Introduction, Design, Features
Lenovo got its Legion collection of gaming systems off to a strong start with the Legion Y520, a laptop that delivers an IPS screen backed by Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti graphics for something under or over $1,000, depending on whether you want a Core i5 or Core i7 quad-core CPU. It’s become a regular in our Cheap Gaming Laptops roundup and available in various configurations—one of our contributors snagged one at Costco for $999 with the Core i7, 16GB of RAM, a 256GB solid-state drive, and a 2GB hard drive, and Lenovo has recently offered GTX 1060 models as well.
Anyway, with the Y520 well established as an entry-level gaming rig, Lenovo has moved a rung up the ladder with the Legion Y720 seen here. If you’re familiar with laptop naming conventions you might think that the numbers 5 and 7 indicate 15.6- and 17.3-inch screens respectively, but that’s not so—both are 15.6-inch machines. (The 17.3-inch Legion is the Y920. Go figure.)
What’s the Y720 got that the Y520 hasn’t? First, the Core i7-7700HQ processor and 1,920×1,080 screen are the same but the GeForce GTX 1060 is standard, giving not only faster gaming performance than the 1050 Ti but putting a VR-ready stamp on the laptop’s flank. Second, the new Legion boasts various niceties such as a Thunderbolt 3 instead of merely a USB-C port, opening up an array of desktop docking, storage, and graphics solutions; Dolby Atmos technology that promises superior sound for headphone listening; and Xbox One wireless controller support, so gamers who prefer console-style control can get it without using up a USB port.
What’s it cost? Our test unit, with 16GB of memory, a 128GB PCI Express SSD, and a 1TB hard drive, wasn’t listed on Lenovo.com when we looked, but we ran it through the online configurator and came up with $1,375, then found it at a couple of e-tailers for $1,299. (The online sellers also listed a version with a 4K display, coming later in August 2017; that’s too much resolution for top-quality gaming with the GTX 1060, but should make other apps look great when owners aren’t switching back to 1080p to play games.)
The word that comes to mind at a glance is “garish,” first because of its black aluminum lid, which features an etched Lenovo logo in one corner and the Legion series’ red Y insignia in the center. Those logos aren’t garish, but the zigzag plaid crosshatch covering the lid is. So are the diagonal cuts flanking the center screen hinge when you open the lid, which make the bottom of the LCD panel and the red-tinged speakers (seen on both the rear edge of the keyboard and the outer base) look trippy and spaceshippy.
We think the understated Y520 is handsomer, with one exception: The plastic trapezoidal framing that surrounds that model’s red-rimmed touch pad is absent from the Y720, which has a plain buttonless touch pad. The keyboard and numeric keypad are the same on both systems. Build quality is decent, with some wiggle if you grasp the screen corners but no flex or give in the middle of the keyboard.
Except for an SD card slot, the Lenovo has all the ports you could reasonably hope for. On the laptop’s left edge are a lock slot, the connector for the conventionally brick-like AC adapter, an Ethernet port, a USB 3.0 port, and an audio jack.
On the right side, you’ll find HDMI and mini DisplayPort video outputs, two more USB 3.0 ports, and the Thunderbolt 3/USB-C port. Dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth handle wireless communications.
The Y720 is a treat to hear, with front- and upward-firing speakers that get as loud at 50 percent volume as some laptops do at 100. Listening to its JBL speakers and subwoofer, and even more so when listening through our Skullcandy headphones, we heard not only booming bass, driving instrumentals, and crisp vocals but backing tracks we’d rarely heard before. The supplied Dolby Atmos software offers presets for games, movies, and voice chats as well as music, but we found the default music setting suitable for almost everything.
The keyboard has the same inverted-T cursor arrows and smallish, slightly quirky number pad—it doesn’t have its own Enter key—as the Legion Y520. We missed dedicated Home, End, Page Up, and Page Down keys (they’re Fn-key combinations with the cursor arrows), but enjoyed the multi-zone, multicolor backlighting compared to the Y520’s plain red. A video recording key next to, and often hit by mistake instead of, the right Ctrl key captures your gaming triumphs.
Typing feel is good, with adequate travel and snappy response; you won’t mistake it for a mechanical gaming keyboard but it’s not mushy or plasticky. The rectangular touch pad glides and taps smoothly, with springy response to left- and right-clicks, and handles gestures well.
We could wish for one or two more clicks on the screen brightness setting—it’s fine at the top couple of settings, but gets gray rapidly as you dial down the backlight in hopes of saving battery power. On the positive side, the 1080p display offers wide viewing angles and attractive if not ultra-vivid colors. We could make out enemies in shadowed areas in games and clearly distinguish hues in Excel and PowerPoint charts.
The Webcam above the screen does an above-average job of capturing well-lit or properly exposed images with good detail and little or no grain. Lenovo backs the Legion with a one-year warranty and doesn’t go overboard on the bloatware, though Microsoft does (since when has Candy Crush Soda Saga been joined by Bubble Witch 3 Saga?).