The name Lenovo may conjure up images of basic black ThinkPad laptops lined up in offices and cubicles around the world. But the company also has a very creative and inventive side, usually found only in its lesser-known consumer IdeaPad line of products.
Most IdeaPad laptops are cool-looking and reasonably priced (although the basic aesthetic could use a little updating), and the new IdeaPad Y480 includes some of the newest components available, namely an Intel Core i7-3610QM quad-core processor (from the new Ivy Bridge line), and Nvida GeForce 640M graphics.
At $1,079 for this configuration, I'd call that a good deal for a tricked-out 14-inch gaming/multimedia machine with Intel's third-generation Core i-series CPUs. But, there's one huge caveat -- the display only has a 1,366x768-pixel native resolution. For a $1,000-plus laptop with a quad-core CPU and high-end GPU to have such a low screen res is ludicrous, like connecting a Blu-ray player to an old 19-inch tube TV.
Looking over the different configurations of the Y480 available from Lenovo, from $999-$1,200, all are stuck with the same display. If that doesn't bother you, this is the least expensive Ivy Bridge quad-core laptop to date, and has Lenovo's excellent build quality and keyboard, but that resolution will be a deal-killer for many.
|Price as reviewed / starting price||$1,079 / $999|
|Processor||2.3GHz Intel Core i7-3610QM|
|Memory||8GB, 1,600MHz DDR3|
|Hard drive||750GB 5,400rpm|
|Graphics||Nvidia GeForce GT 640M / Intel HD4000|
|Operating system||Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)|
|Dimensions (WD)||13.6x9.4 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||14 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||4.5 pounds / 5.6 pounds|
Like the Y500 Series laptops we've reviewed previously, the 14-inch Y-480 is sedate, and more upscale-looking, but funkier than a matte black ThinkPad. The lid has a simple black brushed-metal cover that would fit in at the office, coffee shop, or nearly anywhere in between.
The keyboard is similar to the ones we've seen on other Lenovo consumer systems, with its signature variation on the flat-topped island key style. The key faces curve out a tiny bit at the bottom, which I assume makes them easier to catch with an errant fingertip when you're typing quickly. The type of keyboard on IdeaPad laptops is a longtime favorite, and I seem to make few typing mistakes when using it. The keys on this particular model, however, are a bit clacky and noisy.
The touch pad is large, with a matte surface that provides just the right amount of finger resistance. The awful single rocker bar from last year's Y Series has been replaced with buttons built right into the pad itself, as on a MacBook. The usual array of multitouch gestures work on the pad, such as the two-finger scroll, which was pleasantly responsive (it can frequently lag on Windows laptops).
The 14-inch display has a native resolution of 1,366x768 pixels, which is standard for 13-inch and smaller laptops, and fine on less-expensive 14- and 15-inch ones. But, this is a high-end system, selling for over $1,000, and with the latest Intel processor and Nvidia graphics. A 1,600x900-pixel display would be much more appropriate.
No one who wants to play games with the GeForce 640M GPU will want to keep the resolution that low, and the screen can't play 1080p full-HD video at its native resolution. The display makes the Y480 look and feel like a much less expensive laptop. The JBL-branded speakers were above average, however, and a good choice for a smaller system.
|Lenovo IdeaPad Y480||Average for category [midsize]|
|Video||VGA plus HDMI||VGA plus HDMI or DisplayPort|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||2 USB 2.0, 2 USB 3.0, SD card reader||2 USB 2.0, 2 USB 3.0, SD card reader, eSATA|
|Networking||Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth||Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional mobile broadband|
|Optical drive||n/a||DVD burner|
We've seen 15-inch IdeaPad Y Series laptops with combo USB/eSATA ports. That's missing here, but you do get two USB 3.0 ports as well as two USB 2.0 ports.
There are six different preconfigured versions of this system on Lenovo's Web site. They run from $999 to $1,199, but the differences are slight, all having to do with hard-drive capacity and optional Blu-ray drives.