Lenovo IdeaPad Y530 Review

by Kevin O'Brien Reads (99,294)

by Kevin O’Brien

The IdeaPad Y530 is a multimedia notebook from Lenovo with surround speakers and subwoofer, HDMI out, touch-sensitive media controls, and a “frameless” display panel. With a wide range of multimedia features this notebook is aimed at dorm rooms or even acting as the media hub for a home theater system. Priced at $999, just how well does the Lenovo IdeaPad Y530 stand up against the competition in a pretty packed market segment?

Lenovo IdeaPad Y530 Specifications:

  • Windows Vista Home Premium (SP1, 32-bit)
  • Intel Core 2 Duo processor P7350 (2GHz, 3MB L2 Cache, 1066MHz FSB)
  • 15.4″ WXGA Glossy Widescreen Display (1280 x 800)
  • 2GB DDR2 System Memory (2 x 1GB, supports up to 4GB)
  • NVIDIA GeForce 9300M with 256MB VRAM
  • 250GB 5400RPM SATA Hard 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 5100AGN
  • Weight: 6.65 lb. including battery
  • Dimensions: 14.2″ x 10.3″ x 1.2″-1.4″ (360mm x262mm x 29-36mm)
  • Warranty: 1 year system and 1 year battery
  • 6-cell 5200mAh 57Wh battery
  • Retail Price as configured: $999

Build and Design

The IdeaPad Y530 has a very low-key design with an all-black shell similar to the ThinkPad notebooks. On closer inspection the black surface has a crosshatch pattern for mild styling and easy gripping. Inside the notebook the black exterior changes to a glossy black surface that surrounds the screen which blends with the touch sensitive media control bar. The palmrest and keyboard bezel is one solid piece of brushed metal, trimmed with black plastic. I really like the clean look and consistent color scheme which some notebook manufacturers sometime overlook.

Build quality is excellent with a very rugged feel for a consumer notebook. When closed the Y530 feels as sturdy as a hard cover book with very little flex in the screen cover under strong pressure. The body gives the notebook a great deal of support and the plastics used feel rugged enough to withstand regular day-to-day abuse without showing much for wear. The brushed metal palmrest surface is fairly rigid, even near the perforated holes that expose the main speakers. The only area that could see some mild improvement is the keyboard which shows some flex under heavy typing pressure.

The bottom of the notebook features easy access for upgrading system parts that include the RAM, wireless card, graphics card, processor, and hard drive. In our review unit the ram, processor, and wireless card all had small stickers placed over the screws or clips, but they did not appear to be security stickers.

Display

The WXGA panel on the Lenovo Y530 rates average with vibrant colors, evenly lit bright backlighting, and good contrast. Vertical viewing angles were typical with a narrow sweet spot where colors are accurate before distorting as you move the screen forward or back. Horizontal viewing angles were slightly better, although instead of distorting, the screen would just fade out and all you could see was the reflection coming off of the “frameless” screen.

While some could say this is a privacy feature, it was more of an annoyance if you were trying to show someone sitting next to you something on the screen with a bright light source (window, lamp) next to you. In brightly lit rooms you also get lots of things reflecting off of the screen, including your face as you sit in front of the notebook. Some people might get annoyed by the reflections while others might take that compromise for the seamless look of the front panel. It is best to check one “all-glass” panels out in person before you purchase a notebook that has it.

Keyboard and Touchpad

The keyboard is designed much like the style used on the ThinkPad series, with a few changes. The layout is more like a consumer notebook, with a single row of function keys, instead of the two rows found on the ThinkPad business notebooks. The keyboard was comfortable to type on with perfect key size and spacing. Each key had a slight metallic clicking sound with soft feedback when pressed. While it isn’t the loudest keyboard we have seen on a notebook it does rank up towards the top.

The touch sensitive media bar located above the keyboard gives quick access to media controls and with a press of a button switches to sound profile options to change the equalizer.

The Synaptics-based touchpad is very large, much bigger than those found on the ThinkPad series; and very comfortable to use. Sensitivity was good, accurately tracking your finger movement with little pressure on the surface. The semi-gloss touchpad surface was easy to move your finger across even when sweaty, while still providing a small amount of traction. The touchpad buttons gave excellent feedback when pressed, with a deep throw and soft click. This goes against the grain for consumer notebooks with most only using shallow feedback “clicking” buttons.

Performance

The performance of the Lenovo IdeaPad Y530 with an Intel Core 2 Duo P7350 processor and NVIDIA 9300M graphics card was slightly under multimedia oriented notebooks like the Gateway MC7803u which offered a better graphics card. For day to day use or enjoying high definition video content the Y530 performed quite well. For the average user, both machines performed at roughly the same speed for web browsing, watching movies, typing documents, and fast startups or shutdowns. Gaming is where the Y530 falls behind the competition, equipped with only a 9300M graphics card while others use a more powerful graphics card such as the ATI 3650. This could mean the difference between running some of the latest games with at moderate resolution or lowering the resolution and heavily tweaking the detail settings.

WPrime is a benchmark similar to Super Pi in that it forces the processor to do intense mathematical calculations, but the difference is this application is multi-threaded and represents dual core processors better. Lower numbers indicate better performance.

Notebook / CPU wPrime 32M time
Lenovo IdeaPad Y530 (Core 2 Duo P7350 @ 2.0GHz) 38.455s
HP Pavilion dv4t (Core 2 Duo T9600 @ 2.8GHz) 26.972s
Dell Studio 15 (Core 2 Duo T5750 @ 2.0GHz)
41.246s
HP Pavilion dv5z (Turion X2 Ultra ZM-80 @ 2.1GHz)
39.745s
Dell Vostro 1510 (Core 2 Duo T5670 @ 1.8GHz) 51.875s
Dell Inspiron 1525 (Core 2 Duo T7250 @ 2.0GHz) 43.569s
Dell XPS M1530 (Core 2 Duo T7500 @ 2.2GHz)
37.485s
HP Pavilion dv6500z (Turion 64 X2 TL-60 @ 2.0GHz) 40.759s
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
Lenovo T61 (Core 2 Duo T7500 @ 2.2GHz) 37.705s
HP Pavilion dv6000z (Turion X2 TL-60 @ 2.0GHz) 38.720s

 

PCMark05 measures overall notebook performance based on processor, hard drive, operating system, RAM, and graphics (higher scores are better):

Notebook PCMark05 Score
Lenovo IdeaPad Y530 (2.0GHz Intel P7350, Nvidia 9300M 256MB) 4,844 PCMarks
HP Pavilion dv4t (2.8GHz Intel T9600, Nvidia 9200M GS 256MB) 5,463 PCMarks
Dell Studio 15 (2.0GHz Intel T5750, Intel X3100)
3,998 PCMarks
HP Pavilion dv5z (2.1GHz Turion X2 Ultra ZM-80, ATI Radeon HD 3200)
3,994 PCMarks
Dell Vostro 1510 (1.8GHz Intel T5670, Intel X3100) 3,568 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
Sony VAIO NR (1.5GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T5250, Intel X3100)  3,283 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


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

Notebook 3DMark06 Score
Lenovo IdeaPad Y530 (2.0GHz Intel P7350, Nvidia 9300M 256MB) 1,833 3DMarks
HP Pavilion dv4t (2.8GHz Intel T9600, Nvidia 9200M GS 256MB) 1,741 3DMarks
Dell Studio 15 (2.0GHz Intel T5750, Intel X3100) 493 3DMarks
HP Pavilion dv5z (2.1GHz Turion X2 Ultra ZM-80, ATI Radeon HD 3200)   1,599 3DMarks
Dell Vostro 1510 (1.8GHz Intel T5670, Intel X3100) 519 3DMarks
Dell Inspiron 1525 (2.0GHz Intel T7250, Intel X3100) 545 3DMarks
HP Pavilion dv6500z (2.0GHz AMD Turion 64 X2 TL-60, NVIDIA 8400m GS)  1,551 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
HP dv6000t (2.16 GHz Intel T7400, NVIDA GeForce Go 7400) 827 3DMarks

 

All of the 3DMark06 scores for all of the systems listed above were run at 1280 x 800 or 1280 x 768 resolution. We also ran PCMark Vantage on the IdeaPad Y530 and obtained a score of 3,278.

HDTune results:

Ports and Features

The port selection was more than adequate, offering three USB ports, VGA, HDMI, LAN, Firewire, modem, headphone/mic, ExpressCard/54, and a 6-in-1 card reader. An additional USB port or eSATA connection would have been greatly appreciated, since the port configuration could be adjusted to allow another connection.


Front: Wireless On/Off, 6-in-1 card reader


Rear: Screen hinge


Left: AC-Power, LAN, VGA, two USB, HDMI, ExpressCard/54


Right: Headphone/Mic, one USB, Firewire, Optical drive, modem, Kensington lock slot

Speakers and Audio

The IdeaPad Y530 offers 4.1 surround sound, with front and rear speakers, and a down firing subwoofer. While most notebook speakers sound anemic lacking bass and midrange, the Y530 speakers were pretty nice. It didn’t have chest thumping bass from the subwoofer, but it had just enough to help fill in for the main speakers that were lacking any bass. The surround sound speaker placement was odd, with the “rear” channel being located right beneath the screen, actually in front of the main speakers. I was just happy it included speakers for those channels since they are usually missing on notebooks.

Battery

With the screen brightness set to 60%, wireless active, and the Vista power profile set to “Balanced” the Y530 stayed on for 3 hours and 22 minutes. For untethered use in the classroom taking notes or on your lap in front of the TV time on battery was fine, but it may be cutting it close to traveling.

Heat and Noise

The cooling system worked very well, keeping the outside temperatures of the Y530 down to the high 80s, even after extended periods of uptime. The palmrest while only measuring 91 degrees Fahrenheit at the hottest felt slightly warmer compared to other notebooks with the increased heat transfer properties of the brushed metal surface.

Noise levels were kept to a minimum, even with the fan on. During normal use the fan stayed running at a low speed, drawing cool air through the system. It was not loud enough to be noticed in a loud room unless you put your ear next to the vent. Even under heavy benchmarking the system fan never kicked up to a higher speed during our testing.


Conclusion

The Lenovo IdeaPad Y530 has a durable chassis and great sounding sound system, but could be improved in the graphics department. Limited to the NVIDIA 9300M dedicated graphics card which can be found in some netbooks, the Y530 doesn’t perform that well in games compared to other competing notebooks. For consumers the main use of the dedicated graphics would be for HD video decoding and digital audio out over HDMI for watching movies on your home television. For movies on the go the Y530 has a good surround sound system, which is a good step above what we usually see on most notebooks. With a better graphics card the Y530 would stand out from the crowd, but as it is the NVIDIA 9300M is the biggest limiting factor.

Pros:

  • Good build quality
  • Excellent sounding speaker system
  • Comfortable keyboard and touchpad

Cons:

  • Weak NVIDIA 9300M graphics card
  • Super glossy “frameless” display is very reflective




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