OK folks back to pure gaming machines. Today we’re going to be talking about Lenovo’s Legion Y545 gaming laptop. These units come packed with Intel’s 9th generation i-Core processors and a choice of three series of video cards – GTX 10 series, GTX 16 series or RTX 20 series. Here’s the specs of my demo unit:
- OS: Windows 10 Home x64
- Proc: Intel 9th generation Core i7-9750H, 6-core, 2.60 GHz, turbo up to 4.50 GHz, 12MB cache
- Memory: 16GB DD4 RAM 2666MHz
- Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660 Ti 6GB
- Screen: 60Hz FHD (1920×1080)
- Storage: 128GB SSD + 1TB 7200rpm HDD
- Connectivity: 802.11ac (2×2), Bluetooth 4.1, 4.2
Specs and Design
So this review is for the Y545, which is also going to double (at least on the performance front) as a functional review of the Y540 as well. The specs for both machines are pretty spot-on the same. The Y545 is more the spiritual successor (that’s one of those hot gaming buzzphrases right?) to the Legion 7000P in terms of design. Because of that, it’s slightly thicker than its “ending in zero” cousins, but also has a more aggressive look.
Instead of having the small logo inside the “O” of “Legion” on the corner of the lid, the Y545 follows it’s 7000P predecessor, with the large Legion “Y” featuring front and center, glowing white. In that regard, even with the more aggressive design, it’s not over the top and flashy, which I appreciate.
The port layout is primarily in the back of the machine, identical to the Y540, with a USB-C, mini DisplayPort, USB 3.1, HDMI, and an RJ45 for network. There’s a USB 3.1 on either side of the unit with a combo mic/headphone jack on the left. There’s a reason for those specific ports on the back – like the Y540, this model uses Lenovo’s Triple Display Support system, supporting (as named) three displays in addition to the laptop screen itself.
This takes us to the 1080p 60Hz screen, upgradable to 144Hz. The color is somewhat flatter than other Legion models equipped with Dolby Vision HDR, but it does have nice brightness at 300 nits. They also managed to fit a full keyboard with numpad in this unit, subtly backlit with white LED’s to match the logo on the lid.
This model features Harmon speakers with Dolby Atmos, but it doesn’t have the integrated subwoofer, and because of that the native speaker audio isn’t as clear and full as the soundbar on the Y740. But if you’re using a headset over wired or Bluetooth, it pipes out the sound just fine.
Everyday Test for Battery
And we’re off! The Y545 became my work machine for a day. Loaded up on it was all the basics – Office 365, Adobe Creative Cloud, and some tech dork tools for the office. I kept the screen at 60% brightness for the duration of use. We were looking at 1 hour of streaming video (I went with the series finale of Psych), about 30 minutes watching WhatCulture videos on YouTube, punching up this article, and actually doing some work (I know right?)
Being a gaming machine I’m carrying around a bit over 5 lbs taking this from site to site, but for my purposes having something a bit larger is helpful – I need an RJ45 network jack for my work, and sometimes an ultrabook that forsakes wired networking for WiFi doesn’t get the job done for me.
Photoshop and Illustrator ran great for some light logo editing, and putting together my baller spreadsheets and documents ran with no issue and no lag.
Some social media checks and emails later, and Windows kicked the unit into battery saver mode as it skipped across the 20% line. This extended the time for a bit, and finally got me just about 4 hours. Without the streaming and just using it for non-media use, I was able to squeeze it out to just over 5.
And during that time I have to say, the Y545 was remarkably quiet when compared to other gaming laptops.
Simply put, this thing can churn. While the mobile 9th generation Intel i7 chips are an incremental improvement over the 8th gen, the combination of the i7-9750H with NVIDIA’s GTX 1660 Ti provides a fairly sizable performance increase over previous 8th gen / GTX 1060 editions of Lenovo’s Legion laptops.
As always, I ran it through play and benchmarks in Shadow of the Tomb Raider. At high settings, The Y545 averaged 70fps, spiking as high as 140 during some lighter parts of the built-in benchmark test. These numbers were almost as high as the numbers I got on the Y740, which was running an RTX 2070 card. With ray tracing off and high settings that one did slightly over 80fps. Not so bad a comparison to it’s RTX-driven cousin.
MMO’s like World of Warcraft fared equally well, hitting 100fps and more out in the open world, and hitting 95fps in busy places like Stormwind City and Boralus Harbor. Load time was pretty quick even with the game files on the 7200rpm HDD instead of the SSD, but since reviewing the ThinkPad P52 with its Quadro graphics, I am extremely spoiled with how quickly models load when I play, and a GTX is never going to be that damn quick at rendering models.
But I digress.
The bottom line is that this machine will run basically whatever game you want to play with high settings. The combination of the 9th gen i7 and the GTX 1660 Ti perform nearly as well as a Y740 with the RTX series of cards. If ray tracing isn’t really that big of a thing for you, this will get you where you need to go while being much easier on your wallet. And as all Legions are, this one comes loaded with Lenovo Vantage, letting you tweak your gaming settings to optimize performance.
Lenovo’s Legion Y545 is basically spec-for-spec the same as the Y540 with a different look. Even though I do love the new standard Legion laptop design, this is a nice departure from it with its aluminum chassis and more aggressive lines. It also reminds me of my old IdeaPad Y700 in terms of design (which by the way is still running strong with it’s 6th-gen i7 and GTX 960).
While this machine provides excellent performance, the tradeoff is going to be battery life, as is the case with most gaming laptops. This thing requires a 230V power brick, and off power you’re not going to get much more than 5 hours, and that number is reduced with screen brightness and media use.
The i5 / GTX 1650 model starts at $999, which makes this a real contender for an entry level / budget gaming laptop. Even upgrading to an i7 and GTX 1660 Ti still places this under $1,400, which ain’t bad. You can even max these out to an RTX 2060 if you wanted to. On the other hand, going for RTX 2070 graphics with the Y740 will set you back close to $2,000. So there are some options here.
If you’re into VR, downgrading the card to a GTX 1650 will let you pick up a Y545 bundled with an Oculus Rift S for $1,600 as well.
Final Verdict on the Y545? With the wide array of configuration options, the Y545 can deliver great no-frills gaming performance with whatever impact your wallet is willing to take.