Lenovo IdeaPad Y450 Review

by Reads (156,483)
  • Pros

    • Excellent build quality
    • Good overall performance
    • Nice speakers

  • Cons

    • Gets pretty warm
    • 1366x768 screen resolution
    • Plastic lid isn't impressive

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:

  • Windows Vista Home Premium (SP1, 32-bit)
  • Intel Core 2 Duo processor T6400 (2.0GHz, 2MB L2 Cache, 800MHz FSB)
  • 14.0″ Widescreen display with LED backlighting (1366×768)
  • 3GB PC3-8500 DDR3 SDRAM 1066MHz System Memory
  • Intel GMA 4500MHD integrated graphics
  • 250GB 5400RPM SATA Hard Drive
  • Dual Layer CD/DVD Recordable
  • 1.3 megapixel integrated camera
  • JBL stereo speakers (Dolby Home Theater)
  • Intel Wireless Wi-Fi Link 5100 and Bluetooth Version 2.0 + EDR
  • Weight: 4.6 lb. including battery
  • Dimensions: 13.4 x 9.1 x 1.4 inches
  • Warranty: 1 year system and 1 year battery
  • 6-cell 5400mAh 56Wh battery
  • Retail Price as configured: $799

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 1600×900 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.


Front: Indicator lights, microphone in, headphone out, SDHC card slot, and Wireless On/Off


Rear: Screen hinges and battery


Left: Kensington lock slot, Heat vent, VGA, Ethernet, HDMI, and two USB


Right: FireWire, USB/eSATA combo port, ExpressCard/34, optical drive, USB, and power jack

Performance
The performance of the Lenovo IdeaPad Y450 with an Intel Core 2 Duo T6400 processor and Intel integrated graphics was slightly less impressive than multimedia oriented notebooks with discrete graphics like the HP Pavilion dv4t. On the other hand, the Y450 performed on par with a similarly configured Sony VAIO CS.

For day-to-day use or enjoying streaming video content the Y450 has more than enough power inside the chassis. For the average user this machine’s performance will exceed expectations for web browsing, watching movies, typing documents, and fast startups or shutdowns. Gaming is where the Y450 falls behind the competition, so a student using this notebook won’t be able to pass the time playing Left 4 Dead. Still, this laptop has more than enough muscle to get serious school work done.

wPrime processor comparison results (lower scores mean better performance):

HP Pavilion dv4t (Intel Core 2 Duo T9600 @ 2.8GHz) 26.972 seconds
Toshiba Satellite E105 (Intel Core 2 Duo P8400 @ 2.26GHz) 33.961 seconds
Lenovo ThinkPad SL400 (Intel Core 2 Duo P8400 @ 2.26GHz) 34.628 seconds
Toshiba Satellite U405 (Intel Core 2 Duo T8100 @ 2.1GHz) 37.500 seconds
Lenovo IdeaPad Y450 (Intel Core 2 Duo T6400 @ 2.0GHz) 38.125 seconds
Sony VAIO CS (Intel Core 2 Duo T6400 @ 2.0GHz) 38.314 seconds

 

PCMark05 measures overall system performance (higher scores mean better performance):

HP Pavilion dv4t (2.8GHz Intel T9600, NVIDIA 9200M GS 256MB) 5,463 PCMarks
Lenovo ThinkPad SL400 (2.26GHz Intel P8400, NVIDIA 9300M GS 256MB) 5,173 PCMarks
Toshiba Satellite E105 (2.26GHz Intel P8400, Intel 4500MHD) 4,836 PCMarks
Sony VAIO CS (2.0GHz Intel T6400, Intel X4500) 4,428 PCMarks
Lenovo IdeaPad Y450 (2.0GHz Intel T6400, Intel 4500MHD) 4,143 PCMarks
Toshiba U405 (2.1GHz Intel T8100, Intel X3100) 3,052 PCMarks

 

3DMark06 measures video and gaming performance (higher scores mean better performance):

Lenovo ThinkPad SL400 (2.26GHz Intel P8400, NVIDIA 9300M GS 256MB) 2,211 3DMarks
HP Pavilion dv4t (2.8GHz Intel T9600, NVIDIA 9200M GS 256MB) 1,741 3DMarks
Toshiba Satellite E105 (2.26GHz Intel P8400, Intel 4500MHD) 1,030 3DMarks
Sony VAIO CS (2.0GHz Intel T6400, Intel X4500) 899 3DMarks
Lenovo IdeaPad Y450 (2.0GHz Intel T6400, Intel 4500MHD) 811 3DMarks
Toshiba U405 (2.1GHz Intel T8100, Intel X3100) 539 3DMarks

All of the 3DMark06 scores for all of the systems listed above were run at 1280 x 800 resolution. However, due to the 16:9 screen ratio on the Y450 we benchmarked the Y450 at 1280×768 … which was the closest resolution available in 3DMark06 for use with the built-in screen. 

HDTune storage drive performance results:

Battery

With the screen brightness set to 70%, wireless active, and the Vista power profile set to “Balanced” the Y450 stayed on for 4 hours and 52 minutes. For use in the classroom or on your lap in front of the TV this amount of battery life was fine, but it may be cutting it close for all-day traveling. The 6-cell 5400mAh 56Wh battery seems to do a pretty acceptable job for 14-inch laptop.

Heat and Noise

The cooling system didn’t do a particularly impressive job keeping the external temperatures down. After extended periods of use the touchpad and right palmrest gets quite warm and the bottom of the notebook reaches temperatures of nearly 100 degrees Fahrenheit. The temperature readings below were taken after stressing the system with performance benchmarks for 30 minutes and should reflect typical external temperatures after more than an hour of serious use.

Noise levels were kept to a minimum when running on battery, but when the laptop was set to the “high performance” power profile under Microsoft Vista and was plugged into the AC adapter the fan becomes pretty noticeable. The fan noise was loud enough to be a minor distraction in a quite classroom or office, but this wasn’t a problem when running on battery power. The hard drive in our review unit remained quiet even during benchmarking.

Conclusion

The Lenovo IdeaPad Y450 has a lot to offer students or a family looking for a good laptop for general use. The overall price/performance ratio makes the Y450 a compelling notebook if you’re looking for something with a 14-inch screen. The nice design, great sounding speakers and multi-touch touchpad should likewise give you a few reasons to consider this laptop.

That said, the Y450 has some strong competition from notebooks like the new Dell Studio 14z and the popular HP Pavilion dv4t. If you’re looking for an attractive notebook for school the Y450 makes a great choice, but if you need a high-end gaming notebook or the lightest possible weight, this isn’t it.

Pros:

  • Excellent build quality
  • Good overall performance for the price
  • Nice speakers

Cons:

  • Gets pretty warm
  • 1366×768 screen resolution isn’t great
  • Plastic lid isn’t as impressive as other IdeaPads


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