capsule review

Lenovo IdeaPad Y530 All-Purpose Laptop

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At a Glance
  • Generic Company Place Holder Lenovo IdeaPad Y530 Notebook

The Lenovo IdeaPad Y530 isn't exactly made for kids, but it sure can kick out the tunes. You can tell it was designed to be a sleek all-purpose laptop that knows how to get down to business and play around a little without costing a fortune (our review unit was $829 as of 2/26/09). Though the Y530 can't run modern games at a screaming pace, it still packs a decent amount of power for its sub-$1000 price tag.

Along with an Intel P7350 2GHz processor, it has 2GB of DDR3-1066MHz RAM. And though it doesn't carry a market-leading discrete graphics card, it does have an nVidia 9300M GS, which should help when the machine is running graphics-intensive programs such as Adobe Photoshop. In our WorldBench 6 tests it earned a score of 82, a little on the low side for laptops in its class, but the result makes sense considering it's one of the few laptops priced below a grand. Just don't try to use it for anything more than playing older or casual games (or playing newer games with very tempered expectations). When we put it through our gaming tests, it performed well enough with older titles such as Far Cry and Doom 3, but had a hard time breaking the coveted 30-frames-per-second barrier for newer games like Unreal Tournament 3 and Quake Wars. Then again, the $999 Gateway MC7803u didn't fare much better.

At least it doesn't kill batteries in a hurry. Our review rig ran for just over 3 hours in tests.

The Y530's 15-inch screen provides solid 1280 by 800 resolution--when you can see the panel, that is. The glare is a pretty significant problem. Even in a room with the blinds closed and only indirect light sources, I could see my reflection staring back at me as I tried to work. Moreover, the colors are muted, with everything looking more opaque than it should. Not that big of a deal when you're listening to tunes, but the color issues and the glare combined can be a big downer when you're trying to get into a movie playing on the laptop's DVD-ROM drive.

Thankfully, the keyboard on the Y530 works splendidly. It has ample room, as well as an array of function buttons (including a ten-key) that make adjusting your brightness and other settings a simple task. And if you love music, you're in for a real treat, as the Y530 features a touch-inductive panel that allows you to control media and even tweak equalizer settings easily. (I'll delve deeper into this audiophile's dream in a second.) The touchpad is standard, and it lacks the scroll bar that numerous other laptops include. It performs just fine, however, and it's positioned far enough from the keyboard that it never gets in the way when you're working hard and your fingers are flying.

Unlike a lot of other laptops these days, the Y530 doesn't go for a glossy exterior. Instead, the machine's visual appeal banks on the notion that matte black can look dead sexy--and it does. The lightly textured exterior feels like that of a lovely old book, and that idea translates to more than just aesthetics. The machine closes tight without the use of locks to hold it in place, and it snaps closed with a satisfying sound that is reminiscent of the closing of a heavy hardcover novel.

The inside of the Y530 is made of a beautiful nonshiny metallic surface that blends perfectly with the exterior of the machine and contrasts nicely with the dark black keyboard and the backlit touch-inductive surface that sits above it. Along with the standard audio, ethernet, and three USB ports, you get a lot of other connections that give the Y530 many more potential uses, including an HDMI audio port, a VGA port, a PCI Express card slot, a multiformat media reader, and a FireWire (IEEE 1394) connector that will allow you to hook up special cameras and external drives. That's a lot of interface options, and they're especially useful since Lenovo managed to fit them all along the sides and on the front of the machine only. And expansion doesn't look like it'll be too hard of a task for the enthusiast tech-head: The battery is easy to take out, while the RAM and the 250GB, 5400-rpm hard drive are easily accessible after you remove just a few screws.

Audio is where this IdeaPad excels. The Y530 features four speakers and a tiny little subwoofer built into the bottom. The result, on music at least, is surprisingly crisp quadraphonic sound. At full volume this laptop gets much louder than others do, but a lot of background noise can still drown it out fairly easily. The system doesn't do nearly as well on movies: In our tests, DVDs that we played in Windows Media Player or Windows Media Center (the only DVD-playback software included) were annoyingly quiet. Still, if the ability to listen to music while working is what you're after, the Y530 would be an excellent laptop choice.

The documentation included with the Y530 is pretty extensive, and it makes the laptop extremely user friendly. From a pullout poster that breaks down all the small things that you'll need to know as a first-time user, to a user guide that explains all the nitty-gritty details about the rig, you'll have more than enough information to get acquainted with your new work partner. The software bundle, on the other hand, is abysmal: This laptop comes with almost nothing besides Windows and CyberLink software for burning CDs and DVDs. Would it have been too much to toss in some awesome DVD-playback software to support the wonderful speakers?

With the Lenovo IdeaPad Y530, "You get what you pay for" isn't a bad thing. The Y530 is a good laptop built for anyone who needs to work and to sneak in a little play time on the side. And, for under a thousand bucks, it is a solid counterpoint to Gateway's MC7803u series.

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At a Glance
  • The Y530 isn't going to break any speed records, but for everyday work and rocking out in the off-hours, it's a solid choice.


    • Awesome audio output
    • Good power/performance ratio


    • Annoyingly Glossy screen
    • Needs better DVD playback software
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