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Lenovo Y50 gaming laptop: Great performance spoiled by a sub-par display

Hayden Dingman | Aug. 13, 2014
It's a great choice if you're looking for a portable gaming rig on a budget. Unfortunately, Lenovo compromised several key components in order to offer the Y50 at a mid-range price.

As for BioShock Infinite, here the Y50 managed 73 frames per second—slightly better than the Razer Blade Pro's 70 frames per second with comparable hardware, although it falls far short of the Alienware 17's 121 frames per second.

Like the Blade Pro, the Y50 doesn't offer much in the way of longevity. You'll need to play games on low settings in a few years, and it will be obsolete soon after that. But that's less of an issue with a $1200 laptop than a $2000 machine like the Blade Pro.

The Y50's battery clung to life for three hours and 16 minutes—almost exactly the same as the Blade Pro's three hours and 18 minutes. That's about 20 minutes longer than the Alienware 17 delivered—in other words, it's pretty standard battery life for a gaming laptop.

The Y50's performance isn't mind-blowing in the grand scheme of things, but bear in mind that I just compared it to two machines that retail for around $2000 each. The Y50 is clearly no slouch, and it costs much less than some other laptops delivering equal performance.

Compromises
So what enabled Lenovo to create such a powerful laptop that sells for less than its competitors? Compromises. Many, many compromises.

Lenovo's most egregious sin was choosing an absolutely abysmal LCD panel. It's one of the worst HD screens I've ever used. It's dim, it's lousy at color reproduction, and it looks even worse when viewed even slightly off-axis. It just looks blurry to me. The screen is so ugly I found myself not wanting to use the laptop even to watch movies, let alone play games.

The keyboard's red backlighting is attractive enough, and the keys have a soft and silky finish. By shrinking the keys to squeeze in a numeric keypad, however, Lenovo renders typing a pain. The Enter and Right Shift keys aren't liable to give you problems, but the comically small Backspace key probably will. I found it hard to locate without looking down. The keys feel a bit mushy, too. Despite how little they need to travel to register, I found myself dropping strokes with regularity.

The trackpad is also annoying. Because it's off-center, I found myself accidentally dragging my left palm or the heel of my thumb across the trackpad while typing. Even when I could refrain from accidentally triggering the cursor while hammering out a Word document, the trackpad's recessed elevation makes for an uncomfortable palm rest. Finally, you can click on the bottom left and right edges of the trackpad, but they're loose enough to produce an unpleasant squawking noise when tapped. The whole contraption feels flimsy.

On the bright side, the Y50's speakers pump out decent audio with better bass response than the typical treble-heavy laptop speakers deliver. Manufacturers building computers that retail for much higher prices could learn a thing or two from Lenovo's partnership with JBL. These speakers won't beat any decent pair of headphones or external speakers, but they won't disappoint when you're on the go.

 

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