What will welcome you is a rather compact, black box with giant LEGION on top. It’s not the classiest packaging around, but hey, it’s what’s inside that counts, right? I do not like to dwell too much about the unboxing, but I do have to mention few things. First of all, it’s very easy to open. You partially rip off a part on the side of the box, that can also double as a handle, and that’s it, you’re in. The soft styrofoam the laptop’s in opens like double doors revealing the device in it’s protective cover. Everything else is under the styrofoam in a separate compartment.
The new iteration of the Legion line of notebooks underwent a major facelift. Gone are the aggressive angles and angry red accents. There’s only one illumination on the screen lid which forms a three-pronged star in the letter “O” in “Legion”. There’s also a nice groove pattern on the whole lid starting of the same “O”.
The words I’d use to describe the new Legion look is utilitarianism and moderation. Y530 embraces thin screen bezels as a first in Lenovo’s budget gaming line-up. Not only does it translate to a sleek look, akin to higher tier laptops, but also allowed Lenovo to shrink the overall footprint of the device. It’s slightly thinner and whole 2cm narrower than Y520, and while it retains about the same depth, it feels smaller due to the location of the hinge. It’s not placed at the edge of the device, but it’s offset by bit over 2cm from the edge. Yet another feature that’s usually present in higher tier gaming laptops. It makes the laptop feel much sturdier and leaves more space for cooling.
Keyboard & mouse input
Let’s start with the keyboard. Other than using white backlight it’s the same keyboard as in Y520 with all its goodness and the same new layout, which I believe can be quite divisive. Personally, I find the layout great. Many have tried to squeeze a full keyboard into a laptop, but few have managed to do so with so little compromise. The main part of the keyboard has mostly the same layout as a regular desktop keyboard including the arrow keys, which are neither half-height nor are surrounded by other keys as they often are in other devices. Where the keyboard deviates the most from the classic design is the numpad, which will take a while to get used to. Even if you’re not a fan of keyboards with numpad on laptops I’m sure you’ll be fine with this one since it’s also been slightly shrunk compared to the other keys. Note that it has 4 columns of keys while the arrow keys under It, having the same size as the rest of the keyboard, consist of 3. It’s not a mechanical keyboard and the actuation is quite soft, but it’s far better than your usual membrane keyboard.
Closeup of the keyboard made with low light sensitivity One aspect that in my opinion deservers attention is the backlight. Sure, there’s no RGB flair in it, but what caught my attention is that the way the light is scattered under the keys. I’m not entirely sure how it’s achieved, but the light from the backlight comes in form of tiny specs, which looks gorgeous up close. Y520 had the same solution but with red colour instead of white. You'll be able to toggle from off, 50% and 100% brightness settings by the usual Fn + Space key combination.
Trackpad. It does the job but doesn’t get much further than that. It’s fairly small, but it has dedicated hardware buttons – that’s a big plus. However, the buttons themselves feel rather cheap and tend to resonate when playing sounds, especially within 200-400Hz range, creating a buzzing noise now and then. This is a gaming notebook so obviously you’ll be looking to pair it with a gaming mouse ASAP. I’d like to see the laptop to turn off the touchpad automatically once you plug in a mouse, but fortunately it still can be accomplished with a simple key combination.
Storage & RAM
While Lenovo gives us plenty in terms of ports available for storage, which consist of m.2 slot with NVMe support and 2.5” SATA, I’d recommend avoiding the configurations with 2.5” drive only and the ones with 128GB Toshiba SSD. Having NVMe drive for the OS should be a standard in 2018 as it greatly improves the responsiveness. The problem with the 128GB SSD is that it’s very underwhelming for an NVMe drive. It’s read speeds are decent, but write speeds fall below those of a SATA SSD.
There’s 2 SODIMM slots available for a total of 32GB maximum RAM capacity (2x16GB). The reviewed unit came with 2x8GB sticks running at 2666MT/s. One thing worth mentioning is that the RAM slots are covered by E/M shield. It is fairly easy to remove it, but nonetheless it is an extra step.
Ports & Screen
The device has a total of four USB 3.1 ports, one being a USB-C port. The rest, one on each side and one on the back are USB-A ports. I really like this solution as you never have to remember where your USB ports are located – they’re basically everywhere. The remaining ports are on the back. They include a full-size HDMI (2.0), mini DisplayPort (1.4), gigabit ethernet and traditional rectangular Lenovo charging port. Kensington lock is also located at the back. The front houses only the speakers and no ports.
Back: vent, USB-C, mini DisplayPort, HDMI, Ethernet, power, Kensington lock and more vents
Left side: USB 3.1, combo jack
Right side: USB 3.1, recovery pinhole, power indicator LED
The unit I’m reviewing has an IPS panel with 1080p resolution and 60Hz refresh rate. At this price range I must say I’m completely satisfied with it. On paper, it doesn’t look great due to average colour reproduction and brightness, but it does make up in good contrast ratio and viewing angles. I do like the lowest brightness level being very low, as it’s perfect for viewing with little no to ambient lighting. It does not exhibit PWM flickering, so users susceptible to it do not have to worry.
The i5 8300h variant scores 9374 in Passmark benchmark while i7 8750h reaches a whopping 12540 on average, though I managed to reach 14246. With the hexa-core i7 you can expect performance comparable to desktop CPUs like i7 7700 or from current generation i5 8600 and Ryzen 2600. I was truly blown away to see a 6 core CPU in Y530, which I thought to be reserved for high-end and expensive gaming laptops. With 12 logical cores due to Hyper Threading you’ll have plenty of room for any parallel workloads like hosting multiple virtual machines, media processing, CAD software, etc. Since the CPU will happily Turbo Boost over 4GHz, tasks relying on single-core performance are no biggie either. Even the i5 variant is no slouch matching the performance of the fastest mobile i7 of the previous generation (7820hk). From gaming perspective there’s not much benefit of having those 2 extra cores, as most games available right now see diminishing benefits with every logical cover after 4. It’s still a valid choice if you were to be multitasking while gaming, or if you intend to use it not only for gaming but also for workloads that can benefit from higher core count as mentioned earlier. The whole package makes up a quite powerful and portable workstation.
Cinebench CPU benchmark resultUnigine Heaven Benchmark results
Can it virtualise your reality?
1050Ti is usually listed as minimum or below the minimum specs required for VR. Since I’m an avid fan of VR I decided to give it a try anyway. I tested the laptop using Lenovo Explorer, HTC Vive and Samsung Odyssey. Unfortunately, I couldn’t test it with Rift, since I do not possess one. Results were rather surprisingly positive. I was able to play the popular Beat Saber with no problem at all. Arizona Sunshine worked OK, but there was an occasional stutter happening now and then. Still, it was smooth enough not to cause any nauseating effect. The only title I found the Y530 to struggle with was Fallout 4 VR. Moving your head around in the world was smooth as butter but for some reasons your hands’ movement stutters consistently. It probably could be remedied with some tweaking, but I decided not to bother at this time. In the end I can comfirm the Y530 is capable of running VR, but depending on a title you might have to sacrifice some quality and some titles can prove to be challenging to run smoothly.
SteamVR performance test
One thing I must point out when it comes to VR is how convenient it is to pair a laptop with Windows Mixed Reality headset. Unlike Vive or Rift it doesn’t require any external power sources or devices i.e. Rift cameras or Vive lighthouses. However, there is a catch. Since WMR cliffhouse is constantly running in the background it consumes a fair amount of video memory (at least 700MB), and since 1050Ti has only 4GB, you can run into some issues. To minimise possibility of that happening, make sure to set the video settings in WMR settings to “low”. It only applies to WMR cliffhouse so it won’t affect the quality in-game.
Both the GPU and CPU are located around the middle of the device, but closer to the back. The heat is then spread to the radiators located in both rear corners of the device via heatpipes. There are two fans in each corner sucking in air from under the laptop and passing it to the back and the sides. During GPU benchmarks the cooling system had no problems dealing with the heat generated by the 1050Ti. When benchmarking the CPU the temperatures were reaching over 90°C (195°F), but still did not cause any throttling and the CPU stayed within 3.8-3.9GHz. To make it throttle I had to run a torture test from Prime95, which forced the CPU to drop the clock to around 3.1GHz to stay under 90°C (195°F).
The Y530 has an inbuilt battery rated at slightly over 52Wh. You won’t get a full days’ worth of charge reaching the category average of around four and a half hours with Wi-Fi on and screen brightness set to 50%. For a gaming laptop it’s a respectable result.
With solid performance and aggressive pricing, I believe Lenovo created a budged gaming machine that for now will be really hard to beat. I wish there was an option with higher-end GPU but apparently it’s already in the making. It’s surprising to see Lenovo abandon the usual flashiness so common in the gaming laptop category, but I believe this is the right direction that will appeal to a much broader community.