Apple MacBook Air (13-inch, 2013)
Alienware 14 (Core i7, 16GB, 256GB SSD, Nvidia GTX765M)stars
No complaints about the performance, but the design changes don't go nearly far enough.
If you're shopping for a midsize 15.6-inch laptop, there are a lot of choices out there, to put it mildly. For example, Dell and HP make several perfectly fine machines in this category, Dell with its midrange Inspiron and higher-end XPS lines, and HP with its midrange Pavilion and higher-end Envy lines. Lenovo's IdeaPad also merits a look, and the Y570 model is a 15-inch laptop that looks and feels very high-end, but can be configured anywhere from $799 to $1,149.
Our version hits close to the perfect middle ground, coming in at $849. For that, you get an Intel Core i5 2410M CPU (which we've seen in laptops as inexpensive as $579), but also Nvidia's GeForce 555M GPU. The 4GB of RAM and 500GB hard drive are standard (or maybe even a little subpar for an $849 laptop), but Lenovo's design savvy and helpful software make up for it. It's also worth noting that Lenovo currently has the same model, but with a larger 750GB hard drive and Blu-ray, discounted to $799 for an unspecified period of time.
|Price as reviewed / Starting price||$849 / $799|
|Processor||2.3GHz Intel Core i5 2410M|
|Memory||4GB, 1,333MHz DDR3|
|Hard drive||500GB 5,400rpm|
|Graphics||Nvidia GeForce GT 555M|
|Operating system||Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)|
|Dimensions (WD)||15.1x10 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||15.6 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||6 pounds / 7.1 pounds|
Back in 2010, we looked at a predecessor system, the. That model had a funkier overall look, with a tribal-like design on the back of the plastic lid. This version is much more sedate, and more upscale-looking, with a faded copper hue inside and a pattern of small glossy black dots on the back of the matte black lid.
The keyboard is at first glance similar to the ones we've seen on other Lenovo consumer systems, with its signature variation on the flat-topped island key style, but it has a different feel. The key faces are slightly smaller than on theand laptops we recently reviewed, but with deeper key travel. They're also loud and clacky, while we're used to a much smoother typing experience. As a standalone keyboard, it's fine, but as we're so used to other Lenovo laptops, this one falls short.
The touch pad is large, with a textured surface that provides just the right amount of finger resistance. Below it is a single rocker bar that takes the place of separate left and right mouse buttons. We greatly prefer separate buttons, but at least in this case, the rocker bar is large and easy to hit. There is the usual array of multitouch gestures for the pad, such as the two-finger scroll, but as always, responsiveness on Windows is lacking compared with OS X.
Many Lenovo systems, both business and consumer, include a variety of useful software apps, the best of which combine security and system tools under one roof. The package on this particular system is a mixed bag, with useful facial recognition software and a boot optimizer lumped in with Lenovo-branded adware for gaming and video chat services and the simply awful Lenovo Smile Dock, a piece of marketing bloatware masquerading as a software dock.
The 15.6-inch display has a native resolution of 1,366x768 pixels, which is standard for a laptop this size (but only slightly more expensive systems have been known to step to a 1,600x900-pixel resolution). The screen itself is not overly glossy, but the thick black bezel that surrounds it is, and the glare can be distracting. Off-axis viewing was also not great, especially when tilting the lid vertically even a small amount. The JBL-branded speakers were above average, however, and offered some of the best sound we've heard from a sub-$1,000 laptop in some time.
|Lenovo IdeaPad Y570||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||1 USB 2.0, 2 USB 3.0, 1 USB 2.0/eSATA, 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||DVD burner||DVD burner|
Helping the IdeaPad Y570 stand out from less expensive 15-inch laptops is a handful of extras, including the aforementioned JBL speakers, as well as two USB 3.0 ports, a combo USB/eSATA port, and a row of touch-sensitive volume buttons above the keyboard.
While our Y570 sells for $849, a few configuration options can either raise or lower the price. For $799, you can knock the CPU down to an Intel Core i3 (although that seems expensive for a Core i3 laptop), and Core i7 models start at $939 and go up to more than $1,000 if you add Blu-ray and an SSD. At the time of this review, a higher-end config than our review unit, with the same CPU but a larger hard drive and a Blu-ray player, is on sale for $799 on Lenovo's site.
The Intel Core i5-2410M CPU that powers our IdeaPad Y570 is probably the most common CPU in laptops right now. It's faster than Core i3 models, but at the low end of the i5 scale, so it can be found in laptops selling under $600 (as in the case of Lenovo's own). In our benchmark tests, the Y570 ran so close to other mainstream laptops with the same CPU, such as Dell's , that the differences were negligible. Unless you're engaged in serious PC gaming, video editing, or other processor-intensive tasks, it's more than sufficient.
The included Nvidia GeForce GT 555M GPU is a nice touch that you usually don't find in a midpriced 15-inch laptop. Better than the GeForce 540 card you're more likely to see, it helped the Y570 run Street Fighter IV at the system's native resolution at an impressive 80.4 frames per second. There's one important caveat, however. The GPU, instead of switching itself off and on automatically, as in laptops with Nvidia's Optimus switching technology, requires the use of a tiny physical switch along the front edge of the chassis. No reboot is needed, but we're way past the point of needing to manually switch settings like this.