Lenovo Legion Y740 review: A laptop built for the future has a few issues in the here and now

The RTX 2070 Max-Q graphics and 144Hz G-Sync panel take their toll.

lenovo legion y740 primary 3qtr
Adam Patrick Murray/IDG

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At a Glance

The Lenovo Legion Y740 is the first gaming laptop we’ve tested at PCWorld with an Nvidia RTX 2070 Max-Q, one of the family of ray-tracing-capable mobile GPUs introduced by Nvidia at CES. 

Generation changeovers are always an interesting time. It feels like anyone could pull ahead, like every laptop is potentially heir to the throne. So this review, while mostly about the Legion Y740, also focuses a bit more than usual on GPU benchmarks, as we put the RTX 2070 through its paces and see how the price-to-performance ratio measures up against both previous-gen and current-gen alternatives.

Spoiler: The RTX generation continues to be more complicated than you’d expect.

Lenovo Legion Y740: Basic specs

For once, Lenovo’s kept things fairly simple and limited itself to only a handful of Legion Y740 variants. The model we reviewed costs $1,920 officially (available on Lenovo.com), though a discount to $1,540 was active at the time of this review. Here are the basic features:

  • CPU: Intel Core i7-8750H 
  • Graphics: Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 Max-Q
  • Memory: 16 GB of DDR4/2667
  • Display: 15.6-inch 144Hz G-Sync display at 1920x1080
  • Storage: 256GB SSD, 1TB HDD

For the most part, these specs carry over across the other models. The display is always the same for instance, as is the CPU. The model we reviewed is the only one with an RTX 2070 Max-Q, however—the other three sport normal RTX 2060s. Storage is also subject to change, with the cheapest model featuring only a 256GB SSD (a pittance for a modern gaming laptop), and another model featuring a 512GB SSD.

Design

Lenovo just refreshed its aesthetic with the Legion Y730, so it’s no surprise the Legion Y740 carries over the same look as its predecessor. It’s sleek, with a flat-gray lid. The only exterior hints that it’s a gaming machine are the lights that glow behind the ‘Y’ shape in the Legion logo and the rear vents. While glowing vents may strike some people as silly, the default clean, blue light is less aggressive than the red-and-black color scheme you find on most gaming laptops.

lenovo legion y740 lid Adam Patrick Murray/IDG

Taken as a whole, the Legion Y740’s neither particularly attractive nor particularly offensive. We called the Legion Y530, which features the same aesthetic, a “generic business laptop,” set apart by the logotype on the lid. That still feels fairly apt, to my eye. Unlike, say, Razer or Alienware, there’s little recognizable design language here—unless in absentia, as if the lack of eye-catching elements is itself a statement. 

It’s nice and portable, measuring 14.2 x 10.5 x 0.88 inches and weighing in at almost precisely 5 pounds. That’s not Razer Blade-thin, but it’s still decently compact for a gaming laptop. And like the Legion Y7000 we looked at recently, the Legion Y740 hides its bulk well, opting for sharply tapered sides and an offset hinge that make it seem smaller.

Not that I love the hinge placement, mind you. There’s about an inch of plastic jutting out of the rear of the laptop, which makes it more difficult to use the Legion Y740 in cramped conditions. That’s doubly true in this case, because Lenovo’s opted to place nearly all the ports rear-facing. The left side of the laptop has a 3.5mm jack and a single USB-C port, while the right side has a single USB-A input. Everything else is on the back, including power, two more USB-A ports, ethernet, HDMI-out, and Mini DisplayPort.

lenovo legion y740 rear panel Adam Patrick Murray/IDG

If you’re planning to use the Legion Y740 as a so-called desktop replacement, then great. Rear ports keep the clutter down, allowing you to hide wires and run them behind your desk easily. If however you plan to use this laptop as a laptop? Rear ports are pain to access. Lenovo’s made it slightly simpler by adding a light-up icon for each port on the hinge, facing upward, so you can theoretically slot cables in blind. I’d still prefer inputs arrayed down the sides.

Anyway, the hinge lifts to reveal the aforementioned 15.6-inch display. The 144Hz refresh rate and G-Sync capabilities are the most noteworthy features here. As a 144Hz monitor adherent, I’m intrigued to see that trend making its way into laptops—though it does come with some drawbacks. More on that later.

The screen itself is nothing special, though, which is odd because Lenovo boasts “software enabled Dolby Vision HDR” on its website. Let’s be clear: The Legion Y740’s built-in display is in no way HDR-ready. Color reproduction is so-so, and the screen tops out at 300 nits, far below the 1,000 nits necessary for HDR. I assume Lenovo’s saying you can attach an external monitor and play HDR-enabled content, but that’s certainly not how it looks on Lenovo’s site.

lenovo legion y740 keyboard detail Adam Patrick Murray/IDG

The Legion Y740’s keyboard is pleasant, though a little stiff. I typed quite a few articles on it over the course of this review and found the travel to be a bit shallow, which led to more typos than usual. It’s fast though, and the ten-keyless layout’s a lot better than the cramped situation on the Legion Y7000. There’s full RGB backlighting as well, provided by Corsair’s ICUE software.

There’s also a row of utility keys down the left-hand side. Two of them are labeled as macro keys, two control the keyboard brightness, one’s set to record game footage, and the last half-sized key launches Lenovo’s Vantage settings software. At best I found them useless, at worst problematic. Too often I reached for the bottom-left Ctrl key or Esc, only to go one column too far and turn the keyboard brightness down or pop open Vantage, respectively.

The trackpad is a relief, with physical buttons for left- and right-click. Given their absence on the Legion Y7000, their presence here was by no means assured and I’m happy to have them. I don’t often game on a trackpad, but when I do, tap-to-click is the death of me.

Lenovo’s included a fancy Dolby Atmos speaker system, “with Soundbar and integrated subwoofer” according to its website. In actual usage? Well, they’re certainly loud, though the bass is still subpar, integrated subwoofer or not. They’re some of the better laptop speakers I’ve tested, but throwing around the Dolby Atmos label is a stretch. You’re still better off with a gaming headset unless you’re in a pinch.

lenovo legion y740 right side Adam Patrick Murray/IDG

Last and certainly least, the webcam is an unremarkable 720p afterthought crammed into the bottom bezel, below the Legion logo even, guaranteeing it will always have a gorgeous view of your chin and not much else. The bezels on the sides and top of the display are thin and crisp, but the webcam always loses out in these situations. Even Dell’s XPS, which I associate with starting this terrible trend, fixed the problem for 2019. I can only hope Lenovo follows suit.

But what about that RTX 2070 Max-Q's performance? Keep reading to find out.

At a Glance
  • The Lenovo Y740 is an inoffensive laptop, but underwhelming performance from its expensive RTX 2070 Max-Q combined with abysmal battery life make it hard to recommend over comparable GTX 1070 options.

    Pros

    • Minimalist design
    • Snappy keyboard and trackpad (with real buttons!)
    • 144Hz display is neat in theory

    Cons

    • RTX 2070 Max-Q underdelivers, given its price
    • Poor battery life even for a gaming laptop
    • Rear-facing ports
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