The Lenovo brand of desktops has been around for many years and is more commonly associated with either premier business-class computing solutions or with inexpensive yet superior quality budget home machines. While I have used the Lenovo brand of laptops for many years professionally, I did not use them for personal computing until 2011. I was in the market for an inexpensive laptop that I could haul back and fourth while I was attending classes at a near-local university and I happened across a Lenovo at a Best Buy that was on sale for a price that was just too good to pass up. Even though the laptop was quite basic, it came with an i3 processor and Intel HD graphics, 6 GB of RAM and a 500 GB hard drive; I was not looking for a gaming rig, just something that was lightweight and easy to move.
I had the laptop up until recently yet I loved the little powerhouse that a small part of me wishes I had not sold it as it was a rock-solid little machine that would chug along whether I was looking to play World of Warcraft or Sins of a Solar Empire on it. It really was a swell little machine. When I saw that Lenovo was releasing a few new models in the Y-lineup of laptops (for those that are unaware, the Y-line is the Lenovo Gaming line) I was, without a doubt, excited. I personally run my PC games on a Samsung Chronos 7 with a Core i7, 8GB of RAM, nVidia GT 650M, and a 1TB hard drive all in a gorgeous aluminum case with a 1920×1080 monitor; in short I love this laptop.
Looking at the new laptops that Lenovo was bringing to the market I wanted to get my hands on this next generation of gaming machines and see how it holds up to my aging hardware. Fortunately Lenovo was gracious enough to send me the Lenovo Y70 Touch, their top-end gaming laptop for me to play around with; here is what I have found.
Rather than get into the highly technical mumbo-jumbo that some sites get into when reviewing hardware, I will briefly cover the specs on the machine (which can be seen above). We find that being overly technical can cause someone’s eyes to gloss over and instead we tend to cover our experiences with the product, which is what I will do here. Make no mistake, the Lenovo Y70 Touch is, on paper, a technically solid machine. With a new Intel Core i7, 16GB of RAM, and the nVidia Geforce GTX 860M graphics card running a glossy 17″ 1920×1080 touch-screen, the specs are through the roof. For a laptop that costs around $1500-1700 it is actually quite impressive; not only do you get all that power, but you get it at an affordable price.
Even better, all that technology comes wrapped up in a package that is stunning; the laptop’s exterior appearance looks like brushed, anodized aluminum and simply looks sharp. Add that in with some actual sharp edges and the Lenovo looks like a sleek and sensual device from the future and weighing in at just a hair under 7.5 pounds, has to have been designed by some wizard from the future since that is a ton of power in a small package. The real treat does not appear until you open the lid as the chicklet-keyboard common on laptops since Apple made them popular (I personally dislike them) all those years ago, glows a stunning red and is surrounded by this matte pseudo-soft, grippy surface. I do not know how to explain it, but frankly typing on the AccuType keyboard is a dream; gorgeous appearance, tactile key response, and that strange space-like material that is used on the inside of the computer is just amazing. Frankly the keyboard and the material that surrounds it are enough for me to scream at you to go purchase one right this instant since they are spectacular and amongst the best keyboards that I have ever had the pleasure of using.
The biggest disappointment is the touchpad. In the Y70 Touch that I had, the touchpad almost feels disconnected from the actual unit; while some touchpads try to offer some level of tactile feedback the Lenovo’s feels loose and more often than not, did not track. At all. I actually found myself navigating solely via the touch screen (which is awesome) in an attempt to just stay away from the touchpad. Simply put it is one of the worst touchpads I have used and that pains me to say; after about 3 hours of struggling with the touchpad I gave up on it as a lost cause and can only hope that the issue is with this unit specifically (though I do not believe that is the case, as the Y50 has a similar touchpad and it makes me sad). Fortunately any self-respecting gamer will be using an external mouse or a gamepad so it is more of an annoyance given the high quality of everything else the Lenovo has.
On paper the Y70 touch is great, but on paper a lot of things are great, so I put the machine through its paces with a number of popular titles as well as using Futuremark’s amazing PCMark 8, 3DMark Professional, and Powermark benchmarking tools. The titles that I ran were Ryse: Son of Rome, Elite: Dangerous Beta, World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria, Battlefield 3, GRID 2, and Diablo 3 but before I get into the quality of how the Y70 plays, I want to cover the basics of the banchmarking. For those that are not really sure what the benchmarking process entails it simply runs applications designed to test a system based on processing power, hard drive speed, graphics capabilities and the like. Futuremark has been the granddaddy of benchmarking and holds the standards for the process and their 3DMark application is designed for benchmarking gaming systems, their PCMark application is for practical use scenarios like in the office or at home. Powermark is a benchmarking process for battery life, testing the power and longevity of the system while “under load.” Again, without getting too technical, I will cover just some of the numbers that the Lenovo pulled.
For PCMark, the one that covers the quality of home or office-related use (i.e. browsing the net, running office productivity applications, etc.) the Y70 scored a 2603 which is a bit above-average for a laptop computer; when compared to a recently built custom gaming machine (with slightly less powerful specs) which scored a 3752, the Lenovo is still behind the curve when it comes to comparing the Y70 (which is basically a desktop replacement) a full desktop. This is not terrible though, as mentioned the 2603 is ahead of the curve when compared to other laptops, though my two year old Samsung scored nearly the same as the Y70 however, extracting two ZIP files, one at 2.5 GB the other at 1.4 GB took just over two hours. Unacceptable but I believe it to be related to a possibly faulty 5400 RPM hard drive, as extracting the ZIP file was not the only thing that I was finding had poor read/write results. Downloading World of Warcraft at ~24 MB per second took nearly all day as the download would run at max speed then the computer would become unresponsive for three to five minutes at a time.
Even smaller downloads like Skyrim caused the hard drive to lock up for a few moments at a time, which is not something that I have seen with the 5400 RPM hard drives in other laptops. The brochure for the Lenovo Y70 Touch claims a 5-hour battery life and it is most part, on par. Powermark reports that under load (i.e. gaming) you will get about 2 hours and 21 minutes out of the battery before it dies; I found that to be the case with older DirectX 9 titles but when I fired up GRID 2 the battery was chewed up in just over 60 minutes when settings are all the way up; the drain that the hardware has on the battery is fairly hefty so gaming without a power source should be kept to a minimum. I did run World of Warcraft at 1920×1080 with the graphics set to Medium for 1 hour 57 minutes before the low battery warning appeared which implies that tweaking the system settings to minimize draw on the video card can help with the battery life.
Let’s face it though, gamers are not going to purchase the Y70 touch for its awesome ability to sift through Pinterest pages or how it handles office productivity pages; no, they are buying the Y70 Touch for its gaming capabilities. In truth this is the more confusing part of the whole system; when it comes to benchmarking the Lenovo scored fairly well, being above-average for a laptop in most cases. If you would like to see the actual numbers for the Lenovo Y70 Touch’s 3DMark benchmark, head over to http://www.3dmark.com/3dm/4446129 and you can see that the Y70 scored better than ~33% of all other results; quite impressive for a laptop. I urge you to spend some time looking through the results; they show a more detailed breakdown. For comparison, here are the results of the same custom-built desktop that scored the 3752 in PCMark 8: http://www.3dmark.com/3dm/4506143 You can see that there are some significant differences and in other cases some similarities. For a gaming laptop to compare well with a bona fide custom gaming machine speaks volumes of Lenovo’s build quality.
However… when put into play the results are literally all over the table. World of Warcraft, with everything set to Ultra and running at 1920×1080 was hovering between 30 FPS and 45 FPS pending what was on-screen; the opening locations for the Blood Elves was fairly constant at 40 FPS, but when I loaded up my human Paladin in Stormwind I was sitting at 30 FPS, not a frame less, not a frame more. For a modern machine I was not really thrilled with those results, given the comparable desktop rarely had framerate drops like that. When I loaded up Diablo III with the settings maxed out I was in pure heaven; even Act IV with its waves of demons could not get the framerate to dip more than a few frames; I was constant at 60 FPS and it was awesome. Other titles, like GRID 2 with settings on “High” did not move a single frame beyond or below 30 FPS and still looked great doing it. The startling ones though, were both Battlefield 3, an older title running the Frostbite 2 engine (an excellent engine) and Ryse: Son of Rome which runs CryEngine 3 (perhaps the most intense engine I have seen used in a game). With Battlefield 3 I set everything to ultra and was fully expecting to see 100+ frames per second; the age of the game plus the power of the laptop, I thought, would run spectacularly. How wrong I was. It is not that the game ran poorly, it just did not run up to my expectations.
Throughout the campaign and a handful of multiplayer maps, Battlefield 3 ran between 30 and 35 FPS; abysmal for what is in the machine, especially since my 2 year old Samsung laptop runs it at 60 FPS constant. I had to set the quality it Medium and turn off Anti-Aliasing to get the same framerate on the Lenovo Y70. Not terrible, just not what I was expecting. The real kicker was Ryse: Son of Rome though. Ryse’s system requirements are not as steep as one would think, needing a minimum of a dual core and 4GB of RAM with a 256MB graphics card is pretty easy to find; naturally that would allow you to run the game at low settings and not being able to really experience a part of what makes Ryse so great. The recommended settings are quite a bit more significant, recommending a quad, or even 6-core processor, and 2GB of video RAM. The scalability of Ryse is actually quite intense and impressive all thanks to CryEngine 3. Being a masochist, I started up Ryse and set it to Ultra settings and I cried a little when I started the game up. With the graphics set to the highest options possible, Ryse on the Lenovo Y70 Touch gets less than 1 frame per second. That’s right, it was like a PowerPoint slide show, but worse; with such terrible framerate I needed to force quit the game then hop back in to set the setting to High.
Performance was a bit better, getting 7 FPS during gameplay and 30 FPS during pre-rendered cutscenes. Playing with the settings I had to go with somewhere between the Low and Medium options in order to get a constant 30 FPS. While the game was running at 1080p on the Y70 I was slightly disgusted at the fact that a machine that costs three times as much as an Xbox One and has significantly better specs, could not run Ryse at the same settings nor framerate that the Xbox One can. The real winner though, was Elite: Dangerous. There was not a single setting or instance where I was not at 60 FPS; maybe that is a testament to the quality of the engine, I do not know, but my Samsung runs it at 30 FPS without dipping on High whereas the Lenovo runs it at 60 FPS no matter how many ships are venting atmosphere, asteroids are on screen, or explosions are happening. If I have my say, the Lenovo Y70 Touch will be the machine I own when Elite: Dangerous and Star Citizen have both been released.
I found that with the Lenovo Y70 Touch the key to having the best gaming experience possible comes with tweaking. Like what I did with Ryse, gamers are encouraged to max out the graphics settings then run the game; from there reduce the settings to match that perfect framerate/gameplay experience. A majority of MMO titles like Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, World of Warcraft, and TERA all run beautifully but when you get into some of the heavier titles like Ryse things become a bit more gray and you will need to do some serious tweaking in order to play those games.
Honestly for titles like Ryse I would recommend staying away from them while using a gaming laptop period, but sometimes someone is like me and prefer to “game on the go.” In truth I was quite pleased the majority of the time I had the Lenovo; a sleek and attractive design that has the best keyboard in the business, that is built out of some of the highest-quality materials that money can buy, all for a relatively affordable price. On top of an awesome machine you will be buying into the Lenovo brand, one of the most trusted and well-respected manufacturers in the business with years upon years of experience in a market that is capable of chewing up and spitting out lesser brands like they were nothing.
The Lenovo Y70 Touch, while not a perfect desktop replacement, hits all the right buttons at all the right times and provides on of the best mobile gaming experiences that you can find outside of Falcon Northwest. For those in the market, this is a must-have laptop where the few downsides, such as an atrocious touchpad (that is countered by an amazing touch screen) and poor hard drive speeds are easily addressed with a different hard drive option or an external mouse. To this day the Lenovo brand of laptops has not let me down and their latest offering only goes to show that they know what they are doing and yet again proves that they are th brand to throw my money at.
Review by Robert