When you’re shopping for a low-priced media laptop, the Lenovo brand is not likely to come immediately to mind. After all, the company is best known for its serious, business-oriented ThinkPad line. But Lenovo has been doing some interesting things with its consumer-oriented IdeaPad line, from creating a stunningly beautiful ultraportable to joining the Netbook fray. With the IdeaPad Y530, the company seems to be combining the sturdy construction and subdued design of the ThinkPad line with a feature set that’s aimed at media consumption. To that end, the IdeaPad Y530’s boxy black case (with, granted, a linenlike texture on the lid) incorporates both light-touch media controls and a subwoofer with Dolby Home Theater sound. It all adds up to an interesting alternative to similar midsize models from HP and Dell, especially given the IdeaPad Y530’s reasonable sub-$1,000 price.
|Processor||2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P7350|
|Memory||2GB of 667MHz|
|Hard drive||250GB at 5,400rpm|
|Chipset||Mobile Intel PM45 Express|
|Graphics||256MB Nvidia GeForce 9300M GS|
|Operating System||Windows Vista Home Premium (32-bit)|
|Dimensions (WDH)||14.2×10.3×1.2-1.4 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||15.4 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||6.6 / 7.8 pounds|
In contrast to the curvy edges of many consumer laptops, the Lenovo IdeaPad Y530 retains the classic rectangular shape found on the company’s more business-oriented systems, though with slightly angled front and back edges. The IdeaPad Y530 also bypasses the common glossy (and fingerprint-prone) case finish for a matte-black finish with a linenlike pattern etched into it. A brushed-metal keyboard deck, in a shade somewhere between mocha and eggplant, provides some interest in the otherwise all-black laptop. We like the look, which is clean without being stuffy, though we acknowledge that some will find it boring. Looks aside, the laptop feels solid and well-built, if a bit heavier than the competition.
Lenovo is known for its excellent keyboards, and though the IdeaPad Y530’s board isn’t the same as a ThinkPad’s, it is comfortable. The touch pad and mouse buttons are well positioned and adequately sized. A glossy black strip above the keyboard features a row of touch-sensitive media controls that glow orange. In addition to disc playback and mute buttons, there’s a programmable application-launch button and a key to launch controls for the Dolby Home Theater sound. To the right of these buttons sits the orange Shuttle Key, which consists of a volume rocker and a round button. When you press the latter, the light-touch controls switch from media playback to equalizer presets for pop, jazz, dance, and classical music.
The 15.4-inch wide-screen display has a fairly typical 1,280×800-pixel native resolution in what Lenovo calls a “frameless screen,” meaning the screen surface is flush with the edges of the lid (much like the screen on the recently updated MacBook). The screen looked great, whether we were working or watching movies; our only real complaint lies in the screen’s highly reflective finish, which proved particularly distracting when we were working close to a window. We liked the IdeaPad Y530’s “kinked” lid hinge, which, when open, holds the screen a bit farther away from the keyboard than on a traditional laptop. On the top edge of the display sits a 1.3-megapixel Webcam, which works with the included VeriFace face-recognition software to let you use your mug to log into Windows.
|Lenovo IdeaPad Y530||Average for midsize category|
|Video||VGA-out, HDMI, Webcam||VGA-out, S-Video|
|Audio||4.1 speakers w/subwoofer, headphone/microphone jacks||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||3 USB 2.0, mini FireWire, multiformat memory card reader||4 USB 2.0, mini FireWire, multiformat memory card reader|
|Expansion||Express Card/54||PC Card slot|
|Networking||Modem, Ethernet, 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth||Modem, Ethernet, 802.11 a/b/g Wi-Fi, optional Bluetooth|
|Optical drive||DVD burner||DVD burner|
Like many of the latest budget-oriented midsize laptops, the IdeaPad Y530 includes an HDMI port–a bonus, though we’re not sure how useful it will be without an accompanying high-definition optical drive. Unlike most budget laptops, the IdeaPad Y530 incorporates some serious sound: four speakers and a subwoofer, plus Dolby Home Theater audio. The result is certainly better than your average laptop, though we still preferred to plug in headphones or external speakers when we were back at home base.
Lenovo has strayed from the configure-to-order business with its IdeaPad line, offering instead a broad range of preconfigured units of each model. Our $949 IdeaPad Y530 included a current-generation, 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P7350 processor (the entry level for Intel’s “power-optimized” line), 2GB of 667MHz RAM, and 256MB Nvidia GeForce 9300M GS graphics. Anecdotally, this combination proved more than capable of Web surfing, working on office documents, and media playback. On CNET Labs’ performance benchmarks, the IdeaPad Y530 fell just slightly behind the $1,189 Dell Studio 15, which is built on a performance-oriented Core 2 Duo T8100 processor, and the $799 Sony Vaio NS140-E/W, which includes a previous-generation CPU but also 3GB of RAM.
Like the Dell Studio 15, the IdeaPad Y530 packs a basic discrete graphics card with enough oomph for just 17 frames per second on Unreal Tournament 3 at 1,280×800-pixel resolution. Tweaking the game settings might result in slightly more playable frame rates, but the IdeaPad Y530 is clearly best suited for creative applications, not hard-core gaming.
The IdeaPad Y530 lasted a respectable 2 hours and 52 minutes on our video playback battery drain test with the included 6-cell battery. That test is especially grueling, so you can expect longer life with casual Web surfing and office use (we easily topped the 3-hour mark during our use).
Lenovo includes an industry-standard one-year parts-and-labor warranty with the system, and the company’s support Web site is above-average, providing easy access to features such as an online knowledge base and driver downloads. Support is also accessible through a 24-7 toll-free phone line and an online chat tool.