by Jerry Jackson
The IdeaPad Y450 is a multimedia notebook from Lenovo with a 14-inch screen, HDMI out, a nice touchpad with multi-touch controls, and enough power and storage to get you through several years of college. With an almost MacBook-like appearance and a starting price of $579, how does the Lenovo IdeaPad Y450 stand up against the competition? Keep reading and we'll let you know.
Lenovo IdeaPad Y450 Specifications:
Build and Design
The IdeaPad Y450 inherits the same look as the larger Y650 in a smaller form factor with a few subtle changes. As part of the new IdeaPad refresh earlier this year, the Y450 was designed with students in mind ... the result being an affordable 14-inch notebook that weighs barely more than 4.5 pounds. The combination of thin metal and solid plastics gives the Lenovo a clean look and durable feel and minimal chassis flex. I would put the build quality of this machine up against my personal HP Pavilion dv4t notebook at home. The semi-glossy and matte black exterior looks okay, but the semi-glossy black lid doesn't look as attractive as the matte black lid on the Y650. Inside the notebook the black exterior changes to a glossy white surface that surrounds the keyboard and touchpad. The palmrests are comfortable and the textured keyboard keys feel great even after hours of typing (more on that later).
When closed the Y450 feels pretty sturdy, but the screen lid shows signs of obvious flex under strong pressure. On closer inspection of the lid, the semi-gloss black surface has a honeycomb pattern for subtle styling, but it lacks the rubberized paint seen on the Y650. The body gives the notebook a great deal of support and the combination of metal and plastics used feel rugged enough to withstand regular day-to-day abuse inside a backpack or on a desk without showing much wear.
The bottom of the notebook features the battery and two access plates that must be removed in order to upgrade the RAM, hard drive, or replace any additional components. My only frustration here is that you have to remove five screws to upgrade the RAM and three screws for the hard drive: the fewer the screws, the better.
Screen and Speakers
The 14-inch panel on the Lenovo Y450 rates fairly average with vibrant colors and excellent contrast. The LED backlighting in our review unit is pretty even and offers a range of brightness settings. Yes, it is a 16:9 screen ratio, but this is starting to become standard for all notebooks. Personally, I wish Lenovo offered this notebook with a higher resolution 1600x900 display. Horizontal viewing angles are extremely good, so you won't have any trouble sharing a movie with a friend or two. Upper vertical viewing angles are average since the colors start to wash out when viewed from above and colors begin to distort and invert as you move the screen back.
The IdeaPad Y450 offers a pair of JBL-branded speakers that produce some extremely nice sound. The 2-watt stereo speakers have plenty of range and are free from any distortions until you increase the volume levels to near the maximum limit. The speaker don't have the chest thumping bass you expect from notebooks equipped with a subwoofer, but a subwoofer isn't a likely addition on a 14-inch notebook.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The keyboard on the Y450 is quite nice and similar to the one of the Y650, but this keyboard has better support and feels like it's the perfect size on a 14-inch laptop. The keyboard is quite comfortable to type on with reasonable key size and spacing. There is some flex when heavy typing pressure is applied around the "L" key, but overall the keyboard is reasonably firm.
The Synaptics-based touchpad is large and comfortable to use with a nice texture. Sensitivity is good, accurately tracking finger movement with little pressure on the surface. The multi-touch gestures (such as zoom in and zoom out) are easy to use, but these multi-touch gesture controls have limited use until more software (including Windows) recognizes the gestures. The touchpad buttons have excellent feedback with a deep throw but they do produce a cheap-sounding, spring-like "click" when pressed. I also found it unusually easy to accidentally trigger the touchpad buttons if I moved my thumb near that area of the notebook.
Ports and Features
The port selection on the Y450 is pretty good. Lenovo included three USB ports as well as a combo USB/eSATA port ... that means the 14-inch Y450 has twice the number of USB ports as the 16-inch Y650! The Y450 also has an ExpressCard/34 expansion slot, FireWire and HDMI for connecting your laptop to a larger HDTV or external monitor.
Left: Kensington Lock slot, Heat vent, VGA, Ethernet, HDMI, and two USB
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