- Review Date: 09/08/11
- Bottom line:
Beneath its lackluster design, the Lenovo IdeaPad Y570 is a powerful, user-friendly desktop replacement.
Great gaming experience. Excellent keyboard and navigating experience. Two USB 3.0 ports. Nice speaker system. Respectable battery life.
Case design is thick, heavy, and unattractive. Higher screen resolution needed.
If a laptop was judged solely by the look of its chassis, the Lenovo IdeaPad Y570 ($849.99 direct), a desktop replacement, wouldn't stand a chance. It's black, bulky physique lacks the design appeal that's as essential to a laptop as its parts and features. Underneath its ugly-duckling exterior, however, is a compilation of fast-running parts that include a Core i5 processor and switching graphics technology (good for preserving battery life), courtesy of Nvidia's GeForce GT 520M graphics chip. It's a big laptop capable of doing big things, but there are slimmer, better looking ones that do just as much, like the Dell XPS 15z (Microsoft) ($999.99 list, 4 stars).
The problem isn't the quality of its materials, as the Y570 is topped with an aluminum lid that's covered with a mazy-looking dot pattern. Rather, it's hard to tell that the cover is even made from aluminum or that it's infused with a pattern because black is far too concealing as a color. The Dell XPS 15z (Microsoft) and Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch (Thunderbolt) ($2,199 direct, 4 stars), meanwhile, opted for the intrinsic color of aluminum, which won't have you asking what they're made from. Even the Samsung RV520-W01 ($649.99 list, 4 stars), whose entire case is made from plastic, uses a silver coat to make it seem like it was made from aluminum. Materials aside, the Y570 (1.25 inches thick) is thicker than the 15z (1-inch thick) and MacBook Pro 15-inch (1-inch thick). And this bulky footprint is also a reflection of its heft (6 lbs), as you'd rather have the 15z (5.5 lbs) and RV520-W01 (5.4 lbs) with you on the road.
The 15.6-inch widescreen is the kind that'll prevent desktop withdrawals, though Lenovo should consider a higher screen resolution (than 1,366-by-768) if it wants to tango with the 15z (1,920-by-1,080) and MacBook Pro 15-inch (1,440-by-900). Still, its baseline resolution can accommodate every pixel of a 720p high definition video. Keyboard making is a craft Lenovo is well versed in. The chiclet style keys are similar to the ones found in the HP Pavilion dv6-6153cl and RV520-W01, but with a compelling twist: Lenovo gave the keys some curvature, shaping each one so that it fits the contours of a finger. Likewise, the 15z scalloped its keys in the same fashion and added backlights underneath—a feature that isn't available with the Y570. However, there was enough room to add an adjacent numeric keypad, which is a boon for number crunchers. I have no complaints about the navigating experience, as the mouse buttons and roomy touchpad were responsive.
The feature set is about as complete as you'd expect from an $850 laptop. A Blu-ray drive would've distinguished it from the 15z and dv6-6153cl, but it uses the standard tray ejecting DVD drive instead. The 15z and MacBook Pro have more modern-looking slot-load drives. Two of the four USB ports are USB 3.0 ready, which means they're capable of transferring data at ten times the speed of a regular USB port. The internal hard drive can fill 500GB's (5,400rpm) worth of photos, videos, and other files, although the Acer Aspire TimelineX 5830TG-6402 ($800 list, 3.5 stars) and RV520-W01 have bigger 640GB drives. It has an HDMI port and a multimedia card reader. I also thought its JBL speaker system was more impressive sounding than that of the 15z and MacBook Pro 15-inch.
It's not a desktop replacement unless there's enough processing power to tackle any multimedia task. The minimum should be a standard volt processor, which the Y570 has. The Intel Core i5-2410M (2.3GHz), a dual-core processor, isn't as fast as the quad-core ones found in the MacBook Pro 15-inch and dv6-6153cl, but it performed ably in Handbrake (1:59) and Cinebench R11.5 (2.54) tests. It's about as fast as the XPS 15z, since they split wins in PCMark 7 and Photoshop CS5 tests.
If you're looking for a gaming machine, the Y570 is an impressive one. It runs an Nvidia GeForce GT 555 graphics chip and automatically switches to an integrated system when the running task isn't graphics intensive, a technology Nvidia calls Optimus. When a 3D intensive game is being played, like our Crysis (62.8 fps) and Lost Planet 2 (46.4 fps) demos, the Y570 performed better than the 15z (52.3, 36.4 fps) and 5830TG-6402 (32.5, 24.7 fps). Switching to integrated graphics is done purely for battery savings. And with a 62WH battery, the Y570 delivered 6 hours 14 minutes in MobileMark 2007 tests. Although impressive for a desktop replacement, it couldn't outlast the 15z (7:13) and 5830TG-6402 (9:57), whose batteries were simply bigger.
The Lenovo IdeaPad Y570 is the kind of desktop replacement that only the purest of performance enthusiasts can appreciate. It's packed with a powerful Core i5 processor and one of the best graphics chips at this price. The user experience and better-than-adequate feature set are also worthy of praise. Its only misstep is that it didn't pay enough attention to certain design details, particularly color selection and case thickness, which is critical nowadays. The Dell XPS 15z (Microsoft) is a more well-rounded and well-presented desktop replacement, if you ask me.