Lenovo IdeaPad Y550 Review

by Kevin O'Brien Reads (106,093)

Overview

  • Pros

    • Textured lid design
    • Better than average speakers
    • Comfortable keyboard and touchpad
  • Cons

    • Minor fit and finish concerns
    • Low 1366x768 screen resolution

The IdeaPad Y550 is a 15.6″ multimedia notebook from Lenovo offered in a mix of affordable and high-end configurations. The top of the list system options include an Intel Core i7 processor and NVIDIA GT 240M dedicated graphics while more affordable systems include standard Core 2 Duo processors and integrated graphics. In this review we look at a model equipped with the Intel T6400 processor and Intel X4500 integrated graphics.

Our Lenovo IdeaPad Y550 Specifications:

  • Windows Vista Home Premium with SP2 (Now available with Windows 7 64-bit)
  • Intel Core 2 Duo T6400 2.0GHz (2MB Cache, 800MHz FSB)
  • 4GB DDR3 SDRAM (1066MHz)
  • 320GB 5400 rpm SATA HDD
  • 15.6-inch LED-backlit WXGA display (glossy, 1366×768)
  • Intel X4500MHD integrated graphics
  • Intel 5100AGN
  • Ports and connectors: (2) USB 2.0 ports, eSATA/USB Combo, VGA, HDMI, SDHC-Card reader, RJ-45/Ethernet (Gigabit), stereo headphone/line out, stereo microphone in, 1.3 megapixel webcam
  • Dimensions: (LxWxH) 15.2″ x 10.0″ x 1.02″ to 1.5
  • Weight: 5lbs 13.5oz
  • 11.1v 56Wh 6-cell battery
  • One-year standard warranty
  • MSRP: $813


Build and Design
The Lenovo IdeaPad Y550 has a modern design with a sleek shape and a rather pronounced contrasting color scheme. The exterior view of the Y550 when closed is thin and flat with a thick orange trim piece breaking up the two black halves on the notebook. From a distance the outside color of the screen cover appears to be matte black, but looking at it closer it is actually a faintly embossed surface. This particular design is an overlapping honey-comb finish that gives the notebook a nice subtle look while also giving it a light texture. The inside is a combination of a glossy black and metallic grey with chrome accented speakers and white LED-backlit controls. I really think that the Lenovo design staff has to hold so much back when building ThinkPad models that they really go all out with the IdeaPad series.

The Y550 feels well built compared to most consumer notebooks but still seems like it could be improved in some areas. The screen hinges are pretty stiff and requires two hands to open the cover. The lip of the cover works against you when trying to open the screen since it hugs the palmrest closely. The screen cover has some minor flex but still does a good job at preventing screen distortions when you press on the back of the display. The chassis has some minor flex when you hold the notebook in the air by the edge of the palmrest, but it still feels solid if firmly pressed when the notebook is sitting on a flat surface. The keyboard doesn’t flex much, but right above the optical drive if you press hard enough you can get the keyboard base to make a clicking sound. Fit and finish is good overall, but one area stuck out in a nit-picking way. I believe the speaker grills are supposed to sit flush with the bezel above the keyboard and on both speakers one edge sticks up higher than the other.


Screen and Speakers

The WXGA display on the Y550 appears to be the highest resolution offered on this model. Even the better configurations are limited to 1366×768. This is lacking when compared to the Dell Studio 15 that can be configured with a 1080p panel in configurations starting at less than $800. The panel offers good color and contrast, ranking middle of the pack compared to most notebooks. Black levels are good at low and middle backlight levels, but show some backlight creep near 100%. Peak brightness levels are great for viewing in bright office conditions with a comfortable home viewing level somewhere between 60 and 70%. Viewing angles appear average with colors showing significant inversion in as little as 10 degrees when tilted back. Horizontal viewing angles look much better, showing no notable color shift even when viewing from the very edge of the screen.

The Lenovo IdeaPad Y550 has above average sounding speakers, making use of two primary speakers up top and a subwoofer below. Listening to music and movies the speakers have good midrange and bass, but is still weak compared to other notebooks with dedicated subwoofers. Peak volume levels sound strong enough to be listened to in a small or mid-size room, but not loud enough to over-power a lot of background noise. For watching feature-length movies in large rooms the HDMI-port is a great way to pass digital audio over to a home theater system.


Keyboard and Touchpad
The keyboard is comfortable to type on and has a pretty solid typing surface. Transitioning to this keyboard from my ThinkPad was no problem, especially since the key action felt very similar. The only tactile difference I found between this keyboard and the ThinkPad keyboard is the key shape; the ThinkPad keys have a more “cupped” feel to them.

The Y550 has a spacious Synaptics touchpad with a very nice texture. While some notebook manufacturers might carry the glossy palmrest surface onto the touchpad, Lenovo breaks it up with a barely-bumpy texture that is easier to slide over. Out of the box it was hard to slide across and almost tacky from the multitouch sticker over it, but with some oil build-up over the first few hours it broke in perfectly. Sensitivity is great out of the box… requiring only a light touch to move the cursor across the screen. Lag is not present under any circumstance including very fast movement. The touchpad buttons have a long throw and emit a mild click when fully pressed.

Ports and Features
Port selection is adequate although I feel there was enough room left unused to account for an additional USB port. The Lenovo IdeaPad Y550 offers two USB ports, one eSATA/USB combo port, VGA and HDMI ports, Ethernet, and audio jacks. Expansion slots include an ExpressCard/34 slot and SDHC-card slot.

Lenovo also includes a number of touch-sensitive and click-style buttons around the keyboard to control quick access functions. The standard buttons include one to switch video modes, another to load the Dolby audio control panel, and audio switches to adjust volume and mute the speakers. A blinking slider bar in the middle lets you quickly access four pre-set Lenovo applications.


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