Hands-on review: Lenovo Y50 review

Everyone knows Lenovo for its leading business and hybrid laptops (and sometimes both with the ThinkPad Yoga). But did you know that the Chinese vendor also makes gaming laptops? Amid the Alienwares and Origins of the world, it’s easy to forget, but not for long.

This is the Lenovo Y50, the successor to the company’s Y510p gaming notebook and a first for Lenovo in several ways. Lenovo recognized that, even in the gaming clamshells, thin is most certainly in. But the vendor also hopped on another growing trend: 4K.

Lenovo Y50

Yes, the Y50 is Lenovo’s first 4K gaming laptop – that’s Ultra HD, or 3840 x 2160 – though it doesn’t come standard (1920 x 1080 does, however). Lenovo didn’t have all the details in time for my visit to its flashy CES 2014 installation. What I know so far is that the Y50 will pack up to an Intel Core i7-4702HQ CPU, the latest Nvidia GTX graphics chip and up to 16GB of DDR3 RAM. The Nvidia GPU is not standard, but at least the Y50’s fresh and fit new design is.

This gaming laptop loses the room for dual graphics chips, an optical drive Lenovo’s interchangeable Ultrabay, but it also lopped off some considerable poundage and inches. Where the Y510p weighed 5.95 pounds and measured 1.41 inches thick, the Y50 comes in at just 4.7 pounds (5.7 pounds with optional touchscreen) and 0.94 inches. I’d say it was worth it.

Lenovo Y50

Four cheers for 4K gaming

While it doesn’t come standard, Lenovo has beat many gaming laptop makers to the punch in announcing a 4K mobile rig. (Not to mention that it puts the 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro’s 2880 x 1800 pixels to shame.) The Y50 might need the best Nvidia GTX chip to run games at 4K resolution, but the sheer fact that it’s even possible in such a thin laptop is nothing to sneeze at.

Marquee PC game releases like Battlefield 4 already support that many pixels, while the Xbox One and PS4 have yet to show off games in 4K. (Granted, even the cheapest 4K TVs require Daddy Warbucks-level cash reserves.) More UHD PC games are likely to come in 2014, so good on Lenovo for jumping ahead on that one.

Lenovo Y50

That said, it’s not clear whether a single GTX graphics chip could run games at 4K resolution and decent settings. (The most recent demos have shown Battlefield 4 in 4K running on four Nvidia GTX Titan GPUs.) For now, all we have is hope and the fact that Lenovo can say “first!” to its competitors in a comment thread somewhere.

Looks aren’t everything, but…

Apple will say that hardware design is as important as what components you can cram inside a machine, and Lenovo seems to agree. For one, Lenovo has gave the Y50 the same iconic, crimson keyboard lighting as its Y510p. It’s a bummer that this, too, does not come standard.

Another dig on Lenovo’s trademark AccuType keyboard: It was extremely squishy this time around and showed too much flex. I’m told that the models on show during CES 2014 were prototypes, so hopefully this changes for the better in the final product. The matte plastic touchpad, however, was as smooth and snappy as ever.

Lenovo Y50

Regardless, the Y50 will look good doing your bidding, with a slim, angular all-black silhouette. Lenovo claims that it achieved this thinness through better thermal engineering, but losing a few component options along the way undoubtedly helped. This rig will feel great, too, with a cross-hatch aluminum finish on its lid and a matte, metallic surface on the keyboard deck.

Early verdict

Lenovo made good use of every last inch of the Y50’s frame, slapping a subwoofer on the bottom of the device to support its JBL speakers up top under stark red grilles. That comes through in the connectivity on offer as well, from USB 3.0, HDMI-out and a media card reader to Bluetooth 4.0, optional 802.11ac Wi-Fi and a 720p webcam.

The Y50 is said to last up to 4 hours all things considered, though I doubt you’ll get that much playing games at 4K resolution. At any rate, the Lenovo Y50 is a sight for sore eyes – literally. However, the keyboard needs some work and some sacrifices were made to get under an inch of thinness. Not to mention that many of its key features don’t come standard.

Regardless, I’m excited to see what this gaming laptop can do, especially in the UHD gaming department. The Lenovo Y50 and its 14-inch Y40 counterpart will be available this April or May starting at around $999 (about £607, AU$1,112).