Lenovo Ideacentre Y900 RE review: Hitting the virtual-reality sweet spot

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MSRP: $2,499.99

The Good The Lenovo Y900 includes the right processor/graphics card combo for virtual reality, offers easy access to its spacious interior and includes a premium keyboard and mouse.

The Bad The huge tower case is bland, with just enough gamer-centric touches to not blend in. No options for high-end features like liquid cooling.

The Bottom Line Hitting the sweet spot for price and performance in a VR-ready PC, the Lenovo Ideacentre Y900 is a safe mainstream choice to pair with your HTC Vive or Oculus Rift headset.

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8.2 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 8
  • Performance 9

Lenovo has had a semisecret side business for years, selling decent gaming PCs at reasonable prices. The Lenovo Y-series gaming laptops have always been of interest to me, as they offered excellent value for a very mainstream combination of Core i7 processors and Nvidia 860M/960M mobile graphics cards, in a chassis that wasn't as outrageously ugly as most gaming systems.

The desktops have been less interesting -- similarly well-priced, but not as mainstream-looking, and gaming desktops just naturally appeal to a very small segment of the computer-buying public anyway. At least until now. There's suddenly a renewed interest in desktop PCs with high-end gaming parts inside, thanks to just-released Oculus Rift and HTC Vive virtual-reality headsets.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Lenovo's VR-ready offering is the Ideacentre Y900, a hefty dark gray tower that adds just enough gamer-like design touches that you won't mistake it for an office machine. It's available in several configurations, but the one reviewed here hits what we call the VR sweet spot. It's a $1,999 retail-only configuration with an Intel Core i7-6700K processor and an Nvidia GeForce 980 graphics card. Lenovo offers different configurations in the UK and Australia, starting at £1,499 and AU$1,999.

There's also a version of the Y900 Lenovo sells for a mere $899. That's essentially the chassis plus the Core i7 CPU, with just 4GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD. It's intended for you to add your own graphics card, RAM, and extra storage (the keyboard and mouse found here are also not included with the DIY version).

You could spend less on a VR-ready desktop (such as the $999-after-bundle-discount Dell XPS 8900), but trading down to a Core i5 processor or an Nvidia 970 GPU is just asking for trouble if you want a VR rig that will last at least a few years. For the launch of the Vive and Rift, however, any of the systems profiled in our guide to VR-ready PCs will run the first generation of apps and games at the required 90 frames per second per eye.

Lenovo Ideacentre Y900

Price as reviewed $1,999
PC CPU 4GHz Intel Core i7-6700K
PC Memory 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,133MHz
Graphics 4GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 980
Storage 256GB + 2TB 7,200rpm HDD
Optical drive DVD burner
Networking 802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 4.0
Operating system Windows 8.1 (64-bit)

Many gaming desktops dress up their bulky towers with flashing, pulsing light shows (as do some laptops, such as the Razer Blade Stealth). Here, there's an attempt to add a bit of this, but it's a halfhearted one. Red accent lights form a subtle design on the front panel, and a lighting control app can dim them or shut them off, but aside from that, there's little in the way of lighting customization.

Editors' note: This review was originally published on March 31. It has been updated with links to related content but is otherwise unchanged.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Room to grow

A windowed side panel offers a glimpse inside the case, where there are four hard-drive bays and rooms for a second full-size video card (but for VR, stick with a single card for now -- the major VR headsets don't yet support multi-GPU setups). The panel pops off without a screwdriver, thanks to a button release on the top of the system, allowing for easy access. That's a plus if you plan on adding bigger storage drives later on, or if Nvidia releases a new generation of desktop graphics cards and you want to stay on the cutting edge.

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