The Ideapad Y900 is the gaming notebook that I've been wanting from Lenovo for a long time. It's edgy and stylish with an amazing customizable mechanical keyboard, lovely G-Sync capable display and overclockable processor. However, with the launch of VR-capable Nvidia's Pascal GPUs, the laptop's last-gen video card is a penny short and a day too late, especially with a $2,426 price tag.
Lenovo has already announced plans to offer a refreshed model of the Y900 with Pascal graphics sometime later this year, so gamers who want the best performance should strongly consider waiting for the updated config.
Well look who decided to get all sexy! After years of describing the Y-series as "understated chic", it seems like Lenovo decided to get some much-needed edge. Instead of the plain old black cross-hatched aluminum on prior models, the lid has a pair of glossy black accent ridges that match the shiny Lenovo logo in the top-right corner. The glistening angular additions help play up the large red plastic Y occupying the center. The notebook's rear vents are comprised of black aluminum with a red undercarriage for a nice Knight Rider-effect.
The laptop's interior is just as pretty with a large black, rubberized palm rest with more black and vent metal grilles accented by glossy plastic. The remainder of the deck is covered with sumptuous black soft-touch finish. The company left no detail untweaked, redesigning the power button with a concentric circle pattern lined in red.
Along the right of the laptop is a pair of USB 2.0 ports, a 6-in 1 card reader jacks for a headphone and microphone and a security lock slot. On the left, there's two USB 3.0 ports, a USB Type-C port, HDMI, a DisplayPort, Gigabit Ethernet and Lenovo's proprietary charging port.
The 16.7 x 12.4 x 1.4-inch Y900 tips the scales at a massive 9.8 pounds. That's a full pound heavier than the Asus G752VS (16.9 x 13.1 x 0.8~1.5 inches). The Alienware 17 (16.9 x 11.5 x 1.4 inches) and Gigabyte P37X (16.4 x 11.2 x 0.88 inches) were even lighter at 8.3 and 6.7 pounds respectively.
The Y900's anti-glare 1920 x 1080 display is ready to be seen. The detail on the 17.3-inch panel showed off actress Tika Sumpter's perfect eyebrows in the "Southside with You" trailer, which only called attention to her beautiful brown skin. I did notice that her usually peach blouse looked more pink than usual.
Colors were also a little off on The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. Geralt's hunter green clothing had a more emerald hue. The deep pinks, oranges and blues I've come to associate with the game's sunrises were also a shade off.
The Y900 can reproduce 107 percent of the sRGB color gamut, which explains its vividness. However, it's below the 128 percent desktop-replacement average, and the the G752VS, Alienware 17 and P37X are all better at 114, 174 and 179 percent respectively.
Scoring 1.4 on the Delta-E test, the Y900's panel could stand to be more accurate. It's better than the 1.7 average and the P37X which hit 3.5. The G752VS and Alienware 17 were much closer to a perfect zero at 0.9 and 0.8.
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When tested for brightness, the Y900's screen averaged 306 nits, which is better than the 295-nit category average. The Alienware 17 and G752VS achieved 319 and 326 nits each while the P37X outshone everything at 359 nits.
Having high frame rates is cool, but not at the expense of smooth graphics. Nvidia's G-Sync technology strives to give users the best of both worlds, by syncing up the laptop's display rate with the graphics card. In other words, the tech is placing a frame cap that matches the panel limit, which allows for instant rendering in both full-screen and windowed modes, thus eliminating any tears, and leaving smooth images and happy gamers.
The Y900's JBL speakers can give some of the more powerful Bluetooth speakers a run for their money. Paired with Dolby Audio's sound enhancement app, the laptop easily filled our labs with loud sound. Playing Witcher 3, I could hear faint bird chirps as I made my way through the land, my footsteps narrated by melancholy strings and flute that was at times a little too harsh at full volume.
The distortion problem carried over to Heather Headley's "He Is." Although the singer's rousing alto was pitch perfect, the accompanying organ and background vocals were muddy and a bit scratchy. I managed to even it out a bit by switching to the Dynamic setting in the Dolby Audio app.
Mechanical Keyboard and Touchpad
We've seen a couple of gaming laptops with mechanical keyboards before, but never one with real clicky keys. The Ideapad Y900's keys made a pleasant click sound when depressed and they had the pleasant tactile response of a good mechanical desktop keyboard. Though the keys felt and sounded a bit like Cherry MX blue switches, Lenovo uses its own proprietary mechanical switches underneath.
It took me awhile to get used to the 3.1 millimeters of key travel (1.5-2mm is considered good) and 71 grams of force required to press the keys. At times, I felt myself bottoming out because I was initially being a bit heavy-handed with my keystrokes.
However, once I noticed I didn't have to fully press the keys to get a response, typing became a firm, bouncy experience. I hit 68 words per minute on the 10FastFingers typing test, which is a little better than my 65-wpm average. It was so good, in fact, I'd like to see Lenovo bring this over to the ThinkPad series.
The 4.1 x 2.7-inch Synaptics touchpad was nice and spacious and responsive to boot. Using a three-finger tap to summon Cortana was a breeze, as was switching between open apps with a three-finger swipe.
After years of the monotone blood-red backlighting, gamers can finally customize the keyboard. Using Light Shift, one of the apps in the new Lenovo Nerve Center, you can configure the keyboard and the lining around the keyboard and the speaker. However, you if you want those all-important WASD keys to stand out, the Y900 ships with a set of red key caps you can swap on.
Offering three zones with five lighting effects with 18 colors, Light Shift isn't as in depth as Alienware's AlienFX or Razer's Synapse software, but it's a great start. In case you want to assign Macros, there's the Macro Keyboard Driver, which lets you assign urls, shortcuts or key commands to virtually every key.
Gaming and Graphics
Considering that all the latest gaming laptops now have Nvidia "Pascal" 10-series graphics, I was a surprised to discover that this Ideapad Y900 comes equipped with a last-gen, Nvidia GTX 980 GPU. Where the 980 was once the GPU of choice for gaming laptops, the new 10-series chips deliver noticeably higher frame rates and support virtual reality headsets like the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift.
Despite its older GPU, the Y900 managed to deliver some respectable frame rates. I dispatched a couple of Drowners in Witcher 3, dodging their sharp claws and peppering the bright blue monsters with a mix of quick and short strikes. One of the beasts fell after I deftly disemboweled it, causing it to fall to the ground at a gory 38 fps on Ultra at 1080p. The frame rate jumped to a smooth 50 fps when I switched the settings to high.
For our general benchmarking, we started with Metro: Last Light, one of our more grueling graphics tests. The Y900 hit 39 fps on high at 1080p, which is several frames below the 42 fps category average. It was enough however, to top the Alienware 17 (32 fps) and P37X (38 fps), which also have 980M GPUs. Brandishing a GTX 1070 GPU, the GS752VS notched a whopping 70 fps.
The Y900 scored 48 fps on the Hitman benchmark, missing the 69 fps desktop-replacement average while the G752VS hit 89 fps. On the Rise of the Tomb Raider benchmark, the Y900 delivered 28 fps, which is below our 30 fps playability threshold, the 39 fps category average and the G752VS's far-superior 52 fps.
There was one minor performance outlier where the Y900 pulled slightly ahead of a Pascal-based system. During the Grand Theft Auto V test, the Y900 achieved 87 fps, surprisingly surpassing the G752VS (69 fps).
Our powerful review unit came configured with an overclockable 2.7-GHz Intel Core i7-6820HK quad-core processor with 16GB of RAM. I tried taxing it by streaming an episode of "The Get Down" while running a full system scan with 18 Google Chrome tabs. My stream barely stuttered.
During the synthetic Geekbench 3 test, the Y900 got 13,914, missing the 18,124 desktop replacement category average. Keep in mind, however, that this average includes notebooks with power-hungry desktop CPUs. The G752VS, which also has a i7-6820HK (with 32GB of RAM) notched 15,563 while the P37X (2.6-GHz Intel Core i7-6700HQ processor) delivered 13,381. The Alienware 17 and its 2.5-GHz Intel Core i7-4710HQ CPU obtained 12,965.
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The Y900's 256GB NVMe PCIe SSD duplicated 4.97GB of mixed-media files in 11 seconds for a transfer rate of 462.7 megabytes-per-second. It's an impressive result, enough to top the P37X's (256GB M.2 SSD with 1TB 7,200-rpm HDD) 424.1MBps. But it wasn't enough to overcome the Alienware 17's (512GB SSD with 1TB 7,200-rpm HDD) 508.9MBps or the 544.2MBps average. However, it was the G752VS and its 256GB M.2 PCI-e SSD (and 1TB 7,200-rpm hard drive) that obliterated the test at 848.2MBps
The Y900 did a little better on the OpenOffice Spreadsheet Macro test, matching up 20,000 names and addresses in 3 minutes and 31 seconds, defeating the 3:36 average. The Alienware 17 and P37X trailed behind with times of 3:53 and 3:54. The G752VS completed the task in a swift 3:23.
If you're looking for a gaming laptop with a solid battery life, the Y900 is not for you. The laptop only lasted 3 hours and 53 minutes on our battery test (continuous web surfing over Wi-Fi), missing the 4:46 average, while managing to beat the G752VS (3:42). The P37X clocked in at 4:29 while the Alienware 17 lasted a whopping 6:25.
I took to exploring the world of Witcher 3 for the heat test, gallivanting through a village and the surrounding forest. Fifteen minutes in and the touchpad measured 83 degrees Fahrenheit. The center of the keyboard and undercarriage hit 105 and 101 degrees each, which is over our 95-degree comfort threshold.
The laptop's bottom panel got a little heated as we streamed a full screen Hulu video, measuring 97 degrees. The touchpad and space between the G and H keys were much cooler at 83 and 91 degrees.
The 720p integrated webcam is grainy and a little inaccurate on the color, but it will do in a pinch. The test shots I took revealed a bunch of video noise that made out the charm on my necklace. My bright red dress also looked a few shades darker.
Software and Warranty
In addition to the usual Windows 10 fare, Lenovo has preinstalled some of its branded software designed to monitor system health as well as find new apps and games. Lenovo Companion keeps you abreast of the system updates and health as well optimize the diagnostics. The App Explorer provides an easy way to find new, compelling app.
The majority of your gaming needs can be taken care of in Lenovo Nerve Center which allows you to toggle Turbo Boost, Network Priority and Sound Enhancement on and off. You can also access the company's subscription gaming site OnePlay ($6.99 a month), which offers free 90-day access to the a library of over 2,000 games including Far Cry Primal, Rise of the Tomb Raider, Overwatch and World of Warcraft.
Third-party apps include Flipboard, Twitter, Candy Crush Soda Saga, CyberLink PowertoGo 8 and demo of NASCAR '15. Killer Networking also included its Diagnostics app and Network Manager to keep your wired and wireless connections in tip-top shape. Nvidia GeForce Experience is also preinstalled, bringing its slew of game optimization tools.
The Lenovo Ideapad Y900 ships with a one-year limited warranty.
I wish I had a time machine. At $2,426, the Ideapad Y900 offers a sleek redesigned chassis, complete with customizable backlighting for the keyboard. Speaking of the keyboard, Lenovo has delivered a fantastic mechanical keyboard using proprietary switches that offer a real clicky feel. Throw in an Nvidia G-Sync display and an overclockable processor and you've got yourself one hell of a laptop. Too bad the graphics card is anchored in the past.
The $2,400 Asus ROG G752VS OC Edition is a laptop firmly in the now offering an overclockable CPU and GPU, a gorgeous display and the ability to support VR headsets. Overall, the Y900 is a great gaming laptop, but if you like its style and keyboard, you should wait until it makes the leap to Pascal.