Lenovo IdeaPad Y650 Review

by Reads (97,823)

by Jerry Jackson

The IdeaPad Y650 is a multimedia notebook from Lenovo with a beautiful 16-inch screen, HDMI out, a giant touchpad with multi-touch controls, and enough power and storage to serve as your primary family PC. With a thin (almost MacBook-like) appearance and a starting price of $1,299, how does the Lenovo IdeaPad Y650 stand up against the competition? Keep reading and we’ll let you know.

Click here to compare prices for the Lenovo IdeaPad Y650

Lenovo IdeaPad Y650 Specifications:

  • Windows Vista Home Premium (SP1, 64-bit)
  • Intel Core 2 Duo processor P8700 (2.53GHz, 3MB L2 Cache, 1066MHz FSB)
  • 16.0 ” TFT Widescreen display with LED backlighting (1366×768)
  • 4GB PC3-8500 DDR3 SDRAM 1066MHz System Memory
  • NVIDIA GeForce G 105M graphics with 256MB discrete memory
  • 320GB 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: 5.8 lb. including battery
  • Dimensions: 390 X 260 X 26.1 mm
  • Warranty: 1 year system and 1 year battery
  • 6-cell 2000mAh 42Wh battery
  • Retail Price as configured: $1,399

Build and Design

The IdeaPad Y650 has an all-new look compared to previous IdeaPad notebooks. As part of the new IdeaPad refresh earlier this year, the Y650 distinguishes itself as being one of the thinnest and lightest laptops in its class. In fact, the Y650 weighs less than the old Y530 15-inch laptop (5.8 pounds vs. 6.65 pounds as tested). Making use of thin metal, solid plastics, and even carbon fiber, Lenovo engineered this 16-inch laptop to be as thin and light as possible. The matte black exterior looks extremely classy. Inside the notebook the black exterior changes to a glossy white surface that surrounds the keyboard and touchpad. The massive palmrests (more on that later) provide excellent support with minimal flex. Overall, the design is very clean and gives the Apple MacBook a run for the money at first glance.

Build quality is excellent with a very rugged feel for a consumer multimedia notebook. When closed the Y650 feels almost as sturdy as the business-class ThinkPad notebooks with very little flex in the screen cover under strong pressure. On closer inspection of the lid, the matte black surface has a honeycomb pattern for subtle styling and easy gripping thanks to the rubberized paint. 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 without showing much wear. 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 the battery and an all-in-one bottom plate that must be removed in order to upgrade the RAM, hard drive, or replace any additional components. On one hand, this makes it easy to access the entire motherboard to make upgrades or repairs, but it also means Y650 owners have to remove 20 screws if they want to upgrade their notebook.

Unlike most notebooks that feature an optical drive (DVD/CD drive) located on the side of the notebook, Lenovo decided to move the optical drive to the front of the Y650. On the bright side, this means right-handed mouse users won’t have to worry about the drive getting in the way. However, if you often use your notebook as a “laptop” this means the drive pops out into your crotch.

Display

The 16-inch panel on the Lenovo Y650 rates above average with vibrant colors and excellent contrast. The LED backlighting in our review unit is slightly uneven in the upper right corner, but that’s not entirely uncommon for larger notebook screens. 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 above average since the colors don’t wash out when viewed from above, but colors do begin to distort and invert as you move the screen back.

 

If there is any potential negative about this screen it’s that the 16:9 ratio means you lose some vertical resolution. Most 15-inch laptop screens with a 16:10 ratio have a resolution of 1280×800 compared to the screen on the Y650 which has a resolution of 1366×768. This means you can fit more on the screen from left to right, but the screen is actually smaller from top to bottom.

Keyboard and Touchpad

The keyboard on the Y650 is quite unusual compared to the keyboards on most large multimedia notebooks. As notebooks get larger they usually end up using progressively larger keyboards, some that even include dedicated number pads like a traditional desktop keyboard. Lenovo decided to take a distinctly different approach and use a smaller keyboard in order to make more room available for a massive multi-touch touchpad.

As a result, the keyboard on the Y650 is roughly the same size as the keyboard you expect to find on a 14-inch or 13-inch laptop. This provides much more room for the touchpad, but it has the unfortunate side effect of turning the palmrests into armrests. The position of the keyboard is so far back that your forearms end up resting where your palms normally would. These “armrests” are so large I almost expected to find a built-in cup holder.

Despite the size of the keyboard relative to the rest of the notebook, the keyboard is quite comfortable to type on with reasonable key size and spacing. There is some flex when heavy typing pressure is applied, but overall this is a fine keyboard.

The touch sensitive media bar located above the keyboard gives quick access to EasyCapture (webcam controls), ReadyComm (wireless connectivity manager), VeriFace (facial recognition software), and OneKey (back up and recovery software).

The Synaptics-based touchpad is very large–much bigger than those found on previous IdeaPads–and very comfortable to use. Sensitivity is good, accurately tracking finger movement with little pressure on the surface. The matte white touchpad surface is easy to move your finger across while still providing a small amount of traction. 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 rather loud “click” when pressed.

Ports and Features

The port selection proved to be a little underwhelming with this laptop. Lenovo’s engineers had to make some sacrifices in order to make the Y650 as thin and light as possible. This means the Y650 only has two USB ports, a smaller ExpressCard/34 slot rather than a larger ExpressCard/54 expansion slot, and no FireWire. Lenovo was kind enough to put an eSATA port on this notebook, but it would have been more impressive if they used an eSATA/USB combo port so that users could have a third USB port if they needed it.


Front: Wireless On/Off, optical drive


Rear: Screen hinge


Left: AC-Power, HDMI, VGA, and USB


Right: 6-in-1 card reader, USB, Headphone/Mic, eSATA, ExpressCard/34, Ethernet, Kensington lock slot

Speakers and Audio

The IdeaPad Y650 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 it’s hard to complain about the quality of these speakers considering how light and thin this notebook is compared to most 16-inch and 17-inch notebooks.

 

Performance

The performance of the Lenovo IdeaPad Y650 with an Intel Core 2 Duo P8700 processor and NVIDIA GeForce G 105M discrete graphics card was slightly less impressive than multimedia oriented notebooks like the Dell Studio XPS 16 which offered a better graphics card. On the other hand, the Y650 performed much better than the previous generation IdeaPad.

For day-to-day use or enjoying high definition video content the Y650 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 Y650 falls behind the competition, delivering frame rates and producing benchmark scores that are only about half as good as some larger multimedia notebooks. Still, the key thing to keep in mind here is that the alternative notebooks in this class are heavier and thicker than the Y650.

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 Y650 (Core 2 Duo P8700 @ 2.53GHz) 30.126s
Dell Studio XPS 16 (Core 2 Duo P8600 @ 2.4GHz) 31.827s
Lenovo IdeaPad Y530 (Core 2 Duo P7350 @ 2.0GHz) 38.455s
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

 

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

Notebook PCMark05 Score
Lenovo IdeaPad Y650 (2.53GHz Intel P8700, NVIDIA GeForce G 105M 256MB) 5,575 PCMarks
Dell Studio XPS 16 (2.4GHz Intel P8600, ATI Mobility RADEON HD 3670 512MB) 6,303 PCMarks
Lenovo IdeaPad Y530 (2.0GHz Intel P7350, Nvidia 9300M 256MB) 4,844 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


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

Notebook 3DMark06 Score
Lenovo IdeaPad Y650 (2.53GHz Intel P8700, NVIDIA GeForce G 105M 256MB) 2,472 3DMarks
Dell Studio XPS 16 (2.4GHz Intel P8600, ATI Mobility RADEON HD 3670 512MB) 4,855 3DMarks
Lenovo IdeaPad Y530 (2.0GHz Intel P7350, Nvidia 9300M 256MB) 1,833 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
Dell XPS M1530 (2.20GHz Intel T7500, Nvidia 8600M GT 256MB) 4,332 3DMarks

 

All of the 3DMark06 scores for all of the systems listed above were run at 1280 x 800 resolution. However, due to the screen resolution limit on the Y650 we benchmarked the Y650 at 1280×720 … 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 50%, wireless active, and the Vista power profile set to “Balanced” the Y530 stayed on for 3 hours and 12 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 traveling. The 6-cell 2000mAh 42Wh battery seems almost a little too small for this notebook, but that’s a price you have to pay for such a thin 16-inch laptop.

Heat and Noise

The cooling system worked very well, keeping the outside temperatures of the Y650 down to the high 80s, even after extended periods of use. The left palmrest (or armrest) felt a little warmer due to the fact that the battery is located directly below this area, but all things considered the Y650 kept its cool.

 

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 became quite loud. 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 produced some moderate clicking noise while accessing data, but this was rarely loud enough to be distracting.

Conclusion

The Lenovo IdeaPad Y650 has a durable chassis, good overall performance, great sounding speakers, and a nice design with a great multi-touch touchpad. The keyboard was a little disappointing and having only two USB ports might be a problem for some people, but overall the design is quite impressive. While we are glad to see the graphics performance of the Y650 exceeds the performance of the old Y530, the new NVIDIA GeForce G 105M dedicated graphics card just didn’t perform as well in games compared to other 16-inch notebooks we’ve tested.

That said, the Y650 is thinner and lighter than any other 16-inch notebook we’ve seen … and the discrete graphics card in this machine is perfectly capable of handling HD video decoding and digital audio out over HDMI for watching movies on your HDTV. If you’re looking for an attractive entertainment notebook for your family the Y650 makes a great choice, but if you need a high-end gaming notebook this isn’t it.

Pros:

  • Excellent build quality
  • Solid performance
  • Fantastic touchpad
  • Good speakers

Cons:

  • Limited selection of ports for a 16-inch multimedia notebook
  • Keyboard is a little small considering the size of the notebook
  • All-in-one bottom plate means you have to remove too many screws for upgrades
  • Who needs palmrests when you can have armrests?


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