Lenovo Legion Y530 review: An affordable gaming laptop saddled with an iffy graphics card

It's thin and lightweight (for a gaming laptop), but its graphics power unfortunately follows suit.

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Gaming performance

Impressive though the system’s Core i5-8300H processor is, the Legion Y530’s gaming performance hangs off its Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 graphics card, which sits near the back of Nvidia’s GeForce 10 Series line for laptops. If you were expecting 60-fps visuals at maxed-out graphics settings from a bargain GTX 1050-powered laptop like the Y530, well, see for yourself.

FireStrike Extreme

Let’s start with 3DMark’s FireStrike Extreme benchmark, a synthetic graphics test that gives us a solid baseline for comparing gaming laptops at different price ranges.

lenovo legion y530 3dmark firestrike extreme Melissa Riofrio/IDG

Saddled with a middling GTX 1050 graphics card, the Lenovo Y530’s FireStrike Extreme score comes in dead last.

Unsurprisingly, the Lenovo Legion Y530 sits near the back, a hair behind the GTX 1050-powered Acer Nitro 5 and a couple steps behind the GTX 1050 Ti-packing Dell G3 15.

In the middle, we’ve got a couple of laptops with more powerful GTX 1060 graphics cards, including the Dell G7 15 and the Acer Predator Helios 300. Just looking at those numbers gives you a good idea how big a leap in performance the GTX 1060 delivers versus GTX 1050 graphics. 

At the top of our chart sits a pricey GTX 1070-packing laptop, the Gigabyte Aero 15X, which (generally speaking) can wring 60 fps or more from today’s most demanding games without breaking a sweat.

Tomb Raider

Moving on to real-world gaming, we fired up 2013’s Tomb Raider reboot, an older AAA title that relies a little more on CPU power than recent gaming titles do.

lenovo legion y530 tomb raider Melissa Riofrio/IDG

You’ll need at least a GTX 1050 Ti graphics card to squeeze 60 fps out of Tomb Raider at its maxed-out graphics settings.

Even with the aging Tomb Raider, the Legion Y530 struggles to approach 60 fps at the game’s “Ultimate” preset, as does the similarly GTX 1050-equipped Acer Nitro 5. Crossing the 60-fps threshold (barely) for Tomb Raider is the GTX 1050 Ti-powered Dell G3 15 (which, remember, is cheaper but considerably heavier than the Legion Y530), while GTX 1060 and 1070-packing laptops breeze past 90 fps and beyond.

Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor

The Legion Y530’s gaming limitations really start to show with Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor. The laptop managed only about 45 fps at the game’s “Ultra” preset.

lenovo legion y530 middle earth shadow of mordor Melissa Riofrio/IDG

Gaming laptops with GTX 1060 graphics or better can get more than 100 fps out of Shadow of Mordor on its “Ultra” preset. The GTX 1050-equipped Lenovo Y530? Not so much.

Again, you’ll need a laptop with GTX 1050 Ti or better graphics to squeeze more than 60 fps out of Shadow of Mordor with maxed-out graphics, while GTX 1060- and 1070-enabled laptops can easily crank out 100 fps-plus SOM “Ultra” visuals. (You can chalk up the Dell G7 15’s 88-fps showing to its GTX 1060 Max-Q card, which puts a cap on performance to optimize heat and power management in a smaller chassis.)

Rise of the Tomb Raider

Finally, the GPU-intensive Rise of the Tomb Raider sees the Legion Y530 (along with the GTX 1050-packing Acer Nitro 5) sitting closer to the 30-fps mark at the game’s “Very High” preset. For reliably buttery Rise of the Tomb Raider graphics at maxed settings, you’ll need to shell out more cash for (at least) a GTX 1060-powered system.

lenovo legion y530 rise of the tomb raider Melissa Riofrio/IDG

The Lenovo Y530 can only delivery about 37 fps from Rise of the Tomb Raider at its highest graphics preset.

None of this is to say the Legion Y530 can’t render smooth gaming graphics under the right circumstances. After a little GeForce Experience-aided tweaking, for example, I was able to get supple Destiny 2 frame rates in the 60-fps range, up from about 45 fps at the “Highest” preset.

But you’ll need to come to terms with the fact that an entry-level gaming laptop like the Legion Y530 won’t earn you bragging rights for the hottest portable gaming graphics. It’s also worth considering that if the Legion Y530’s GTX 1050 graphics card struggles with today’s top-tier games, it’ll fare even worse with next year’s titles.

Battery life

They may have been battery hogs in the past, but gaming laptops are getting better and better at respecting battery life. No, we’re not talking all-day battery life here (and once you fire up a AAA game, of course, all bets are off), but the Legion Y530 makes the most of its 52-watt-hour battery as far as gaming laptops go.

lenovo legion y530 video rundown battery Melissa Riofrio/IDG

The Lenovo Y530’s battery life is pretty solid for a gaming laptop.

We test battery life in a laptop by looping a 4K video using the stock Windows 10 video player, with screen brightness set at about 250 nits (we cranked up the Y530’s brightness to 90 percent) and volume dialed to 50 percent, headphones on.

With its result of 379 minutes (or about 6.3 hours), the Legion Y530 takes third place in our performance roundup, ahead of a pair of laptops (the Dell G7 15 and the Dell G3 15) with bigger 56-watt-hour batteries. Besting the Legion Y530 in our battery drain test was the Acer Predator Helios 300, a 5.5-pound gaming laptop with a 49-watt-hour battery, and the 4.75-pound Gigabyte Aero 15X with its massive 94-watt-hour battery.

Conclusion

A relatively thin and light gaming laptop, the inexpensive Lenovo Legion Y530 will be a tempting choice for budget-minded gamers. That said, the Y530’s middling graphics card struggles to keep up with today’s games, let alone tomorrow’s.

 
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At a Glance
  • A relatively thin and light gaming laptop, the inexpensive Lenovo Y530 will be a tempting choice for budget-minded gamers. That said, the Y530's middling graphics card struggles to keep up with today's games, let alone tomorrow's.

    Pros

    • Impressive quad-core CPU performance
    • Relatively thin and light for a gaming laptop
    • Comfy keyboard
    • Above-average speakers

    Cons

    • Falls short of 60 fps gaming visuals at maxed graphics settings
    • Rear-facing ports may frustrate some users
    • No memory card reader
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