If I ask you to picture a business laptop, there's a good chance something like Lenovo's thin-but-boxy, black ThinkPads will come to mind. If I ask you to do the same for a gaming laptop, you'll probably see a thick laptop with big stylized fan vents, red color accents and an aggressive, angular body, not unlike the company's Legion Y520. The Legion Y530, however, is sort of a mashup of the two, taking the pro workstation design of the ThinkPad P52 mixed with the Y520's flash. And it totally works.
The 15.6-inch Legion Y530 is an entry-level gaming laptop to boot (budget laptops aren't known for their designs), and while that means a couple of cut corners to keep the starting price down to around $750 in the US, £900 in the UK and AU$1,199 in Australia, you won't notice it too much. The base components are what you'll find in its competitors, namely an Intel Core i5-8300H or i7-8750H paired with an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 or 1050 Ti. (Lenovo announced at IFA 2018 that a GTX 1060 will be an option later this year.) The biggest differences come down to the keyboard, display and the overall design, and the Y530 doesn't really disappoint, at least not at this price.
If gaming performance longevity are crucial, you'll want to save up and get a laptop with at least a GTX 1060 graphics card. But if you don't mind dialing back your video settings to save some money, the Legion Y530 is an excellent choice for the money. It makes even more sense if you plan to use it part of the time hooked up to a keyboard, mouse, display and Ethernet.
Price as reviewed
|Display size/resolution||15-inch 1,920 x 1,080 display|
|CPU||2.3GHz Intel Core i5-8300H|
|Memory||8GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,660MHz|
|Graphics||4GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti|
|Storage||1TB HDD + 128GB SSD|
|Networking||802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 5.0|
|Operating system||Window 10 Home (64-bit)|
The entry-level gaming laptops in the past year or so have basically looked the same: black plastic with red accents and a red backlit keyboard with the WASD keys outlined in red as well. While I'm not opposed to red, it does still scream "hey, look at me, I'm a gaming laptop." Plus, red markings on keys are difficult to read, which means you pretty much have to have the keys backlit all the time.
The Y530, on the other hand, looks more like one of Lenovo's ThinkPad workstations than a full-on gaming laptop. The body is matte black plastic and there are no big, bold color accents. Instead, you get white key markings on the keyboard that's also backlit in bright white. And although the large Legion branding on the lid isn't subtle, it's not garish, either. (A higher-end Y730 is fitted with exterior RGB lighting by Corsair for the keyboard (per key) and fan vents and adds metal to the body.)
Lenovo shifted the display hinge forward, which allows for better cooling with rear and side air vents. It also gave them space to move power and a majority of its ports to the back, so you don't have a tangle of cords coming from the sides.
The cooling system does work well and although you'll hear the fans while you're gaming at least they keep the keyboard comfortable. Putting the power and ports to the rear makes for a tidy setup if you plan to use it at least part time with an external display, keyboard, mouse and other peripherals. You'll find a USB port on each side, too, and the headset jack is also on the left side. You won't find a memory card slot anywhere, though.
The full HD display is the weakest part of the package with lackluster color and brightness, but we've seen similar or worse from the competition at this price. Note that if you configure the Y530 with GTX 1050 Ti graphics, you can also get a 144Hz display with 300-nit brightness for an additional $100. Lenovo gets points for surrounding the display with a thin bezel instead of the thick ones on most gaming laptops, even pricier ones. Although it also loses points for putting the webcam below the screen so it's shooting upward at an unflattering angle.
The rest of the laptop's features are a mix of good and not so good, too. The Y530's keyboard, for example, has a softness to the key travel that feels fine for long gaming sessions, but might disappoint for typing. It's paired with a responsive touchpad that seems unusually small for a 15.6-inch laptop and while it has discrete mouse buttons opposed to single clickpad, but their clicks are particularly loud. The speakers are loud and clear, but there's a lack of bass that's disappointing for gaming.
While the display's color and brightness might be a deal-breaker for some, at this price you're not really going to find anything much better on a gaming laptop. The rest of the things I mentioned are, in my opinion, not deal-breakers, but if you can find a Y530 at a local retailer you might want to stop in and test everything out firsthand.
At its full 1,920x1,080-pixel resolution and settings on high, older games like BioShock Infinite and Deus Ex: Mankind Divided ran smoothly, though the latter was better at medium, as were Battlefield 1 and Strange Brigade. Really anything graphically demanding, you'll want to play on medium. I've been a little obsessed with Mr. Shifty since it landed on Origin Access and it plays great on the Y530 and sessions of PUBG and Fortnite were definitely playable, too, so if you're just looking for a cheapish PC to do battle on breaks in your work or school day, this configuration of the Y530 doesn't disappoint.
The exception to that statement is storage. Personally, I would skip the 128GB solid-state drive in my review laptop because it doesn't leave you much space for game storage. Storage drives (and memory) are user accessible for expansion or upgrades, so you're better off dropping the 1TB hard drive for a 256GB SSD and adding a hard drive on your own later. The SSD will help speed up performance, especially launching games, and again, 128GB doesn't leave you much room.
Long battery life isn't typical for a gaming laptop, let alone an entry-level one, but the Y530 actually lasted longer than most. On CNET's streaming video playback battery test it lasted a little more than 7 hours. Gaming will be brief, though, and you won't get peak performance on battery alone. But if you're looking to web surf on the couch or get work done at coffee house for a couple hours, you'll be in good shape.
As budget gaming laptops go, the Lenovo Legion Y530 offers one of the best mixes of performance and design you're going to find at the moment. The display could be better and the components might be not be too different than what others offer, but Lenovo offers them up at good price and performance is right where it should be. If you like the design, this is one to put on your shortlist.
|Lenovo Legion Y530||Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.3GHz Intel Core i5-8300H; 8GB DDR? SDRAM 2,660MHz; 4GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 TI; 1TB HDD + 128GB SSD|
|Razer Blade (2018)||Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.2GHz Intel Core i7-8750H; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,660MHz; 8GB Nvidia GeFroce GTX 1070 with Max-Q Design; 512GB SSD|
|Dell Inspiron 15 7577 Gaming (late 2017)||Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.5GHz Intel Core i5-7300HQ; 8GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,400MHz; 6GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 with Max-Q Design; 256GB SSD|
|Acer Nitro 5||Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.3GHz Intel Core i5-8300H; 8GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,660MHz; 4GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050Ti Graphics; 256GB SSD|
|Asus TUF Gaming FX504GD||Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.3GHz Intel Core i5-8300H; 8GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,660MHz; 4GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Graphics; 1TB HDD|