The Bottom Line
Mar 22 2013 - Lenovo's IdeaPad Y500 is a surprising offering from the company that offers some outstanding gaming performance that is very reasonably priced. By combine two GeForce GT 650M graphics processors with a high resolution display, fast Core i7 processor and lots of memory, it should have no problem tackling any of today's modern games. There are a few notable issues with the system though. The battery life is very short but it does have the benefit of being lighter than most other gaming laptops. The trackpad has some major problems with some gestures that make it very frustrating with Windows 8. Finally, the extra graphics processor takes the place of a DVD drive which is not that bad but may disappoint some.
- Superb 3D Graphics Performance
- Cooling Is Very Quiet Under Heavy Loads
- Excellent High Resolution Display
- Trackpad Has Issue With Certain Gestures
- Limited Battery Life
- No Optical Drive
- Intel Core i7-3630QM Quad Core Mobile Processor
- 16GB PC3-12800 DDR3 Memory
- 1TB 5400rpm SATA Hard Drive and 16GB Solid State Drive
- 15.6-inch WUXGA (1920x1080) Display With 1.3 Megapixel Webcam
- Dual NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M Graphics With 2GB Memory
- Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11b/g/n Wireless, Bluetooth
- Two USB 3.0, One USB 2.0, HDMI, VGA, 6-in-1 Card Reader
- 15.2" x 10.2" x 1.4" @ 6 lbs.
- Windows 8
Review - Lenovo IdeaPad Y500
Mar 22 2013 - The name of Lenovo's IdeaPad Y500 is a bit of a mystery since the system uses a lower number than previous models such as the Y580, Y560 and Y550 but it is a modern high performance 15-inch laptop that is designed with gamers in mind. The design itself is very similar to that of the Y580 but with a bit more squared off sides and a bit more color to the lighting of the system. Overall, it has a good overall level of quality but there is a bit more flex than some of the past Lenovo IdeaPad models.
Powering the Lenovo IdeaPad Y500 is the Intel Core i7-3630QM quad core processor. This is a very fast processor that can handle just about any task that you can throw at it. This is especially true with the 16GB of DDR3 memory in the configuration that I tested. In fact, this is a bit of overkill as most users will probably notice very little difference between the 8GB setup and this one. At least with 16GB you will never need to upgrade the memory. It should be noted that under heavy loads, the system is very quiet but it does throttle back the CPUs a bit due to internal heat. This means that performance on some very high level tasks like desktop video work may be a bit slower than some other laptops with a similar processor setup.
Lenovo has combined a traditional hard drive with a solid state drive within the IdeaPad Y500. The hard drive provides the system with a large amount of storage space thanks to its one terabyte capacity. The downside here is that the drive spins at the slower 5400rpm rate which would normally impact the performance. This is where the small 16GB solid state drive comes in. It acts as a cache for the hard drive to help improve performance for booting the system, which took just over fifteen seconds, and loading frequent applications. It should be noted that some users have even taken to replacing the small 16GB SSD with a larger model and converting it to the boot drive for even greater performance. If you do need additional storage space, there are two USB 3.0 port for use with high speed external drives. Now this configuration does not feature an optical drive at all as that space has been used instead for a secondary graphics processor but frankly optical drives are becoming much less of a requirement these days with digital software distribution.
Since this is a gaming oriented system from Lenovo, the graphics are a standout feature. Rather than using a single graphics processor there are two NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M. This has the benefit of allowing them to be used in an SLI configuration that offers a nice boost to 3D graphics performance in games. Similarly, it can enhance game play by offloading the PhysX effects onto the second graphics processor while the first handles 3D processing. The result is a 15-inch laptop that has no problem playing modern games at the full 1920x1080 resolution of the display panel with high detail levels. The panel has very wide viewing angles with a nice level of brightness. About the only downside is the glossy coating on it which can cause glare and reflections under certain conditions but this isn't an uncommon problem for many laptops.
The keyboard design uses the isolated keyboard design that has been used in many of the company's latest laptop but with a red backlighting. Overall the layout and feel of the keyboard is quite good but it is a bit cramped in the numeric keypad area. The same can't be said for the trackpad on the system. While it is large, the accuracy was problematic at times. This was especially the case for some of the standard and multitouch gestures that Windows 8 uses. Of course this might not be a big deal for many gamers who will likely use and external mouse for greater flexibility and accuracy.
The battery for the IdeaPad Y500 is a 72WHr battery that can be swapped out. Lenovo rates this at roughly three hours of usage. In my digital video playback tests, the system was able to run for two and three quarter hours before going into standby mode. This is less than the four hours that the IdeaPad Y580 was able to achieve but this does have two graphics processors in it which draw more power. It is certainly a far cry from the nine hours that the Apple MacBook Pro 15 With Retina achieves with its massive internal battery. It would be nice to see a longer running time but frankly most people getting this will be using it for gaming and will often be near power outlets anyways.
Priced around $1250, the Lenovo IdeaPad Y500 is actually quite affordable for the features in has packed into it. The Alienware M14x cost a little more for a similar base configuration with just 8GB of memory and a single GT 650M graphics processor. The IdeaPad Y580 from Lenovo is a bit more affordable thanks to its use of just a single GTX 660M graphics processor and half the memory but it also features an optical drive. The MSI GE60 0ND is a bit more affordable at $1150 but uses a single GTX 660M with half the ram and a smaller hard drive. It is also lighter but does not offer the same build quality or as nice of a screen. Most of the rest of the gaming laptops are either much more expensive or larger 17-inch models.