Lenovo IdeaPad Y510 Review

by Jerry Jackson Reads (277,182)

by Jerry Jackson

The name ThinkPad has been synonymous with business for years and remains one of the single most popular notebook brands for corporate road warriors. But what about average consumers? This is where Lenovo’s all new IdeaPad line of notebooks comes to the rescue. The 15-inch IdeaPad Y510 offers innovative design, solid technical specs and impressive built-in speakers that make other laptops look like cheap toys.

The Lenovo IdeaPad Y510 (starting at $814.99 MSRP) is available with a range of Core 2 Duo processors (from the Intel T2330 1.6GHz Core 2 Duo up to the T8100 2.1GHz Core 2 Duo). There is only one 15.4" screen offering, a 1280×800 WXGA glossy display.

Our review unit of the IdeaPad Y510 has the following specifications:

  • Windows Vista Home Premium (32-bit)
  • Intel Core 2 Duo processor T5450 (1.66GHz, 2MB L2 Cache, 667MHz FSB)
  • 15.4" WXGA VibrantView Widescreen Display (1280 x 800)
  • 2GB DDR2 System Memory (supports up to 4GB)
  • Intel Integrated Graphics Media Accelerator X3100
  • 250GB 5400RPM SATA Hard Drive
  • Optical drive: Dual Layer CD/DVD Recordable
  • 1.3 megapixel integrated camera
  • Sound: 4 speakers and 1 sub-woofer (Dolby Home Theater)
  • Modem, 10/100 Ethernet, Intel PRO/Wireless 3945ABG or 4965AGN
  • 6-cell battery
  • Weight: 6.4 lb. including battery (2.90 kg)
  • Dimensions: 14.3" x 10.2" x 1.1"-1.4" (362mm x260mm x 29.2 -36.2mm)
  • Warranty: 1 year system and 1 year battery
  • Price as configured: $949

Build and Design

The IdeaPad Y510 is visually unique from the previous notebooks released by Lenovo. Sure, the basic laptop structure remains the same, but the angled hinge design, seamless glossy display, LED-backlit media buttons, and complete lack of a red pointing stick/touchpoint tell you this isn’t a ThinkPad we’re looking at here.


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Let’s face it, Lenovo has a lot of brand loyalty to contend with when it comes to the IdeaPad line. ThinkPad lovers expect extreme build quality and conservative styling, and ThinkPad haters want a laptop with a more innovative design and fun features … but that still maintains the solid durability we expect from ThinkPads.

In that respect, I think it’s safe to say Lenovo engineers did a good job with the Y510. Unlike virtually every other notebook manufacturer that is imitating the laptop designs from HP, Lenovo chose a matte black chassis design that in "some" ways pays respect to the ThinkPad line. The innovation in the display lid design comes from the angled hinge and the textured weave pattern in the lid plastics. In fact, when you first touch the lid on the Y510 it’s easy to think you’re touching rough fabric rather than plastic.


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The Y510 lid does not have a latch to hold it closed, but the hinge mechanism works well and firmly holds the lid in place. There is almost no flex to the screen. The entire chassis feels exceptionally solid durable with no flex or creaks to the plastics. Weighing in at almost six and a half pounds the Y510 does feel a little thicker and heavier than most current-generation 15-inch consumer notebooks, but the chassis does pack a few interesting surprises inside.

Performance and Benchmarks

The Y510 has plenty of performance for a full range of multimedia entertainment needs thanks to the range of Core 2 Duo processors that are available. Even the entry-level 1.6GHz T2330 packs enough punch for most average consumers who need a general use laptop. The integrated Intel X3100 graphics provide enough graphics horsepower for video playback needs, but this system is only capable of playing games with very basic minimum requirements.

Additionally, the 250GB hard drive in the Y510 is more storage than most consumers are likely to need in a laptop. Sure, if you download tons of music, movies, and TV shows then you’ll quickly fill the 250GB hard drive in a few months … but that’s what external hard drives are for.

With the basics out of the way, let’s jump into the performance benchmarks.

wPrime is a program that forces the processor to do recursive mathematical calculations, the advantage of this program is that it is multi-threaded and can use both processor cores at once, thereby giving more accurate benchmarking measurements than Super Pi. (Lower numbers mean better performance.)

Notebook / CPU wPrime 32M time
Lenovo IdeaPad Y510 (Core 2 Duo T5450 @ 1.66GHz) 50.184s
HP Pavilion dv6700t (Core 2 Duo T5450 @ 1.66GHz) 50.480s
Dell Inspiron 1525 (Core 2 Duo T7250 @ 2.0GHz) 43.569s
Dell XPS M1530 (Core 2 Duo T7500 @ 2.2GHz)
37.485s
Portable One SXS37 (Core 2 Duo T7250 @ 2.0GHz) 41.908s
Sony VAIO NR (Core 2 Duo T5250 @ 1.5GHz) 58.233s
Toshiba Tecra A9 (Core 2 Duo T7500 @ 2.2GHz) 38.343s
Toshiba Tecra M9 (Core 2 Duo T7500 @ 2.2GHz) 37.299s
HP Compaq 6910p (Core 2 Duo T7300 @ 2GHz) 40.965s
Sony VAIO TZ (Core 2 Duo U7600 @ 1.20GHz) 76.240s
Zepto 6024W (Core 2 Duo T7300 @ 2GHz) 42.385s
Lenovo T61 (Core 2 Duo T7500 @ 2.2GHz) 37.705s
Alienware M5750 (Core 2 Duo T7600 @ 2.33GHz) 38.327s
Hewlett Packard DV6000z (Turion X2 TL-60 @ 2.0GHz) 38.720s
Samsung Q70 (Core 2 Duo T7300 @ 2.0GHz) 42.218s
Acer Travelmate 8204WLMi (Core Duo T2500 @ 2.0GHz) 42.947s
Samsung X60plus (Core 2 Duo T7200 @ 2.0GHz) 44.922s
Zepto Znote 6224W (Core 2 Duo T7300 @ 2.0GHz) 45.788s
Samsung Q35 (Core 2 Duo T5600 @ 1.83GHz) 46.274s

 

3DMark06 comparison results for graphics performance (higher scores mean better performance):

Notebook 3DMark06 Score
Lenovo IdeaPad Y510 (1.66GHz Intel T5450, Intel X3100) 543 3DMarks
HP Pavilion dv6700t (1.66GHz Intel T5450, Nvidia 8400M GS 256MB) 1,556 3DMarks
Dell Inspiron 1525 (2.0GHz Intel T7250, Intel X3100) 545 3DMarks
Sony VAIO NR (1.5GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T5250, Intel X3100) 504 3DMarks
Dell XPS M1530 (2.20GHz Intel T7500, Nvidia 8600M GT 256MB) 4,332 3DMarks
Dell Inspiron 1520 (2.0GHz Intel T7300, NVIDIA 8600M GT) 2,905 3DMarks
Dell XPS M1330 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS 128MB) 1,408 3DMarks
Samsung Q70 (2.0GHz Core 2 Duo T7300 and nVidia 8400M G GPU) 1,069 3DMarks
Asus F3sv-A1 (Core 2 Duo T7300 2.0GHz, Nvidia 8600M GS 256MB) 2,344 3DMarks
Alienware Area 51 m5550 (2.33GHz Core 2 Duo, nVidia GeForce Go 7600 256MB 2,183 3DMarks
Fujitsu Siemens Amilo Xi 1526 (1.66GHz Core Duo, nVidia 7600Go 256 MB) 2,144 3DMarks
Samsung X60plus (2.0GHz Core 2 Duo T7200, ATI X1700 256MB) 1,831 3DMarks
Asus A6J (1.83GHz Core Duo, ATI X1600 128MB) 1,819 3DMarks
HP dv6000t (2.16 GHz Intel T7400, NVIDA GeForce Go 7400) 827 3DMarks

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

Notebook PCMark05 Score
Lenovo IdeaPad Y510 (1.66GHz Intel T5450, Intel X3100) 3,749 PCMarks
HP Pavilion dv6700t (1.66GHz Intel T5450, Nvidia 8400M GS 256MB) 3,386 PCMarks
Dell Inspiron 1525 (2.0GHz Intel T7250, Intel X3100) 4,149 PCMarks
Dell XPS M1530 (2.20GHz Intel T7500, Nvidia 8600M GT 256MB) 5,412 PCMarks
Dell Inspiron 1520 (2.0GHz Intel T7300, NVIDIA 8600M GT) 4,616 PCMarks
Dell XPS M1330 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS) 4,591 PCMarks
Sony VAIO NR (1.5GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T5250, Intel X3100) 3,283 PCMarks
Lenovo ThinkPad X61 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, Intel X3100) 4,153 PCMarks
Lenovo 3000 V200 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, Intel X3100) 3,987 PCMarks
Lenovo T60 Widescreen (2.0GHz Intel T7200, ATI X1400 128MB) 4,189 PCMarks
HP dv6000t (2.16GHz Intel T7400, NVIDA GeForce Go 7400) 4,234 PCMarks
Fujitsu N6410 (1.66GHz Core Duo, ATI X1400) 3,487 PCMarks
Alienware M7700 (AMD Athlon FX-60, Nvidia Go 7800GTX) 5,597 PCMarks
Sony VAIO SZ-110B in Speed Mode (Using Nvidia GeForce Go 7400) 3,637 PCMarks
Asus V6J (1.86GHz Core Duo T2400, Nvidia Go 7400) 3,646 PCMarks


HDTune results:


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Screen

The 15.4" WXGA glossy screen on the Y510 isn’t ideal for HD video, but it does offer sharp contrast, excellent color, and very even backlighting. On the plus side the 15.4" 1280×800 pixel display on the Y510 doesn’t suffer from "graininess" and both the straight-on and horizontal viewing angles were good. Unfortunately both vertical viewing angles were only average or sub par. The screen itself didn’t suffer from ripples or stuck pixels.


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The single most significant problem with the display on the IdeaPad Y510 is the glossy protective layer over the glossy screen. The glossy top layer is not unlike what we’ve seen on tablet notebooks, but unlike tablet notebooks the screen on the Y510 isn’t a touchscreen. While most notebooks with glossy screens only have minor issues with reflections, the screen on the Y510 is so reflective it’s like looking into a mirror.

When viewing the display your eyes naturally shift focus between what is being displayed on the screen and what is being reflected in the glossy surface of the screen. Since these images are on a slightly different focal plane you can easily develop eye strain and headaches from looking at this screen. This is the first notebook I have ever reviewed that actually gave me a severe headache after less than two hours of use.

Below are a few sample images to illustrate the screen reflections on the IdeaPad Y510:


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The reflections on the screen aren’t noticeable at all in a dark room, but most people don’t use their notebooks in the dark unless they’re just watching movies. If you aren’t sensitive to reflections then the screen is beautiful when viewed from straight ahead.

Keyboard, Touchpad and Other Input Buttons

The full-sized keyboard on the Y510 has almost no flex. The only area of flex that we detected during our testing period was at the top edge of the keyboard near the F9 and F10 keys. Unless you are constantly using the F9 and F10 keys it is unlikely that you would ever notice any keyboard flex when typing. The keys have excellent cushion and response and were quiet during use. There are dedicated keys for home, end, page up, and page down. The f-keys also control a range of features (such as raising or lowering screen brightness) when they are pressed in combination with the function key.

Directly above the power button on the left side of the keyboard is a small button labeled "Novo" which provides one-touch access to the "Energy Cut Tool." This built-in power management application allows you to choose between three different preset power options (high, medium, and low) to control your battery usage and extend battery life when traveling.


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The touchpad is nice and large and features a durable and responsive surface that is also covered in the same matte finish as the rest of the notebook chassis. The touchpad buttons have deep feedback and produce quiet, cushioned clicks. As mentioned previously, there’s no ThinkPad pointing stick on this notebook, but since most consumers don’t care about that Lenovo probably made the correct choice leaving it off the Y510.


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The Y510 also features dedicated touch-sensitive media buttons above the keyboard and beneath the speakers. The media buttons make watching DVDs or listening to music files as easy as using a DVD or CD player. These media buttons have amber LED backlights that are always on but aren’t annoyingly bright even in the dark.


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Input and Output Ports

There is a reasonable selection of ports on the Y510 with just about every port the average consumer is likely to need (or want) on a 15-inch notebook. The complete list of ports includes:

  • ExpressCard/54 slot (also supports ExpressCard/34)
  • Three USB 2.0
  • IEEE 1394 Firewire
  • TV out (S-video)
  • 6-in-1 digital media card reader
  • Microphone in
  • Headphone out
  • RJ-11 (modem)
  • RJ-45 (LAN/Ethernet)
  • IR receiver
  • VGA out

Let’s take a quick tour around the port offerings of the Y510:

Front side: LED status lights, wireless on/off switch, 6-in-1 media card reader, and IR receiver.


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Back side: Nothing here but hinge and a LED battery life indicator.


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Left side: DC power jack, Ethernet, heat vent, VGA, two USB 2.0 ports, Firewire, and ExpressCard slot.


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Right side: Headphone out, microphone in, USB 2.0 port, S-Video, optical drive, modem, and lock slot.


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Although it’s somewhat sad to see there are only three USB ports on the Y510 we were also sad to see the lack of a HDMI port. Since the Y510 is clearly designed to be a multimedia notebook we would like to see HDMI on this notebook to connect it to HDTVs with superior signal quality.

Audio

The built-in Dolby Home Theater stereo speakers located above and on both sides of the keyboard are quite impressive. To be fair, I’d have to say the built-in speakers on the Y510 are freaking amazing! While most built-in speakers fail to produce a full range of high, middle, and low frequencies, the four speakers on the Y510 have impressive clarity and loudness with excellent highs and midtones. The Y510 also features an integrated subwoofer located on the bottom of the notebook which delivers deep, satisfying bass.


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There is, of course, a headphone jack located on the right side of the notebook for people who like to plug in earbuds or external speakers. However, with four built-in speakers and a subwoofer like these, why use external speakers?

Heat and Noise

The Y510 runs extremely quiet and in general pretty cool to the touch. The fan remained on most of the time when the notebook was plugged in and turned on frequently while the notebook was on battery power. Although there was minimal warmth coming from the top of the hard drive (left palm rest) the most significant heat came from the hard drive area on the underside of the Y510. That said, the heat coming from the hard drive was still less intense than what we’ve seen on many other 15-inch notebooks. In short, neither heat nor noise should be much of a problem with the Y510.

Below are images with the temperature readings listed in degrees Fahrenheit:


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Battery

The Y510 is available with the standard 6-cell battery which delivers reasonable battery life. With the screen brightness set to about half, wireless on, and the "Novo" Energy Cut Tool set to the medium power setting, the Y510 powered down after 3 hours and 2 minutes. Clearly the 6-cell battery will provide enough power for most short-term travel situations and casual use. Considering that most consumers use 15-inch notebooks as desktop replacements, this level of battery life should be more than satisfactory.

One other item of note regarding the battery is that the 6-cell battery fit snug inside the notebook and firmly locks into place. I thought this was worth mentioning since more and more consumer notebooks from other companies seem to have loose batteries. It’s nice to see that Lenovo cares about the "fit and finish" on these IdeaPads.


Conclusion

The Lenovo IdeaPad Y510 is a solid notebook with some innovative features that deserves close consideration. Lenovo has taken a giant leap from their popular ThinkPad line of business notebooks in an attempt to attract general consumer laptop shoppers. The IdeaPad Y510 isn’t just a cheap ThinkPad in a pretty plastic shell, it’s a unique notebook that has a lot to offer consumers who need a reasonably priced desktop replacement with good multimedia features.

Sure, we would have liked to see an HDMI port and dedicated graphics option (here in the US) for a can’t-miss multimedia package. But the lack of these features is hardly a deal breaker for most consumers. In fact, the only "serious" negative issue with the new Y510 is the overly reflective glossy screen. It’s one thing to have a glossy screen, but it’s something else when the display is so reflective that it might as well be a mirror.

In the end, if you can live with the reflections on the screen (and the fact this isn’t a ThinkPad) then the IdeaPad Y510 is one of the best 15-inch consumer notebooks currently available.

Pros

  • Excellent built-in speakers
  • Solid construction
  • Attractive design
  • Nice one-touch power management

Cons

  • Overly glossy/reflective display
  • A little heavy compared to competition


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