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Lenovo Legion Y520 Gaming Laptop – Review

A Well-Rounded Gaming Laptop, With One Flaw

Lenovo finally rebranded their multimedia Y series of laptops into fully-fledged gaming laptops with the new launch of the Legion Y520 and Y720 back in March. A new name, a new look and an interesting spec and price refresh. As someone who has been using a Lenovo Y50-70 for about 3 years now, I was excited to see them finally committing to not only market but build the laptops with gamers in mind.

After almost three weeks of taking the Legion Y520 gaming laptop for a spin, I find it a very worthwhile piece of hardware as long as you can afford to pay for more and have measures to fix one major flaw.

Hardware Features

The review unit we were provided was a Y520 15IKBN 80WK0052MJ. It’s the second-highest tier of specs within the Y520 range for Malaysia with a decent spec sheet. Take a look here:

  • CPU: Intel i7-7700
  • GPU: Nvidia GeForce 1050Ti 4GB
  • RAM: 4GB DDR4
  • Storage: 128GB M.2 SSD + 1TB HDD (5400 rpm)

What is included sounds promising on paper, but I was sceptical on the low RAM and slow HDD speed (5400 rpm instead of the much better 7200 rpm). More on how the specs stack up, but first let’s talk about the laptop’s build quality, which I was highly impressed of.

A lot of the design language is reminiscent of the Y series of old but updated for a more aggressive, but subdued look. The gamer red accents are only seen on the keyboards and touchpad trimmings.  The aluminum casing is now replaced with a plastic shell but it feels solid as ever. The carbon fibre-esque patterns on the top looks nice. But most importantly, all the ‘gamer’ red trimmings are only shown once you lift the screen up. Like one would describe a mullet haircut, the design philosophy here is “business at the front, party at the back”.

It’s great for people who don’t want to flaunt their gaming credentials as much in public places. Aside from the three-prong lines that pops out on the top, a slight arch on the top part of the screen and the carbon fibre-esque pattern that adorns the top, it looks like a normal 15.6-inch laptop.

The chiclet keyboard has red lighting which can be turned off or lower brightness. It has good enough travel and feels decent to type with. The numpad layout is a bit different- it’s missing tow rows on top of traditional numpads, but it’s easy enough to get used to. I don’t particularly like the touchpad as it uses separate buttons for the mouse clicks that feel flimsy and cheap. I would rather have a simpler touchpad without the needless plastic trimmings and dedicated buttons.

The speakers located at the top sides are loud and with some amount of bass (though a good headphone would still be better). The screen, a 1080p IPS panel, looks sharp with vivid colours. A definite improvement over the older offerings which used a TN panel.

On the bottom is where we see more improvements were made. There are now grills for airflow, with the laptop raised slightly when you place it on a surface. The main exhaust is now uncovered- it’s a big hole nestled between the speaker area- so big you can see the copper heat sinks if you look close enough.

Overall the build quality is a big step up from their previous line of laptops. The main body feels solid and dense. The screen may have a bit of flex but nothing too serious. The hinge may be a bit too tight for now but it feels sturdy.

Software Features

When it comes to what is included inside software side, it’s mostly good. You will have a few bloatware included but aside from a trial of McAfee Anti-Virus, most are Windows Store apps which can be uninstalled should you not want them around. The manufacturer-specific software included is decent.

The Nerve Sense app is an interesting inclusion. This app allows you to toggle ramp up the fan speeds (extreme cooling), disable the touchpad and adjust the music.

But the most interesting feature is that it can record videos of gameplay with a touch of a button. This is useful for new gamers who would love the ease of recording like the consoles offer, but the options right now is limited. You can change the framerate, which defaults at 40fps and could only go up to 50fps. This feature isn’t as robust as other recorders like OBS, XSplit or Nvidia’s Share, so experienced users won’t get as much mileage. It seems that it could record Windows Store games, but we could not get it to work as intended consistently.

There’s also a suite of Lenovo apps that includes a feature to blast the internal fans in reverse to remove dust and allows direct driver update downloads.

The included hard drive is running at 5400 rpm and if you are running Windows 10 on it, you’ll probably know how laggy it feels due to bottlenecking at the hard drive side. Thankfully this particular model includes a 128GB SSD and having Windows running on that makes the laptop very responsive to most tasks. Turning it on or waking it up from sleep is also quick with minimal need to wait for all the background tasks to finish.

Gaming Performance

The most important part of a gaming laptop is how games run and for he most part, the Y520 delivers. The i7 and 1050Ti combo is capable enough to run most current games at high settings, and games for the past generation of consoles will run like a breeze. Tomb Raider 2013 and Middle-earth: Shadow Of Mordor run particularly smooth without hitches, so games released around 2014 and below should run nicely on the Y520.

But when it comes to RAM intensive games the performance starts to falter. A huge 8-tile city in Cities Skylines will chug the framerate when zoomed in on high settings. Even worse, some games would just stutter all of a sudden due to the system starving for RAM. It’s hard to gauge how far you could push the system as the framerate doesn’t drop as I slowly up the settings. Instead, the system just became unresponsive and stutters. Games like Hitman, which already has micro-stutters from the autosaves, are hampered by this.

More worrisome are more titles are now demanding more than 4GB RAM. The Lawbreakers beta dished a warning on startup stating its minimum RAM is 6GB. Forza Motorsport 6 Apex, a Windows Store game, outright refused to run until the it has 8GB RAM.

The 4GB of RAM is one huge compromise Lenovo did to cut the prices down. Unless you opted for the higher spec Y520 with 8GB RAM and a 256GB SSD, or upgrade the RAM yourself, this will severely hamper your experience. With more modern games demanding 6GB and 8GB or RAM minimum, it’s an odd decision that Lenovo is skimping on it. Thankfully adding more RAM is easy enough to do and if you have an old laptop from even 5 years back, you can salvage the DDR4 RAM stick and put it on the Y520.

Throughout all the tests, the temperature is well managed. The bigger air vents and the change of CPU layout (it’s now located under the numpad rather on the WASD keys) makes for comfortable gaming without the use of external keyboards.

Price

Lenovo’s Y-series used to be one of the cheapest gaming laptops available in Malaysia back in a few years ago when gaming laptops are a premium offering. With the rise of more budget gaming laptops, the new rebrand, Legion is stepping up in quality, and price. In fact, the Y520 is one of the most expensive laptops with a 1050Ti card in Malaysia- the model configuration we are using here costs RM 4,399.

(Note: There is a lower spec variant of the Y520 with a 1050 2GB card priced under RM4,000. )

But why pay more? Thankfully it’s worth the extra hundreds of ringgit as it includes an IPS panel (other brands opt for the cheaper TN panels) and an SSD, which makes it a better package overall.

The only downside? It is hampered by including only 4GB of RAM which is apparently the standard amount of RAM for the most laptops coming in Malaysia at this price range. Though I believe manufacturers should consider putting back 8GB at a minimum again with games currently demanding higher specs.

If you check the specs of the Y520 from other regions they included 8GB and some configurations add 16GB. Though for the ones available in Malaysia, you’ll have to settle with 4GB, with an 8GB variant that includes a 2556GB SSD starts at RM 5,099.

Verdict

Lenovo’s first line of true gaming laptops almost hits the mark. The higher specs and better overall build quality has ramped the pricing, but overall it is one solid gaming laptop. The build looks good and feels sturdy while remaining at a managable size. The CPU and GPU combo should last for at a few years of gaming on high settings for new titles. Having an SSD mitigates loading issues with the slow hard drive and the IPS screen is worth the extra price. Temperature management has improved from previous models as well, though still needs improving.

The major flaw of the otherwise solid package is the slim 4GB RAM included. It’s understandable why Lenovo would choose to cut corners here- RAM is easily upgradable, cheap and you might have a stick you can salvage from older laptops. But to pay RM 4,399 and still require some additional work and/or money to get it to its true potential is disappointing, especially for folks who just wants to buy a good laptop and have it all ready for games. But if you don’t mind doing the extra work, this is one solid package that I would gladly recommend.


Review unit provided by Lenovo Malaysia

The Good

Sleek look and sturdy build quality
Strong specs (aside from included RAM)
Better temperature control compared to previous models
Great screen quality

The Bad

Low included RAM
Pricier compared to similar laptops of similar specs

About The Author
Amirul Ashraf

Muslim, Gamer, Programmer. Grew up playing racers and RPGs but now has a penchant on fighting games, strategy of the 4X kind, and obscure indie titles.