Refreshing a Winner
Lenovo’s IdeaPad Y500 was one of our favorite gaming notebooks. What made it irresistible to gamers and value hunters was its combination of high-end specifications, its innovative Ultrabay feature, relative portability and attractive price tag.
However, since the launch of Intel’s new fourth generation Core processors in June, the gaming notebook space has been seen lots of new players of late, especially in the 13 to 15-inch space. Some standout contenders include Razer’s sexy new Blade and Aftershock’s slightly smaller but excellent XG13. Thanks to faster and more efficient processors (both and CPU and GPU), slim and truly portable gaming notebooks are no longer the stuff of dreams.
To combat the slew of new gaming notebooks, Lenovo has recently refreshed the IdeaPad Y500 and the new model has been appropriately christened the IdeaPad Y510p. How does this new model perform? And is this still the ultimate gaming notebook for value hunters? Read on to find out.
What is a refresh without updated internals? The IdeaPad Y510p is appropriately outfitted with Intel’s new fourth generation Core processor, specifically the high-end quad-core Core i7-4700MQ (2.4GHz, 6MB L3 cache). This is paired with 16GB of RAM and a 1TB mechanical HDD. The lack of a flash drive is disappointing, but not entirely unexpected given that the original IdeaPad Y500 was all about offering bang for buck.
Graphics-processing duties are handled by NVIDIA’s GeForce GTX 750M, which is at heart a rebadged GeForce GTX 650M. Both share the same core configurations - 384 CUDA cores, 32 texture mapping units and 16 render output units. However, the GeForce GTX 750M boasts higher clock speeds and GPU Boost 2.0 technology.
GPU Boost 2.0 was debuted with the launch of the fearsome GeForce GTX Titan, and features added GPU temperature monitoring to determine how much to boost the GPU’s clock speeds. According to NVIDIA this allowed the card to be boosted to higher clock speeds more reliably, resulting in better overall performance. This, along with the already higher clock speeds, should see the GeForce GTX 750M easily outperform the GeForce GTX 650M, but the difference in performance won't be by leaps and bounds.
As for its screen, the IdeaPad Y510p gets the same 15.6-inch Full-HD (1080p) display as its predecessor. Despite being a TN panel and its glossy finishing, we found viewing angles to be quite decent, although at full brightness, images can appear washed out.
Design & Features
While the IdeaPad Y510p received upgraded internals, the chassis itself is completely identical to the model it replaces. And that means an all-black design with a chassis constructed mostly out of plastic and given some aluminum garnishing - the notebook lid and interior keyboard panel feature dark brushed aluminum. Overall build quality is decent and we could spot no major fitting or flexing issues. That said, with "value" brands like MSI and Acer catching up in terms of notebook build quality, Lenovo has to do better than just "decent" to stay ahead of the game.
In terms of dimensions and weight, the IdeaPad Y510p comes in at 35mm thick and weighs 2.69kg. With its 15-inch display, the IdeaPad Y510p is not the most portable or featherweight notebook, but considering its specifications and features, we think it is a fair overall compromise. The best way to describe the IdeaPad Y510p would be that it is not so heavy and bulky as to be impossible to carry around, but it is definitely not something you want to be carrying around in your bag for extended periods of time.
Flipping the lid open, we were greeted by the familiar sight of the keyboard with red accents. The keyboard also features a full number pad, which can be useful to some users. However, the inclusion of the number pad seems to have come at the cost of reducing the size of certain keys. For example, we found the "enter" and right "shift" keys to be smaller than we were used to and thus requiring us to adapt.
The clickable trackpad is large and accurate to use, but suffers from excessive travel. In addition, it also feels feels a bit flimsy and mushy to use. These problems were also present in the IdeaPad Y500.
The notebook features decent of I/O connectivity. On the left, users can find VGA and HDMI video outputs as well as an Ethernet jack and two USB 3.0 ports. On the right, there is the Ultrabay, headphones and microphone jacks, and an "always on" USB 2.0 port that can be used for charging devices even if the notebook is powered down.
Audio has always been problematic for notebooks but the IdeaPad Y510p, with its JBL-branded speakers and in-built subwoofer, performed admirably in this respect. It sounded surprisingly direct and powerful, while vocals are pleasant and smooth.
The "Ultrabay" has got to be the IdeaPad Y510p’s key and defining feature. Although notebooks with swappable optical drives are not new, the earlier IdeaPad Y500 took this to new heights when it offered an add-on graphics module, thereby increasing the notebook’s graphics crunching prowess, turning the IdeaPad Y500 from a mainstream multimedia notebook into a serious gaming notebook.
The IdeaPad Y510p is no different and users can improve its graphics capabilities with an add-on graphics module, thereby enabling GeForce GTX 750M in SLI. In theory, the combined 768 CUDA cores of two GeForce GTX 750M GPUs in SLI should give it enough performance to challenge notebooks outfitted with the more powerful GeForce GTX 760M and 765M. We'll find out if that holds true on the next page.