Lenovo, best known for its business-friendly ThinkPads and transforming Yoga hybrids, is actually one of the best-kept secrets in PC gaming. The company makes some excellent gaming laptops and mid-price gaming desktops.
The current object of our gaming affection is the, a mid-size laptop that doesn't look too hideously gamer-like, and combines a touchscreen with a mainstream Nvidia GeForce GTX 860M graphics card, making it work for both gaming and non-gaming tasks.
That system's big weakness was its 1,920x1,080 touchscreen display. It simply looked dull and washed out, with poor off-axis viewing angles, marring an otherwise top-tier product. Fortunately, Lenovo also makes a version of the Y50 with a full-UHD 4K display, as reviewed here, and the display in that version fixes all biggest problems we had with the original.
The only real catch is that the mid-level Nvidia 860M GPU can't actually play most games at 4K resolution. Older or more casual games will work, but even then, you'll have to dial down the detail settings to very low levels. Despite this, you'll still get a big benefit from this new screen, even if your games are set to lower resolutions, because the brightness and viewing angle issues have been fixed. And, the higher screen resolution means that no matter how close you look, you won't see the screen's individual pixels, making game graphics look better even at standard resolutions.
In typical Lenovo fashion, there are many versions of the Y50 floating around, some on Lenovo's website, others seemingly only available from Best Buy or Amazon. This configuration, with 4K resolution and a touchscreen, is both the best combination of Y50 features we've seen, and also one of the hardest to find. We found only it on Amazon, for $1,499, which includes 256GB SSD and 16GB of RAM. Versions with a standard 1080p non-touchscreen start at $1,099. In the UK, the 4K version of the Y50 is £1,099, but isn't available with a touchscreen. In Australia, the 4K version of the Y50 is AU$2,199 but, like the UK, no touchscreen.
Serious gamers will likely want something with a little more muscle than the included Nvidia 860M provides, so they may look towards gaming laptops from Origin PC, Asus, or others that already offer the very powerful next-gen. For everyone else just looking to do some high-end gaming while also having a premium mid-size laptop that works for everyday use, the 4K version of the Y50 Touch looks great, performs well, and is an excellent value, making it one of my favorite laptops of the year.
Lenovo Y50 Touch 4K
|Price as reviewed||$1,449|
|Display size/resolution||15.6-inch, 3840x2160 touchscreen|
|PC CPU||2.4GHz Intel Core i7 4700HQ|
|PC Memory||16GB 1,600MHZ DDR3 SDRAM|
|Graphics||2GB Nvidia Geforce GTX 860M|
|Networking||Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 4.0|
|Operating system||Windows 8.1 (64-bit)|
Design and features
This 4K version of the Y50 Touch is physically identical to the 1,920x1,080 version we reviewed earlier this year, and the same observations apply. This is a sharper, more modern-looking laptop than what you'd find from specialized gaming PC makers such as Alienware, Origin PC, or Digital Storm, but also still not as thin and mainstream-looking as most non-gaming laptops.
The angular design is built around brushed black metal that's embossed in a crosshatch pattern, and there's a subtle chrome Lenovo logo on the back panel. Dark red accents add some color, with wedge-shaped red speaker grilles at the top left and right edges of the interior tray, and more red touches on the USB ports and subwoofer grille under the body.
The boldest design feature is the deep red backlit keyboard, easily the visual highlight of the system. Many other gaming laptops offer backlit keyboards, usually in a rainbow of user-adjustable colors, but this version is built around that single red color. The effect is heightened because the side shafts of the island-style keys are made of translucent red plastic, and the light shines through the actual key bodies, rather than simply leaking from around the key cutouts, as in other backlit laptops.
The keyboard itself is fine, not as custom-made for gamers as, for example, an Alienware keyboard, but I appreciated the large Shift, Tab and Control keys -- all frequently used in PC games. As most PC gaming is done via external mouse, you may not spend a lot of time with the touchpad. It's a buttonless, clickpad-style one, and offset to the left in order to line up under the spacebar (thanks to the number pad next to the keyboard).
In the original Y50 Touch laptop we reviewed, the 1,920x1,080 touch-enabled screen was a sticking point. It lacked the crisp sharpness we look for in a high-end display, and had especially poor off-axis viewing, causing the image to degrade quickly as your head moved.
In this case, the 4K panel not only offers a much higher resolution, it also fixes the visual problems we had with the standard screen. And while you're not going to be cranking many games up to 4K resolution, you still get the benefit of the better display. Video content in 4K is likewise scarce, but viewing regular HD video still looked better on this display, with deeper blacks and richer colors, than on the 1080-resolution Y50.
If that standard 1080p screen were a sharp-looking IPS display, I'd suggest sticking with that. But the visual quality difference between these two models is such that, if you're interested in the Y50, the extra investment to get the 4K display is well worth it.
Y50 Touch 4K ports & connections
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks, SPDIF audio out|
|Data||2 USB 3.0, 1 USB 2.0, SD card reader|
|Networking||Ethernet, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth|