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Lenovo Y40 review: An understated 14-inch gaming laptop for less than $1000

At a Glance
  • Lenovo Y40

    PCWorld Rating

    Lenovo has built a very competent 14-inch gaming laptop and priced it right.

Lenovo isn't the first name you think of when you're considering a gaming laptop. Alienware or Razer, maybe, but not Lenovo. The Y40 might change your opinion. This machine delivers great everyday performance, a GPU that’s good enough to game at the display’s native 1920x1080 resolution, and a classic Lenovo keyboard.

Measuring 13.7 inches wide, 9.8 inches deep, and 0.9 inches thick, and weighing 5.4 pounds (with the AC adapter; 4.5 pounds without), the Y40's form factor is neither chunky nor thin-and-light—just all-purpose, all the way. That said, it’s a bit more stylish than the norm, with tasteful red accents highlighting the sides of the keys, setting off the speakers from the keyboard desk, and delineating the right/left button areas on the touchpad.

Lenovo Y40 Gaming PC

Red accents are scattered all over the Lenovo Y40's design, from the sides of the keys to the speaker grill and USB ports. 

Our eval Y40 (Lenovo’s model number 59416787) arrived with an Intel Core i7-4500U, 8GB of DDR3/1600 memory, an AMD Radeon R9 M275 GPU with a 2GB frame buffer, and a 256GB SSD. It costs $950 and is available on Amazon, (but not from Lenovo’s site). Lenovo sells the similarly configured model 59423035 for the same price, but that is equipped with the slightly different Core i7-4510U. Less-expensive versions start at $749 and feature the same discrete GPU.

Lenovo Y40 Gaming Laptop

Lenovo's Y40 can't swing with the big-boy gaming laptops, but it definitely doesn't embarass itself. And it costs a whole lot less. 

The Core i7, the discrete graphics, and the SSD helped our test unit earn a more-than-respectable WorldBench 9 result of 67. Not surprisingly, given the discrete GPU and dedicated graphics memory on board, its gaming scores were good, too. While it didn't equal the marks of its big sibling, the Y50 (which is outfitted with the more powerful Nvidia GTX 860M), the Y40 did manage playable frame rates in the high 30's and high 40's in 1080p tests. If you want to game at 60fps and higher, you’ll need to dial the resolution down to 1024x768. But at this price, that’s excellent performance.

Lenovo Y40 Gaming Laptop

You'll need to dial the graphics down a bit if you want to game at 60-plus frames per second. The Y40 was more than twice as fast at 1024x768 than it was at 1920x1080.

Battery runtime for the Y40’s 54-watt-hour unit was 5 hours and 14 minutes, not too shabby given the configuration. That’s measured while everyday computing chores are being performed, not gaming; you’ll want to be plugged into an AC outlet for that.

Lenovo Y40 Gaming Laptop

The Y40 delivered excellent battery life for a gaming machine. 

Getting to said battery entails the removal of no fewer than 12 screws before you can pull off the bottom of the unit. The Y40's design further complicates this process with screws whose insertion angles follow the rounded contour of the shell, rather than remaining perpendicular to the horizontal plane of the unit. I quickly realized why most vendors choose the latter approach when I stripped a soft screw head while trying to insert it only slightly off-kilter. User error, to be sure, but it shouldn’t be that easy to get wrong.

Using the Y40 for writing and general business was a pleasure. The keyboard, though short-throw, had nice aural and tactile feedback, and the touchpad was a solid with butter-smooth response—it was a world of difference from my recent experiences with the Dell Latitude 14 5000.

Lenovo Y40 Gaming PC

Lenovo's well-earned reputation for building excellent keyboards is preserved with the Y40.

The 14-inch, 1920x1080 display—being non-touch with a matte finish—is less prone to glare than many laptop displays you’ll find these days. The bezel surrounding it, however, is glossy and prone to such. That can be distracting. But the display rendered 1080p movies and games to good effect, and that’s what really matters.

One caveat is that you have a lot of pixels in a relatively small amount of space, which apparently confused either Windows or the graphics driver. The fonts in some applications, such as Device Manager, were badly anti-aliased. This is a software/driver issue, though; it’s not the fault of the display.

The sound through the Y40's JBL speakers was acceptable. Spaciousness increases dramatically if you use Windows Media Player’s WOW effect (or similar), which means the speakers are decent. But bass response is minimal, even with TruBass (or similar effects) enabled.

Lenovo Y40 Gaming PC

Lenovo credits JBL for the Y40's speaker design, but most gamers will probably use a headset.

Inputs/outputs

The Y40 has two USB 3.0 ports and one USB 2.0 port, HDMI out, a headset jack, a S/PDIF digital audio jack, and an SD card reader. The gigabit Ethernet port has a drop-jaw due to the thin chassis, and the integrated Wi-Fi adapter supports 802.11ac and Bluetooth 4.0. The Webcam is 720p, and its image quality is par for the course. The Y40’s only vendor-unique item is the OneKey recovery button, next to the power button: It invokes Lenovo’s OneKey backup and restore software.

Lenovo Y40 Gaming PC

The thin chassis meant Lenovo had to use a drop-jaw Ethernet port. But this one feels very sturdy and unlikely to break. 

Perusing the BIOS, I found the always-on charging for the USB turned off. This is done to extend battery life, but it's a pretty handy feature to have off by default. I was in the BIOS to change the function key behavior back to the old-school norm of not having to press the FN key in conjunction with the F4, F5… keys to achieve the desired effect. Old habits die hard.

All told, Lenovo has done an exceptional job with the Y40. It has the Lenovo-ness (simple design, great input ergonomics) that has won the company legions of fans, it’s fast, and it games well enough for the average player. There’s not a lot more you could ask for in a 14-inch laptop in this price range.

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    Lenovo has built a very competent 14-inch gaming laptop and priced it right.

    Pros

    • Games well at 1920x1080 (better at 1024x768)
    • Solid price-to-performance ratio
    • Fantastic keyboard

    Cons

    • Too many screws holding its bottom panel
    • Highly reflective bezel bordering its screen
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