Asus' ROG GL552.
According to our light meter, the Y700's display emits a maximum 219 nits of brightness (more is better). That's a bit stronger the Alienware 13 (199 nits) and in the same range as the Dell Inspiron 15 7000 (222 nits), but substantially dimmer than the GL552's 273 nits.
With a color range that covered 65 percent of the sRGB spectrum, the Y700's screen was also more limited than the GL552's range of 116 percent, and slightly behind the 70 percent we saw on the Alienware 13 and the Inspiron 15 7000.
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The highlight of the Y700's display was its color accuracy, which earned a Delta-E rating of 0.81. (Scores closer to 0 are better.) That's significantly better than the Alienware 13 (3.9), but in the same range as the Inspiron 15 7000 (0.4) and the GL552 (0.7).
Aside from pumping out a little less bass than I'd like, the Y700's JBL speakers do a good job of living up to their attention-grabbing design. I found that the Dynamic mode in the Dolby Audio app is your best bet for set-it-and-forget-it audio enjoyment, but if you have the time, you should play around with the customizable equalizer.
After I spent 5 minutes adjusting the settings, I unlocked all of the low-fi pop magic in Darwin Deez's "Radar Detector," including its crisp, synthy chords and sharp, twangy guitars.
Ports and Webcam
The Y700 comes with a fairly standard assortment of ports, including an Ethernet port, an HDMI port, three USB ports, a combo headphone/mic jack and an SD card reader.
The Y700's 1280 x 720 webcam is not very impressive. It'll get the job done in a pinch, but even in our well-lit office, a selfie I took ended up looking a little dark and grainy.
Graphics and Gaming
Compared to other gaming systems featuring Nvidia 960M graphics cards, the Y700's AMD Radeon R9 M375 GPU with 2GB of VRAM doesn't offer quite the same level of gaming performance. On a system like the 960M-equipped Asus ROG GL552, I had no trouble running Dota 2 at 60 frames per second on max settings at 1920 x 1080. But on the Y700, I often saw frame rates dip into the 40s and high 30s at the same settings.
This difference in graphics power was highlighted by the Y700's score of 2,387 on 3DMark's Fire Strike graphics test. Asus' ROG GL552 (4,095), Dell's Inspiron 15 7000 (3,939) and the Alienware 13 (3,701) -- all of which have Nvidia 960M GPUs -- performed significantly better than the Y700.
The results were similar in Metro: Last Light, where the Y700 topped out a 41 fps at 1920 x 1080 on low settings, while the GL552 and the Inspiron 15 7000 ran faster, at 59 fps and 58 fps, respectively.
The 14-inch Y700 packs pretty decent specs for a $700 system, starting with an Intel Core i7-6700HQ CPU; 8GB of RAM; and a 1TB, 5,400-rpm hard drive. Like most gaming machines, there's almost no set of everyday tasks that'll cause the Y700 to break a sweat. Even when I streamed a 1080p movie from YouTube with more than 15 tabs open in the Edge browser and a game downloading in the background, the system stayed buttery smooth.
When we used Geekbench 3 to measure overall system performance, the Y700 notched a score of 12,589. That's significantly higher than Core i5-powered rigs such as the Dell Inspiron 15 7000 (8,800) and the Alienware 13 (6,886), though just a bit behind the Asus ROG GL552's 13,553.
The results were similar in our OpenOffice test, when we matched 20,000 names with their addresses using the VLOOKUP function. The Y700 finished the task in 3 minutes and 36 seconds, which was a good deal faster than the Inspiron 15 7000 (3:58) and the Alienware 13 (4:03), and a touch quicker than the Asus GL552 (3:44).
While the Y700's 1TB hard drive offers plenty of room to install all of those Steam games you'll never finish, it's much slower than a solid-state drive (which is available on the $1,000 model). We measured the Y700's transfer speed at 34.91 MBps, which was three times slower than the 7,200-rpm drive on the GL552 (98.6 MBps) but around the same level as the 5,400-rpm HDDs on the Alienware 13 (37.2 MBps) and the Inspiron 15 7000 (34.62 MBps).
During gameplay, temperatures on the top and sides of the Y700 rarely got far above 100 degrees Fahrenheit, but the vent in back was another story. Even after relatively short 10- or 15-minute gaming sessions, parts of the plastic around the rear vent measured 125 degrees or more, which is well above our typical 95-degree comfort threshold. That's a little worrisome for people who are looking to game on their laps, as the steamy air that came out of the vent didn't feel very pleasant on my legs.
I was hoping that, considering the 14-inch Y700 is more mobile than its 15-inch competitors, its battery would be a little better, too. But with a time of just 3 hours and 20 minutes on the Laptop Mag Battery Test (continuous Web surfing over Wi-Fi at 100 nits of brightness), the Y700 fell short of not only the ROG GL552's 4:43 and the Inspiron 15 7000's 6:45, but also the 13-inch Alienware 13's 6:43.
In addition to the $700 base configuration, there's a $1,000 14-inch Y700 featuring a 512GB SSD, 16GB of RAM and an R9 M375 GPU with 4GB of VRAM, as well as even more expensive models with additional storage and memory options.
If you're looking for something a bit bigger, 15- and 17-inch editions of the Y700 start at $900 and $950, respectively. The big benefit of those systems, besides bigger displays, is that they feature an Nvidia 960M graphics card instead of an AMD GPU, which provides an extra bit of gaming grunt.
Software and Warranty
The 14-inch Y700 comes with Windows 10 Home and a standard one-year warranty. As usual, Lenovo added some of its typical apps and utilities, including Lenovo ID, Lenovo Settings, REACHit and SHAREit. Potentially, the most important of the bundled apps is Stagelight, which makes it pretty simple to get into music creation. But if you're like me, you'll probably spend all of your free time gaming instead.
I really wish Lenovo had provided an option for Nvidia graphics on the 14-inch Y700, because even if it pushed the $700 price tag up by $100, Lenovo's entry-level gaming notebook would be a really sweet deal. As it stands, the Y700 offers a pretty competent and affordable step into mobile gaming, but it's not as powerful as Nvidia 960M-equipped systems like the $800 Dell Inspiron 15 7000 and the $999 Asus ROG GL552. Short battery life and a lackluster display also take away some of the sparkle from the Y700. Even at such a low price, it's a little disappointing that this system is merely good instead of being so much better.