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Lenovo IdeaPad Y470 - Laptop Review

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a c 433 D Laptop
August 15, 2011 6:32:22 AM

-Brand: Lenovo
-Model: Y470
-Bought From/Price: Aprox. $771 w/ 2yr extended warranty & tax
-OS: Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
-CPU: Core i5 2410M
-GPU: nVidia GT 550M (switchable)
-RAM: 4GG
-Resolution: 1366 x 768
-Screen Size: 14"
-Screen Type: TN Panel; Glossy
-Weight: 4.9lbs
-Usage (Gaming, Internet, Office Apps, etc…): Some games, video encoding, internet
-Real World Battery Life (in your estimation): 3.88 hours based on 8 timed actual use sessions
-Your Rating (out of 10): 5

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UPDATE - I decided to downgrade my original rating of 7.5 to 5. The reason is the high CPU temps and a cooling pad does not help. Installed GTA 4 to see how well the nVidia GT 550m can handle the game. It did fine, but the i5-2410m pushed 99C (worse than Crysis) which naturally cause the CPU to start throttling. I basically decided to disable Turbo Boost so that the CPU will not attempt to "overclock" itself and temps for the most part is around 85C. That kinda defeats the purpose of having Turbo Boost.
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This is my 2nd laptop. My first is my still functional IBM ThinkPad T40 from 2003; I would rate that laptop at 9.5 if I were to retroactively review it. I bought this laptop mainly as a toy and to perhaps bring it along with me if I were to go on vacation so that I would not have to rely on my Motorola Driod if I want to surf the net or research something when I'm away from home.

The dimensions are about 345mm x 32mm x 239mm or 13.6in x 1.25in x 9.4in and about 4.85lbs. Therefore, it should be small and light enough to carry around. Certainly not the lightest 14" screen laptop though.


DESIGN

The exterior of the laptop is black. The lid has a pattern remeniscent of a circuit board with a pitted dots texture. The Lenovo signia is emblazened in the upper left/right corner depending on how you are looking at the latop. There is a copperish color band which goes around the edge of the lid to give it some flare.

There are a few indicators along the front edge of the laptop where the touchpad is which are basically the touchpad off status, power light, battery indicator and wi-fi indicator. To the far right are two sliders; on is to turn on the nVidia GT 550m and the other is to turn on the WiFi radio.


DISPLAY AND SPEAKERS

The screen is a glossy TN panel and is very reflective. I don't really like glossy screen so I'll be buying a Green Onion anti-glare screen protector for this laptop. The 1366 x 768 resolution is standard for this size laptop. I don't recall seeing a 14" laptop with 1600 x 900 resolution in this price range. The bezel surrounding the screen is glossy black, and it simply loves fingerprints. The speakers are actually pretty good since they are JBLs. They are pretty loud at maximum volume and have a little bit of distortion starting at 80% volume, therefore I set it to no louder than 70% which is still loud enough.


KEYBOARD & TOUCHPAD

The keyboard is your typical chiclet-style keyboard that seems to be all the rage and is set against a light charcoal gray background. It is recessed into the laptop to prevent them from accidently touching / rubbing against th screen. I actually perfer the older style keyboard on my ThinkPad T40, the keys on that laptop seems to feel a bit more responsive. Chiclet-style keyboards have spaces in between each key so it takes a bit of time to get used to since I have to stretch a bit farther to reach keys than I am used to. It shouldn't take too along to adjust though. Since this is a 14" laptop, there is no space for a numeric pad. The ENTER and BACKSPACE keys are a bit smaller than what I am used to in a laptop.

Above the keyboard are the power button and Onekey App button to restore OS on the left. To the right are touch sensitive mute, volume up, volume down, "Theater", and Thermal Management buttons. The first three buttons are self explanatory. The "Theater" button can be used to set the screen and speakers to movie mode. In movie mode the display becomes a little darker which also lowers the contrast. The causes some dimly lit details to be lost since these colors are bascially crushed down to black. The speaker goes into a "surround sound-ish" mode which causes the speakers to loose some of it's bass. This does make movies sound a bit better, but it throws of music a bit making it a bit brighter (more highs) than it normally would be during the openning and ending titles.

The touchpad is a little larger than what I am used to with my ThinkPad T40. When not typing I normally rest my thumbs on the laptop. This was not a problem with my T40 since my thumbs would simply be touching the upper touchpad buttons (ThinkPads have a button on top and below the touchpad). However, my thumbs would touch the pad and suddenly the cursor goes to a different part of the screen. This happened a couple of time while typing this review and also when I play games. The touchpad itself is pretty responsive. The touchpad button is a single button. Not too crazy about it since you basically have to press the far left or the far right of the single button. Since it is flush aginast the surface of the laptop it is sometime difficult to know you are pressing the right spot without looking. It seems that I need to press down at least twice as hard on the button compared to the T40 and the closer to the center of the single button, the harder to need to press. When pressed it also makes a louder click than the buttons on my other laptop; about twice a loud.


GRAPHICS CARD & GAMEPLAY

As gamer knows, it's kinda hard to play games if you don't have a good graphics card. This is especially important in a laptop since at least 98% of laptops sold do not allow you to upgrade the video card. The Y470 comes with a nVidia GT 550M which is an above average video card. The GT 550M can be switch on or off using the silver switch on the right side of the laptop's front edge. When the GT 550M is switched on, a white LED will come on. Switching the GT 550M off can help conserve battery power suppose.

I loaded Crysis just to test out the capablities of the Intel HD 3000 and the GT 550M. I allowed Crysis to automatically set everything to High Quality Graphics, then I started a game using the console command "r_displayinfo 1" to display the frame rates. While the game did run, it was not at a high frame rates. Frame rates did not manage to go any higher than 35FPS and it dipped as low as 17FPS, but frame rates generally ranged between 20 - 26FPS. It was playable enough. Anti-aliasing was set to 2x.

I switched all graphics settings to MEDIUM (anti-aliasing remained at 2x) and gameplay was a lot smoother. I highest frame rates was 55 frames per second, but mostly it has been 31FPS - 45FPS and the lowest frame rates probably dipped down to 25 from what I can remember. Very playable for a laptop. As everyone knows, the final battle scene is rather crippling even on a good desktop gaming PC. But I am not going to play Crysis all the way to the to find out how sluggish the last scene will be. I've already replayed Crysis and Crysis: Warhead earlier this year before playing Crysis 2.

Swtiching off the GT 550M and using the Intel HD 3000 with all graphic settings set to low and anti-aliasing of 2x resulted in pretty poor performance. Just walking around resulted in at best 11.5 frames per second and dipped to as low as 7.5 frames per second. Switching off anti-aliasing resulted in frame rates as high as 28 and as low as 15, but the frame rate were typically between 19 and 25 frames per second most of the time.


PORTS

The Y470 pretty much has your standard ports. On the left side is a VGA and HDMI port to connect to a monitor or HDTV. There's also a RJ-45 port to connect to a wired network/modem. There's two USB 3.0 ports and lastly a mic and headphone jack.

On the right side are just two ports. A vanilla USB 2.0 port and a USB 2.0 / eSATA combo port. Also along the right side is the power port, DVD drive and the Kensington security slot.

That's plenty of ports for me. I just use one USB port for my wireless Targus mouse which I bought back in 2003 for my ThinkPad. Good thing I have it since I don't really like using this laptop's touchpad.


HEAT

Under normal conditions, this laptop is quite cool and is pretty quiet. Using the Thermal Management button I mentioned earlier, I set it to "Efficient thermal dissipation" which basically means the fan speed changes depending on how hot the laptop gets. It is pretty much spinning a low speed unless I am encoding a video or playing a game. The palmrest can become warm, but never hot. So it is not uncomfortable using the laptop even after playing Crysis for over an hour. According to Core Temp 0.99.8, the CPU get's as hot as 93C while playing Crysis. However, I can put the laptop on my lap (bare skin) while I'm wearing shorts and it would just feel a warm immediately after playing Crysis. Using GPU-Z the nVidia GT 550M reached 61C. It could not measure the temp of the Intel HD 3000.

The hottest spot on the laptop is actually right in front of the laptop between wifi indicator LED and the integrated card reader; closer to the card reader. It is not simply very warm, it is hot even when the laptop is on battery power. That might be where the hard drive is, not sure though.


POWER CONSUMPTION

This is not really too much of a concern for laptop owners but since I have a Kill-A-Watt meter, I figure I might as well take some measurements. While simply surfing the internet and typing this review, power consumption is pretty low at 13w. Sometimes it would jump up to 20w and then drop back down probably due to some background processes going on. This is with the screen brightness set to 70% and the hard drive still awake.

Watching a DVD movie I picked at random (Gladiator), resulted in power consumption of 22w - 29w, but mostly staying at 22w. I can't play a Blu-Ray movie since this laptop only has a DVD drive.

Attempting to play Crysis with the integrated Intel HD 3000, power consumption of 48w and on occation spiked up to 55w. When using the GeForce GT 550M power consumption ranged from 74w and spiked up to 85w.


BATTERY

The 6-cell battery is lighter than my ThinkPad's 6-cell battery so it is not a suprise that the laptop is only rated up to 4 hours. I believe my ThinkPad T40 was rated up to 5.5 hours.

Actual battery life is based on an average of eight measurements. I use a fully charged battery for typical web surfing, playing some music from time to time and watching a few youtube videos. Nothing too stressful or unusual for someone who is using a laptop away from home. I use a stopwatch on my Motorola Driod to time how long the battery last from the moment I press the power button to when the laptop goes into hibernation mode with only a 5% battery charge left. I used my wireless mouse as well.

The shortest time I measured was 3 hours and 35 minutes which basically basically involved somewhat heavy web surfing and watch many Youtube videos. The longest battery life measured was 4 hours and 12 minutes, but that was with very little web surfing, no Youtube and listening to some music, and mostly working offline. This would prbably come closest to a student using a laptop in class to take notes. On average the battery lasted 3 hours and 53 minutes while doing a decent amount of web surfing and listing to music.

Playing Crysis on battery wasn't very good. I set the power option to performance thinking that the CPU and the GT 550M would both run at 100%. Well, I was half right. The i5-2410M was running at 100%, but not the video card and the nVidia control panel was no help, there was nothing that allows you to change the power options of the video card. I only managed to play Crysis for 57 minutes with frame rate ranging on average between 18 - 24 using AA 2x and medium quality graphics. Obviously the video card was downclocked.


SUMMARY

Overall the Lenovo Y470 is a good laptop, if long battery life is not too important. It is pretty good for games given the resolution of the screen. Since it is capable of handling Crysis with medium quality it should be able to handle most other games since Crysis is still one of the more stressful games out there. I don't have GTA 4 or Metro 2033 so no such luck for those people interested in find out how this laptop can handle those games. The laptop is comfortable to use even while playing games because it does not get hot, it just gets warm. The noise from the fan is usually drowned out by the sounds from the game so it is not annoying at all. The 93C CPU temperature while playing Crysis is a concern though for long gaming sessions. It can affect the lifespan of the laptop. A laptop cooler would be a good investment for this laptop or any gaming laptop since they can get pretty hot.

The biggest disappoint is the touchpad. It's a little bigger than what I'm used to, but I can adapt to it eventually. The single button is not my idea of an ideal setup for a touchpad button. It takes more force to press down than I am used to and since it is flush with the palm rest of the laptop, it is a bit difficult to locate the button itself and the far corners where it takes the least amount of force to press down.
August 15, 2011 7:07:21 AM

Very nice review, J.

Couple of months ago I was in the market looking to replace my older HP 1125-EM notebook. I did had a look at Lenovo + Dell notebook, with similar specs/GPU.

However, at the end of the day I decided to get HP DV6 6011TX with following specs:

HP DV6 6011TX
Intel Core i7 Q2630
8GB DDR3 RAM
LED 15.6 Display 1366 x 768 Resolution
640 GB HDD
1GB Mobility Radeon HD 6770
Card Reader + DVD RW
Windows 7 HP x64
Carrying Bag: Targus
Price: 1,095$ (inclusive of all taxes)

It has switchable graphics, and when I have time I usually play TF2 / CS on it. Battery time with discrete GPU is roughly a shade under 1 hour. Whereas, on Intel HD IGP it lasts for 4:00+ hours in power saving mode.

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a c 433 D Laptop
August 15, 2011 9:33:46 PM

Here's a screen shot of the CPU and video card temps after playing Crysis for an hour. GPU-Z crashes pretty often. I'm not sure if that it is not fully compatible with Win 7 or nVidia's Optimus tech.

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Related resources
August 15, 2011 10:40:12 PM

I am not sure about it, it works fine with this DV6, and it too have the ability to switch between the Radeon 6770 GPU and Intel HD graphics. I will dig around for this issue, and will get back to you if I find something useful.
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August 22, 2011 3:30:54 AM

Was the >4 hour battery life on the 550m or the integrated? 4 hour is pretty low for really small tasks like you said if it's on the integrated graphics.

The low battery is a turn off for me so I might be looking at AMD's A6/A8 instead.
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a c 433 D Laptop
August 22, 2011 4:24:03 AM

I find that there is no difference with either the GT 550m switched on or off. In two of the eight tests I managed to get a little over 4 hours. Once with the GT 550m on and once with the GT 550m switched off; i.e. using the Intel HD 3000 graphics core.

The problem is not the energy drain, but the size of the battery. My IBM Thinkpad T40 and Lenovo IdeaPad Y470 both comes with a 6 cell battery, however, the battery that comes with the IdeaPad feels about 20% lighter than the ThinkPad's battery.

Measuring power consumption under typical usage with a Kill-A-Watt meter, I measured between 13w - 20w. Generally it would spike up to 20w while watching a Youtube video, but drop back down to 17w/18w while the video is playing. Note that actual power consumption would be a little less since the laptop's power brick is not 100% efficient.

Assuming the power brick is 80% power efficient, that means actual power consumption would probably be roughly 10w - 16w.
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August 22, 2011 5:06:02 AM

"I find that there is no difference with either the GT 550m switched on or off. In two of the eight tests I managed to get a little over 4 hours. Once with the GT 550m on and once with the GT 550m switched off; i.e. using the Intel HD 3000 graphics core."

I think with light usage it is not that bad a time, however, it would be interesting to see how longer the battery will last if your using some 3D app, or playing a game while using GT550M.

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a c 433 D Laptop
August 22, 2011 5:14:51 AM

As stated in the battery section of my review, I only managed to play Crysis for 57 minutes before the laptop went into hibernation mode. The GT 550M wasn't even running at full speed since frame rates generally seemed to be between 18 and 24 FPS as opposed to 31 - 45 FPS when connected to the A/C outlet. That's with medium quality graphics and AA set to 2x.

I overlooked the "PCI-Express" section in the Power Options, it was set to maximum power savings instead of the standard moderate power savings when plugged in. I might try playing Crysis again just to get a battery life measurement, but I'm getting pretty bored playing Crysis yet again.
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August 22, 2011 5:32:16 AM

Oops sorry I must have missed that out.

I was expecting something around an hour mark as well, so no surprise there.
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August 23, 2011 4:08:06 AM

I don't think it was mentioned directly in the review. How's the actual display quality? I remember asking this before in my own laptop thread, but how does this 14" LED look like apart from being glossy? Color vibrancy, saturation, viewing angles etc.
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a c 433 D Laptop
August 23, 2011 7:55:54 AM

As with the majority of all laptops, the display sucks in my opinion because it uses a TN panel. Viewing angles are poor in my opinion as with all other laptops I've looked at in stores like BestBuy and Staples.

I would say left and right viewing angles are good up to about 30° each way; 60° combined. After that color tones start to change a bit. At about 45° each way the color tone changes becomes severe. This is very typical of all TN panel displays I have seen. The glossy finish doesn't help either because it reflects too much light and you can see reflections in a lit room. Of course using the laptop in a dark room reduces the annoying reflections. This is typical of what I've seen in other laptops an TN panel monitors.

Vertical viewing angles are worse than horizontal viewing angles. Every time I adjust the way I am sitting in front laptop I also need to adjust the angle of the screen. While sitting still in front of the screen when I tilt the screen back (opening the laptop even more), the colors start to darken and contrast starts to plummet resulting in some colors that can be quite distorted. Tilting the screen forward (like when closing the laptop) the colors starts fading quickly. I would say that vertical viewing angles are only good at 10° off center, "center" being the angle at which images look best to me. This is about typical for other laptops, but it is very poor when compared to a TN panel monitor.

I prefer IPS panel technology which are the types of panels that my monitors use. They have very good viewing angles. However, these types of panels are rare in notebooks. The 12.5" Lenovo ThinkPad X220 has an upgrade option for an inexpensive e-IPS panel. There are certain models of the expensive HP Elitebook 8000 series (starting price of about $1,800) has an option for the "DreamColor" display which swaps out a TN panel for a H-IPS panel for $400 the last time I've checked. However, those are not gaming laptops.

Colors are vibrant and saturated due to the glossy finish of the screen. It's a bit too saturated for my taste so I toned them down a little. I prefer matte finish screens which are less reflective than glossy screens and they are also less vibrant and less saturated than glossy.
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August 23, 2011 5:14:43 PM

Mmm, thanks. I knew I wasn't going to get away from bad viewing angles at my budget, I'll just have to deal with it. Color vibrancy sounds good to me, the HP laptop I was comparing to this one had no LED and colors looked really flat.
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September 22, 2012 4:58:05 PM



"the nVidia control panel was no help, there was nothing that allows you to change the power options of the video card."

Try 'power settings' in the lower right hand side of your desktop, (battery icon), there are advanced power options for battery mode and plugged in mode.

Lenovo Y470
i7 -2.6
8GB RAM
nVidia Ge Force 550M
DVD-RW
Win 7 pro

$750 purchased March 2012

I'm not much of a gamer, mostly use it for file conversions, AutoCad, Matlab, HD movies and normal desktop use. I think it's great for the money.
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