Introduction and Design
Can an SLI configuration bring the Y500 to the level of a great low cost gaming notebook?
While Lenovo hasn’t historically been known for its gaming PCs, it’s poised to make quite a splash with the latest entry in its IdeaPad line. Owing little to the company’s business-oriented roots, the Y500 aims to be all power—moreso than any other laptop from the manufacturer to date—tactfully squeezed into a price tag that would normally be unattainable given the promised performance. But can it succeed?
Our Y500 review unit can be had for $1,249 at Newegg and other retailers, or for as low as $1,180 at Best Buy. Lenovo also sells customizable models, though the price is generally higher. Here’s the full list of specifications:
The configurations offered by Lenovo range in price fairly widely, from as low as $849 for a model sporting 8 GB of RAM with a single GT 650M with 2 GB GDDR5. The best value is certainly this configuration that we received, however.
What’s so special about it? Well, apart from the obvious (powerful quad-core CPU and 16 GB RAM), this laptop actually includes two NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M GPUs (both with 2 GB GDDR5) configured in SLI. Seeing as it’s just a 15.6-inch model, how does it manage to do that? By way of a clever compromise: the exchange of the usual optical drive for an Ultrabay, something normally only seen in Lenovo’s ThinkPad line of laptops. So I guess the Y500 does owe a little bit of its success to its business-grade brethren after all.
In our review unit (and in the particular configuration noted above), this Ultrabay comes prepopulated with the second GT 650M, equipped with its own heatsink/fan and all. The addition of this GPU effectively launches the Y500 into high-end gaming laptop territory—at least on the spec sheet. Other options for the Ultrabay also exist (sold separately), including a DVD burner and a second hard drive. The bay is easily removable via a switch on the back of the PC (see below).
When compared to the flashy exteriors of most gaming notebooks, the Y500’s black brushed metal lid and matte plastic casing hardly stand out. That’s not to take anything away from its design, however; the metal adorning the lid provides for a sturdy protective barrier against the rear of the LCD, hardly yielding at all when pressure is applied. The plastic covering the hinges and the sides and bottom of the base unit, meanwhile, feels solid enough in its own right.
Open the notebook up and things begin to change, however. The unassuming brushed metal extends to the top of the base unit, wrapping the palm wrest and surrounding the keyboard in convincing fashion. Accenting the sea of black are red speakers on either side atop the keyboard, which matches the sides of the keys themselves—and they look rather slick given the combination. The screen finish and bezel are both glossy (and the bezel is plastic).
The aforementioned sturdiness of the chassis once again becomes apparent here. Hardly any flex at all is detectable at any point on the base unit, including across the keyboard and between the speakers at the top.
About the only negative worth mentioning is the relentless assault of fingerprints which will soon become a part of your life with the Y500: the brushed metal which we so love collects these smudges effortlessly, and refuses to give them up unless subjected to a vigorous scrubbing.