Earlier this year I got to meet up with the folks from Lenovo at PAX East to talk about their Legion line of gaming machines. I’ve been a Lenovo fan for a long time and generally go with their desktops and laptops for enterprise deployments on my IT pro side, so it was fun to see what they have on the gaming front.
If you’ve been with me on Technical Fowl for a while then you know I’m all about multiclassing. I love having a single unit that is balanced – a good battery life for productivity and media as well as the chops to game with settings turned up. So I test drove their Legion Y720 gaming laptop to see what it could do.
Before we start, here are the specs of the unit I had to demo:
- OS: Windows 10 Home x64
- Proc: Intel 7th generation Core i7-7700HQ, 2.80 GHz
- Memory: 16GB DD4 RAM
- Graphics: nVidia GTX 1060 6GB
- Screen: 4K (3840×2160)
- Storage: 256GB SSD + 1TB HDD
Sight, Sound, and Feel
My current machine is an IdeaPad Y700 from Lenovo’s previous generation of gaming laptops, so I had a pretty good base to make a comparison from. The Y720 was about the same weight but a little bit thicker, and comes with the sturdy feel that we’ve come to expect from Lenovo units. With that it is a bit bigger and heavier than other units in the field, with my demo unit weighing in at 6.8 lbs (just over 3 kg). Aesthetically I like the way the machine looks, with its aluminum lid featuring a red-lit “Y” logo on the the front, and that red and black color scheme gaming laptops love to ship these days. It has sharp aggressive edges in the design and half of the speakers are visible on the outside, which I like. Opening it up we get a full size LED backlit keyboard, large touchpad, and 4K screen.
The size of the laptop allows for a full size keyboard with a slight modification. The number pad on the right is somewhat cramped into the corner instead of being full size, which I’m pretty sure was done to leave room for full-size arrow keys. For me that’s not a huge plus, but if you like using arrow keys with your right hand instead of the traditional WASD, then you’re in business. Another feature on the keyboard is a dedicated key for recording video and gameplay. The quick key allows on demand recording, bypassing Windows 10’s Xbox game bar feature, which can sometimes be a bit persnickety. The backlit keys had good pressure for registering a key press, and good response while typing. The real superstar on the keyboard though was the touchpad. It delivered accuracy as well as great responsiveness without leaving me to ever question “did I click that?” And whenever you use it, it delivers a satisfying “click” on press.
It felt good to type on and use, and the aesthetic experience is enhanced by Lenovo’s Nerve Sense software. From this users can customize the colors and color shift for the keyboard, allowing for 4 lighting zones and patterns. The Nerve Sense software has some other useful gaming features too like preventing accidental input, which allows you disable the touchpad and Windows keys while in-game. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve slipped and hit the Windows key playing Overwatch, coming back to learn not only that I’ve been sniped by a Widowmaker via kill cam, but more importantly that the payload was no longer moving.
It’s… it’s a harrowing experience, kids.
The Y720 does get a little warm after some gaming or long periods of use, and for that Nerve Sense lets the user crank up the fan for “extreme cooling.” Though loud (I mean it’s amping up the RPM on a fan so it’s expected) it does bring the temp down. Important when you actually use your laptop on your lap.
The 4K display shows very well, and displays media crisply and beautifully – after being mesmerized by closeup plumage of birds in the jungle showing every little detail and some of the action scenes from John Wick in pure 4K glory, it made me sad to go back to my 1080p life. Thanks to the GTX 1060 inside, there was no issue of lag or choppiness or screen tearing while watching 4K content – everything flowed incredibly smoothly. The anti-glare also allowed me to watch media in a well-lit room, as opposed to some of my other monitors which i have to usually close my blinds to see properly without glare.
One thing I was worried about when I started testing this was the screen brightness. Some of the 1080p versions of previous IdeaPad models were a little bit dim on the maximum brightness scale. This 4K version didn’t seem to have that issue though, and I found that 4K media content looked super sharp with good color range.
The speakers I talked about at the top of this review really adds some punch to the media experience on the Y720. In addition to the rear speakers that are visible from the outside, opening the lid brings the user two JBL front speakers, angled forward instead of being flat and pointing straight up. With the sound being powered with internal subwoofers and Dolby Atmos, the quality is vastly superior to many standard laptop speakers that I’ve worked with. With additional enhancements for headsets, even my cheap $20 business headset felt like I was using high-end premium headphones. And when I actually did use my high end Bose bluetooth headset, forget it. The sound was absolutely excellent. Bass hits and the simulated 7.1 surround worked to make me feel like I was in the middle of the action.
Connectivity / Ports
Like the previous generation of Lenovo’s, the Y720 comes with a headphone jack, 3 USB ports, a full-size HDMI as well as an ethernet port. This takes care of most of what I need, but it seems they dropped the SD card slot from its list of ports. SD cards provide a lot of use to me personally, and let me swap data on cards and card adapters between my computers and mobile devices quickly and easily. This was replaced by a mini DisplayPort port and a thunderbolt (USB-C) port. While this will definitely be helpful users that want to use it for USB-C charging and single port docking, I’d still miss my SD cards for quick portable data transfers on this and would be forced to carry a USB-C cable or adapter for card transfer.
As far as wireless the Y720 not only supports WiFi and Bluetooth, but also provides native support for Xbox wireless controllers. So instead of having to configure a Microsoft USB adapter, you can just grab your controller and game.
Test 1 – The Regular Day
For the first test I started running the Y720 the same way I would use my laptop for general purpose and productivity on a fully charged battery about 50% screen brightness connected to my home WiFi. Of course, trying to bring some color to the proceedings, I also had the moving LED backlight on under the keyboard. Doing my everyday stuff like email, internet browsing, and writing some stuff in Microsoft Office, I took some breaks in between to watch some video clips on YouTube and a couple episodes of the West Wing (yeah I still love that show) on Netflix. There were no issues streaming and working at the same time, and I didn’t experience any sort of slowdown trying to do anything. Keeping a good pace of work without too many periods of inactivity I was able to get just under 5 hours of computer life, which is about what I expected from what was advertised about the Y720.
Test 2 – Now let us game
I tested the gaming abilities of the Y720 with Overwatch and World of Warcraft to see how high I could crank everything on the built in GTX 1060. The test was twofold – not only looking at the capabilities of the GPU, but also seeing how well gaming works with its 2-drive system. The OS and system files are stored on a nice and quick SSD, but game files and installs sit on the 1TB HDD, which is a WD blue drive that spins at only 5400rpm. The Nerve Sense software however does apply enhancements and settings depending on what game you’re playing.
I opened up World of Warcraft and tuned all of the settings up to the maximum level (level 10), with full 4K resolution. It took a bit for the game to apply the settings, but once it did there seemed to be no issues whatsoever. Even areas where many things were rendering at once were free of problems. The gameplay didn’t show any issues at full graphic spec, and I honestly did not know WoW could look like this. I was very concerned on the gaming side that a 5400rpm drive would make the gaming experience take a serious hit. But the SSD takes care of the load times and it there’s minimal impact to gaming. On its own you will notice read speeds during file transfers and large installs to the 1TB drive that are about 30% slower than a 7200rpm drive would be.
Next up was Overwatch. The first attempt to play was setting the resolution to full 4K and the graphics to “Epic” – Start right at the top I say! Again, absolutely no issues playing the game full out. After a quick restart to apply the new graphics settings, everything was smooth at 60fps the entire way, textured wonderfully, and again, showed no issues with lag or screen tearing. The machine did get a little bit warm after playing for a bit, and the fans did kick in to compensate to mildly cool without producing a ridiculous amount of fan noise. After I was done playing, I turned on the extreme cooling switch from Nerve Sense, and could feel the hot air billowing out of the back (thankfully not the bottom) to bring it down a few degrees.
The Lenovo Legion Y720 laptop positions itself as an excellent high mid-tier gaming laptop right now. It still features the 7th generation Intel processors and the GTX 1060, while a very good card, is not the top of the heap like the newer GTX 1080’s that are being combined with 8th gen processors from other manufacturers. While there’s nothing official from Lenovo, personally I expect to see the Legion line moving to 8th gen Intel procs sometime this summer with a new line of laptops and possibly a new cube desktop. Until then the Legion Y720 offers a great balance of performance and price, and while my tests did not involve VR, the specs of this laptop do make it VR ready. A 1080p version of the model I reviewed is currently $1299 from Lenovo, which makes this a great bang for the buck option on a budget. While the GTX 1060 won’t give you maxed-out graphics on titles like Battlefield or Rise of the Tomb Raider, the Y720 is still a solid gaming machine that will easily handle almost everything you throw at it, from gaming to everyday work and computing.
- VR ready specs
- RGB backlit design
- Runs quiet
- USB-C Thunderbolt
- Build Quality
- Loss of SD card slot
- Heat after gaming sessions
- Bulkier than competitors
All in all, the Lenovo Legion Y720 would satisfy my multiclassing needs. It has enough battery to watch some movies on a long flight, almost a full work day without charging, and handles my entire Steam library.
Overall score: 8/10