I’ve tested many, MANY gaming notebooks from various manufacturers over the years, but I’d never encountered a Lenovo-branded gaming notebook prior to getting my hands on the IdeaPad Y700. It could be that this is Lenovo’s first gaming notebook, but as I’m writing this, it’s the middle of December, and I’m firmly entrenched in Holiday Mode. This means I’m currently incredibly relaxed (or lazy, depending on your perspective), so even the thought of doing a cursory Google search to confirm my suspicions that the Y700 represents a first for Lenovo seems like an impossibly mammoth task.
In other words, I’m not going to do it, and I’m just going to assume that Lenovo has never ventured into the untamed wilds of the gaming notebook before this very moment. SHUT UP YOU, IT’S CHRISTMAS SOON AND YOU’RE NOT MY SUPERVISOR.
So, as Lenovo’s first gaming notebook, the Y700 is all about first impressions. And the Y700 makes a very, very good first impression. It’s a good-looking notebook, with an attractively angular, clean aesthetic that immediately lets you know this is a quality piece of tech. The thing feels sturdy, and screams quality construction. Unfortunately, it’s far from the lightest, slimmest 15-inch notebook out there, and I doubt everyone will appreciate the heft and chunkiness of its design. That said, unless you plan to lug it around with you for extended periods of time, it won’t be a problem.
The chiclet keyboard is a pleasure to use, although it doesn’t feel all that different to most notebook keyboards out there. There’s red backlighting on the keys as well, with adjustable intensity levels. The trackpad, on the other hand, isn’t to my liking. It’s one solid piece rather than having clearly distinct buttons, and personally I prefer separate buttons so I’m not constantly having to look down at the trackpad to ensure I’m clicking the right spot. That’s obviously down to personal preference though, and you’ll probably be using the Y700 with a gaming mouse anyway. I’m also not a fan of the matte finish on the inner surface of the Y700. It’s got the potential to get really grubby after many hours of use, covered in fingerprints and smudges and assorted other unattractive marks. It’s nothing a quick wipe-down won’t fix, but it’s nonetheless annoying. The 15.6-inch IPS display isn’t anything to write home about, but it’s plenty crisp and vibrant – although I do feel it could stand to be a little brighter.
Right, so let’s get on to what really matters: the hardware performance of the Y700. Most of the components within the Y700 are exactly what you’d expect to find in a high-powered gaming notebook. There’s a Core i7 6700HQ dishing out 2.6GHz of processing power, coupled with 16GB of DDR4 RAM (clocked at 2,133MHz). Inside you’ll find a 128GB SSD, which is always a welcome boost to performance in key games and apps, as well as a 1TB drive for high-capacity storage. All of this ensures the notebook is nippy and responsive in both games and general application use – but there’s one key area where the Y700 lags behind the heavy competition it’s facing, and that’s with the previous-gen NVIDIA GTX 960M that provides graphical power.
The 960M simply can’t keep up with the performance offered by NVIDIA’s 10-series notebook GPUs, and that’s reflected in every synthetic benchmark and real-world gaming test. 3DMark Fire Strike, for example, spits out a score of 4,038 when putting the Y700 through its paces. To put that in perspective, a gaming notebook equipped with a GTX 1060 would more than double that score. Fire Strike Ultra, meanwhile, hammers out 998 points, while the Time Spy benchmark awards the Y700 1,227 points. Those scores translate to gaming performance that’s adequate, but lags far behind any notebook equipped with a 10-series GPU. It makes it difficult to recommend the Y700 when spending a few thousand rand more could bag you a notebook sporting a 10-series GPU. It’s ultimately a smarter long-term decision, because you’ll be able to play more demanding games with the settings cranked way up, while the Y700 is destined to run out of steam fairly quickly.
Despite that glaring drawback, I still really, really like the Y700. I love its no-frills approach to notebook design. It’s lacking many of the flashy, gaming-centric features you’d find on similar notebooks, and I actually prefer it this way. The lack of bloatware and superfluous features (which nobody truly needs anyway, and would no doubt drive up the price) is a huge plus for me. One area that deserves special mention is the audio. The Y700 packs two built-in JBL speakers and a woofer, and the sound it produces is some of the best I’ve ever experienced from a gaming notebook. It’s loud, the bass is surprisingly good, and the overall tone of the speakers is richer than what’s produced by many gaming notebooks out there.
I’ve seen the Y700’s price reduced to around R17,000 at a number of retailers, most recently Takealot. At that price, I’d actually say it’s well worth the money, because I’m thoroughly impressed by the Y700. That, and the issue of the GTX 960M is nowhere near as worrying at that reduced price. If you can only find the Y700 at its regular price of R24,499, however, I’d recommend waiting for the next generation of Lenovo’s gaming notebooks, which will hopefully be fitted with 10-series GPUs. In that case, I’d seriously consider jumping at it, because Lenovo’s clearly got what it takes to put together a desirable gaming notebook. I’m excited to see what they produce next.