CNET logo Why You Can Trust CNET

Our expert, award-winning staff selects the products we cover and rigorously researches and tests our top picks. If you buy through our links, we may get a commission. Reviews ethics statement

Lenovo IdeaPad Y480 review: Lenovo IdeaPad Y480

Lenovo IdeaPad Y480

Dan Ackerman Editorial Director / Computers and Gaming
Dan Ackerman leads CNET's coverage of computers and gaming hardware. A New York native and former radio DJ, he's also a regular TV talking head and the author of "The Tetris Effect" (Hachette/PublicAffairs), a non-fiction gaming and business history book that has earned rave reviews from the New York Times, Fortune, LA Review of Books, and many other publications. "Upends the standard Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs/Mark Zuckerberg technology-creation myth... the story shines." -- The New York Times
Expertise I've been testing and reviewing computer and gaming hardware for over 20 years, covering every console launch since the Dreamcast and every MacBook...ever. Credentials
  • Author of the award-winning, NY Times-reviewed nonfiction book The Tetris Effect; Longtime consumer technology expert for CBS Mornings
Dan Ackerman
6 min read

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.


Lenovo IdeaPad Y480

The Good

The <b>Lenovo IdeaPad Y480</b> offers desktop-replacement power in a midsize laptop, with a discrete GPU and Intel's new quad-core third-generation Core processors.

The Bad

All this power is paired with a lower-resolution screen, killing the high-end vibe.

The Bottom Line

The IdeaPad Y480 gets you Lenovo's excellent construction quality and ergonomic design without having a "business" laptop, but some more configuration flexibility would be appreciated.

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
Chipset Intel HM77
Graphics Nvidia GeForce GT 640M / Intel HD4000
Operating system Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)
Dimensions (WD) 13.6x9.4 inches
Height 1.3 inches
Screen size (diagonal) 14 inches
System weight / Weight with AC adapter 4.5 pounds / 5.6 pounds
Category Midsize

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.

All six Y480 models currently available share the same 8GB of RAM, Nvidia GeForce GT640M GPU, and 2.3GHz Intel Core I7-3610QM processor. In our benchmark tests, it performed very well, on par with the other quad-core Core i7 laptops we've seen with the new Intel third-generation Core processors. It fell behind the ridiculously overclocked and overpowered Origin EON17-S, and was a couple of seconds faster than the Asus G75. All of these Ivy Bridge laptops handily beat out even high-end second-generation Intel Core i-series models.

That said, for the average 14-inch laptop user, a killer quad-core Core i7 CPU isn't really necessary. For Web surfing, media playback, and office work, this is definitely overkill.

The discrete Nvidia GeForce 640M GPU is a highlight, but again, the low display resolution cripples its usefulness. Nonetheless, Street Fighter IV ran at a speedy 59.8 frames per second. That's excellent, and this system will play any current game well (especially considering you can't crank up the resolution), but the Origin EON17-S ran the same test at 216fps, and the Asus G75 at 99.5fps, with the GeForce 675 and 660 GPU models, respectively.

Juice box
Lenovo IdeaPad Y480 Avg watts/hour
Off (60%) 0.38
Sleep (10%) 0.69
Idle (25%) 10.79
Load (05%) 46.56
Raw kWh number 46.63
Annual power consumption cost $5.29

Annual power consumption cost

While the IdeaPad Y480 doesn't necessarily stand out in most other categories, it kills in battery life. In our video playback battery drain test, the system ran for 3 hours and 51 minutes. For a 14-inch laptop that's not great, but for one with the very latest high-end quad-core processor, it's excellent. Think of this as essentially desktop replacement hardware in a midsize laptop body.

Lenovo includes an industry-standard one-year parts and labor warranty with the system. Upgrading to a three-year plan will cost an extra $69, or $104 if you include on-site service, and various other two- and three-year options are available. Support is accessible through a 24-7 toll-free phone line, an online knowledge base, and driver downloads.

The IdeaPad line is a great way for someone to get Lenovo's excellent construction quality and ergonomic design without having a "business" laptop. This version is interesting, in that it has the kind of power you'd expect in a big 17-inch desktop replacement, but pairing with with a 1,366x768-pixel display, and for more then $1,000, seems shortsighted.

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)

Street Fighter IV (in fps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Native resolution, 2X AA, V Sync off  

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


Lenovo IdeaPad Y480

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 8Performance 9Battery 8Support 7