Lenovo IdeaPad Y500 review: A unique gaming laptop at a great price

As mentioned previously, that otherwise-excellent screen isn't a touch screen, which would greatly increase its appeal. Some would no doubt say that you don't need touch for Windows 8, or that with a few tweaks, you can stay in the traditional desktop view most of the time. But Windows 8 is built around that tile-based UI, and for a good out-of-the-box experience, trying to activate the Windows 8 Charms bar by swiping off the right side of the touch pad just doesn't cut it.

Lenovo IdeaPad Y500 Average for category [midsize]
Video VGA, HDMI VGA plus HDMI or DisplayPort
Audio Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks
Data 2 USB 3.0, 1 USB 2.0, SD card reader 2 USB 3.0, 2 USB 2.0, SD card reader
Networking Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
Optical drive Optional DVD drive for Ultrabay DVD burner

Connections, performance, and battery life
You get decent flexibility with the Y500, including dual video outputs, an always-on powered USB port for charging accessories, even with the system turned off, and that potentially handy Ultrabay for customizing the system for gaming, travel, or storage.

Several preconfigured models are available, with Ultrabay accessories potentially adding to the cost of each. As of this writing, Lenovo is offering what it calls "doorbuster" deals on a couple of the models, and the closest configuration to our review unit is $869, down from a list price of $1,349, which is a pretty solid deal, with one Nvidia GPU, a 1080p screen, a DVD drive for the Ultrabay, and a 1TB hard drive with 16GB solid-state drive (SSD) cache. It may be gone by the time you read this, but that's an insane price for as long as it lasts.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Thanks to the high-end 2.4GHz Intel Core i7-3630QM quad-core CPU, the Y500 performed superbly on our benchmark tests, matching up with even the highest-end desktop replacement laptops. You're definitely trading away some portability and battery life by not using an ultralow-voltage CPU, but if this laptop is going to stay plugged in on a desk most of the time, it's almost definitely worth it.

Gaming performance was also excellent, and our dual-GPU configuration (including the removable Ultrabay GPU) was correctly set up for SLI performance out of the box. In the very challenging Metro 2033 test at 1,920x1,080, the Y500 ran at 15.0 frames per second, which is a respectable score. In the more mainstream Just Cause 2, on medium/high settings, it ran at 53.5 frames per second. You can feel confidant running any current or upcoming game (such as BioShock Infinite) on this system at the highest settings and a lower resolution, or the highest resolution and medium-to-high settings.

As one might expect, battery life is not this system's strong suit. Still, at exactly 3 hours on our video-playback battery drain test, it hits a number we would have found perfectly acceptable from a 15-inch midsize laptop a few years ago. Note that this battery test doesn't really push the GPUs, so gaming with the power cord unplugged will no doubt lead to much shorter battery life.

Conclusion
With a high-res screen, decent design, some serious graphics for a nonspecialized gaming laptop, and a flexible accessory bay, the IdeaPad Y500 has a lot of the features you may be looking for.

Coupled with the current (and likely temporary) price breaks on different configurations, it's well worth considering for anyone not locked in to the idea of a superslim ultrabook. Look over the current prices and configurations carefully, as prices seem to change regularly, and most models come with an optical drive for the Ultrabay, instead of the second GPU.

Add a touch screen for all the non-gaming hours you'd spend on it, and this would be my favorite laptop of 2013 to date. As it is, it's still a strong contender, but one with a hard-to-overlook omission.

Multimedia multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Adobe Photoshop CS5 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Video playback battery drain test (in minutes)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

Find out more about how we test Windows laptops.

System configurations:

Lenovo IdeaPad Y500
Windows 8 (64-bit); 2.4GHz Intel Core i7-3630QM; 16GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; (x2) 2GB Nvidia Geforce GT650M; HDD#1 SanDisk 16GB SSD/ HDD#2 1TB Seagate 5,400rpm

Origin EON17-SLX
Windows 8 (64-bit); 3GHz Intel Core i7-3940XM; 16GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; (x2) 2GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 680M; HDD #1: 240GB Intel 520 SSD / HDD #2: 1TB Western Digital 5,400rpm (RAID 0)

Dell XPS 15
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) with SP1; 2.1GHz Intel Core i7-3612QM; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,333MHz; 1GB Nvidia GeForce GT 640M LE / 64MB (Dedicated) Intel HD 4000; 750GB Toshiba 5,400rpm

Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch with Retina Display (June 2012)
OS X 10.7.4 Lion; 2.3GHz Intel Core i7-3610QM; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 1GB Nvidia GeForce GT 650M + 512MB Intel HD 4000; 256GB Apple SSD

What you'll pay

Pricing is currently unavailable.

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Where to Buy

Lenovo IdeaPad Y500 (Intel Core i7-3630QM 2.40GHz)

Part Number: 59359557

MSRP: $1,099.99

See manufacturer website for availability.

Quick Specifications See All

  • Installed Size 8 GB
  • CPU Intel Core i7 (3rd Gen) 3630QM / 2.4 GHz
  • Resolution 1920 x 1080 ( Full HD )
    1920 x 1080 ( Full HD )
    1920 x 1080 ( Full HD )
  • Operating System Windows 8 64-bit Edition
  • Color dusk black with hairline texture
  • Weight 6 lbs
  • Optical Drive DVD-Writer
    DVD-Writer
  • Graphics Processor NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M - 2 GB
    NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M - 2 GB
    NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M - 2 GB GDDR5 SDRAM
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