capsule review

The Lenovo IdeaPad Y460: Plenty of Gaming Muscle, but All Business When Needed

At a Glance
  • Generic Company Place Holder Lenovo IdeaPad Y460 063346U Notebook

    PCWorld Rating

Lenovo's IdeaPad Y460 laptop is probably the closest thing to a Transformer I'll ever have my hands on. As tested, the Core i5-520M processor, 4 gigs of RAM, and the 64-bit version of Windows 7 together provide plenty of power -- the vehicle form, so to speak, of the Y460. But flick a switch up front, and the Y460's ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5650 graphics card springs into action, turning the machine into a power-chugging powerhouse. It's a cool feeling to suddenly have tons more power when you need it, but is it worth its list price of $1199?

This IdeaPad doesn't break from Lenovo's usual chic styling for the line, with large hinges, a geometric pattern laid into the black case, and a bold red-orange line bisecting the case. Total weight is about 5 pounds, filling out a 13.4-by-9.2-by-1.2-inch frame and making the whole package light and small, considering the power it's packing.

When operating on the Core i5-520M's integrated graphics, the chip (with 2.4GHz clock speed) will hum along. You get just over 4 hours of power from that. But a 1200-buck purchase? Clearing that $1000 dollar barrier comes courtesy of the ability to flick a switch and suddenly have the 1GB ATI Radeon HD 5650 throwing out respectable mobile graphical power.

The discrete card is more than capable of successfully rocking the 14-inch, 1366-by-768-pixel screen, whether you're watching video or playing a video game. The machine earned a WorldBench score of 106 in our testing, which means (in short form) yes, you can play just about any modern video game on this thing. But only for about an hour or hour and a half -- the 5650 gulps down power like Energon Cubes. For anyone who missed the Transformers reference earlier, that means you run out of juice fast.

Ringing the laptop are three USB ports, a USB/eSATA port, a VGA-out, an HDMI jack, a headphone and microphone pair of jacks, an ethernet port, and Bluetooth and 802.11b/g/n wireless. The keyboard is fantastic, with plenty of responsiveness and comfortable keys, although I rue the day that Lenovo decided to put the "Function" key outside of the "Control" button. And a row of great touch-sensitive controls is just above the keyboard. They look cool, and control things like volume effortlessly. Sadly, next to those buttons is a row of touch-sensitive buttons you have to "zip" your finger along to use, but they don't do anything better than the non-zipping buttons. Stick to the touchpad, with its multitouch and great responsiveness.

It's a shame no Blu-ray player is here (it'd be nice to have the option for a screen that could support Blu-ray's maximum resolution as well, but it would be a shock to see a "full" HD display on a machine this size). Between the power and the HDMI output, a Blu-ray player would be a reasonable addition even at the monitor's default resolution. But you can't order a Blu-ray player even if you want one.

This hits on the bigger issue of a complete lack of customization. When you're buying, you just pick your processor, graphical power, and support options. No changing storage, memory, drives...nothing. You also can't pick between a glossy and a matte screen; not unusual for Lenovo, but the screen is cripplingly glossy. I personally love this laptop -- the power, the flexibility, the look, the feel -- but the screen is just too glossy for me to consider using it; its glare is a real showstopper.

More than meets the eye? Absolutely. But you're definitely paying a price for that flexibility, both in dollars and in battery life when you're not in Battle Mode. If there was a matte version of the Lenovo IdeaPad Y460, I'd pick it up in a hot minute. For users who don't mind a (very) glossy screen and want that choice between power and power-saving on the go, the Y460 is a fantastic machine.

--Patrick Joynt

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    A great compromise between power use and performance, but a compromise nonetheless.

    Pros

    • Fantastic power for its size
    • Multipurpose champion

    Cons

    • Mediocre battery life
    • Horrifically glossy screen
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