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Lenovo Legion Y545 review: Nvidia GTX or RTX? Lenovo's budget Y545 gaming laptop lets you decide

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Lenovo's Legion gaming laptop line is sort of a mess at the moment because it's selling new and old models side by side. Both the new Legion Y540 and Y740 sit alongside the older but still excellent Y530 and Y730. The new models have the same understated black slab design of the old ones, but have newer ninth-gen Intel processors and the latest GTX and RTX graphics from Nvidia as well as better display options. Then there's the Legion Y545.  

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7.9

Lenovo Legion Y545

The Good

The Lenovo Legion Y545 has an edgier design than the rest of the Legion gaming laptop lineup without going over-the-top. It's loaded with some great components for its price including a choice of three Nvidia graphics cards.

The Bad

The Y545 isn't as thin as its linemates or competitors and lacks extras like RGB per-key lighting and keyboard macros.

The Bottom Line

Like its predecessor, the Y7000P, Lenovo's Legion Y545 outperforms its price.

The Y545 replaces the Legion Y7000P, which was only available at retail -- not direct from Lenovo -- and looked more like a typical gaming laptop. It was a great gaming value, though, and that's the case here with the Y545. It has the same chassis as the Y7000P, too, but now you're getting it with updated components that turned out impressive gaming performance for the money.

Also, unlike the Y7000P, the Y545 is available from Lenovo starting at $1,000. However, it seems you'll still find a better deal from a retailer. For example, my review laptop was available from NewEgg for $950, an amazing price considering what's in it including a GTX 1660 Ti GPU. A similar deal for $1,100 with twice the SSD storage and a 144Hz display is currently at Costco -- a configuration that'll run you $1,550 direct from Lenovo at the moment. But if you're even considering spending that much, you'd be better off spending $1,400 at B&H and get one with an Nvidia RTX 2060 and a 144Hz display

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The angular chassis of the Y545 looks more like a typical gaming laptop. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Because the Y545 is so similar to the Legion Y7000P, you'll see a lot of the same ground covered here. The conclusion is the same, too, for that matter: If you want a gaming laptop with performance that's above entry-level and without the crazy price tag, the Legion Y545 is worth putting on your short list. 

Lenovo Legion Y545

Price as reviewed $1,300
Display size/resolution 15.6-inch 1,920x1,080 display
CPU 2.6GHz Intel Core i7-9750H
Memory 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2667MHz
Graphics 6GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Ti
Storage 128GB SSD + 1TB HDD
Networking 802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 4.2
Operating system Windows 10 Home (64-bit)

Choose your style

A lot of the component options are the same between the Legion Y540 and Y545, so design is much of what sets them apart. The Legion Y540 looks more like a black Thinkpad workstation with subtle Legion branding than a typical gaming laptop. The Y545 is a little more aggressive with flared cooling vents and an angular, iron-gray metal lid with a big glowing Y symbol. It's not over the top, but it's also not your average thin-and-light laptop, especially not at 5 pounds (2.3kg). 

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Most of the Y545's ports are in back. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Like its linemates, though, most of the Y545's ports and power input are on back between its main cooling vents. It's a good setup for controlling cable clutter, particularly if it's going to regularly be at a desk connected to an external display, mouse and keyboard. However, it can also be a pain blindly reaching around back until you remember which port is which. There are single USB-A ports on each side and a headphone jack on the left in addition to what's in the rear, but no SD card slot. 

The subtle design continues inside with a slim bezel around its nice-looking 15.6-inch full HD display. Although it does have a chin where you'll find the webcam that's either pointing at your knuckles or up your nose. Display brightness is average for its class at around 300 nits and color performance is good enough for gaming. If you need a wide color gamut for photo and video work, this won't cut it. You can, however, get it with a 144Hz refresh rate display. 

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The Y545's keyboard is good, but you might want to attach a gaming keyboard when you're not traveling. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

The keyboard is good, but nothing special. There's 1.7mm of key travel, which is nice, and they readily pop back up when pressed. However, they do have a softness to them that some might not care for, but I found comfortable for long gaming sessions. The shrunken number pad might bother some as well, although it does allow for larger separate arrow keys. There's a single-color white backlight with two levels of brightness. 

The touchpad is fine, but missing discrete buttons, which is kind of annoying not to have for casual gaming. It's a Windows Precision touchpad, too, so you get multitouch gesture support. It's smooth and responsive, but you should feel free to adjust the sensitivity to tame your cursor. 

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Watch this: Lenovo's Legion Y7000P laptop does mainstream gaming right

More performance, less $$$

Getting a six-core Intel processor and Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Ti graphics for around $1,000 is pretty great, and while there are other $1,000 gaming laptops out there, the performance-to-price ratio here is impressive. You'll be able to play the latest games at native resolution and high settings, and it gives you headroom for the future. Not a lot, mind you, but it's room that you won't get by going with a GTX 1650 or the older GTX 1050 or 1050 Ti. Also, if you're toying with the idea of getting a VR headset, the GTX 1660 Ti can handle it.  

Despite the laptop's relative portability, battery life is still that of a typical gaming laptop. This configuration hit 4 hours and 59 minutes on CNET's streaming video test. Don't expect to get anywhere near that playing games, though -- you'll be lucky if you get past an hour and a half. Still for day-to-day stuff like web browsing, streaming video and music and office or school work, you'll be able to get four or five hours out of it. 

Like its predecessor, the Y7000P, Lenovo's Legion Y545 outperforms its price. The design might not be for everyone (I prefer the Y540's boxier build), but it's hard to argue with its overall value. You'll definitely want to keep an eye on pricing from retailers as well as Lenovo, especially as we push into holiday shopping season. 

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Geekbench 4 (multicore)

Lenovo Legion Y545 21,528Lenovo Legion Y7000P 20,965Alienware m15 20,851Lenovo Legion Y730 17,786Dell G5 5590 15,615
Notes: Longer bars indicate better performance

Cinebench R15 CPU (multicore)

Lenovo Legion Y7000P 1,182Lenovo Legion Y730 1,181Alienware m15 1,142Lenovo Legion Y545 989Dell G5 5590 844
Notes: Longer bars indicate better performance

Video playback battery drain test (streaming)

Dell G5 5590 490Alienware m15 397Lenovo Legion Y7000P 346Lenovo Legion Y545 299Lenovo Legion Y730 169
Notes: Longer bars indicate better performance (in minutes)

3DMark Fire Strike Ultra

Alienware m15 3,669Lenovo Legion Y545 3,066Lenovo Legion Y7000P 2,716Lenovo Legion Y730 1,899Dell G5 5590 1,867
Notes: Longer bars indicate better performance

Far Cry 5 gaming test (fps)

Lenovo Legion Y545 86Alienware m15 82Lenovo Legion Y7000P 66Dell G5 5590 48Lenovo Legion Y730 44
Notes: Longer bars indicate better performance (FPS)

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided (fps)

Lenovo Legion Y545 79.2Alienware m15 71.5Lenovo Legion Y7000P 58.1Dell G5 5590 48.7Lenovo Legion Y730 37.7
Notes: Longer bars indicate better performance (FPS)

System configurations

Lenovo Legion Y545 Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.6GHz Intel Core i7-9750H; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,667MHz; 6GB Nvidia GeFroce GTX 1660Ti; 128GB SSD + 1TB HDD
Dell G5 5590 Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.4GHz Intel Core i5-9300; 8GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,666MHz; 4GB Nvidia GeFroce GTX 1650; 256GB SSD + 1TB HDD
Lenovo Legion Y7000P Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.2GHz Intel Core i7-8750H; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,666MHz; 6GB Nvidia GeFroce GTX 1060; 1TB SSD
Alienware m15 Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.2GHz Intel Core i7-8750H; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,666MHz; 8GB Nvidia GeFroce GTX 1070 with Max-Q Design; 512GB SSD
Lenovo Legion Y730 Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.2HGz Intel Core i7-8750H; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,666MHz; 4GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050Ti; 2TB HDD + 256GB SSD
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7.9

Lenovo Legion Y545

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 8Performance 8Battery 7