At first glance, the Lenovo IdeaPad Y500 doesn't look like anything special.
This thick, heavy (6.2-pound), 15.6-inch laptop is encased in a plain, sturdy chassis with a brushed-aluminum cover. It's sleek-looking, though strangely prone to fingerprints. Lenovo's logo is subtly appliquéd in the upper left corner, and the edges of the corner taper ever so slightly.
Beneath this mild-mannered design lies a surprisingly good gaming machine
Nothing would indicate that this is actually a rather powerful--and surprisingly affordable--gaming-oriented machine with a third-generation Intel Core i7 processor, 16GB of RAM, and not one but two Nvidia GeForce GT 650M graphics cards under the hood. (The second graphics card is wedged into the laptop's "Ultrabay," which is Lenovo's term for the swappable drive bay that replaces the DVD drive.)
Of course, our review model, in all its spec'd out glory--it's also got a 1TB hard drive, a 16GB SSD boot drive, a glossy full HD display, and a full-sized backlit keyboard with a 10-key numberpad--starts at around $1150. That's a bit pricier than the $800 base model of the Y500, but it's still a great price for a gaming laptop.
It's also a surprisingly affordable gaming machine
Performance-wise, this build of the Y500 is very good, though it can't quite hold its own with the more intense gaming models. It received a score of 70 (out of 100) on our WorldBench 8 benchmark tests, which puts it well above most mainstream laptops, but still below behemoths like the $3785 Origin EON17-SLX (which scored 115 out of 100). Still, this is one of the better laptops we've tested, and its graphics performance is comparable to that of the EON17-SLX. In our Dirt Showdown graphics test, the Y500 managed 116.1 frames per second (fps), while the EON17-SLX managed 139.5 fps.
In other words: If you're a gamer, this is a viable, and much more affordable, alternative to an Origin desktop replacement.
Red-rimmed keys are so dazzling, they're a bit hard to navigate
The Y500 looks good, too, and offers sturdily-built, comfortable components. The full-sized keyboard has chiclet-style, red-rimmed keys set against a shiny black background. The keyboard is extremely comfortable to type on, with great tactile feedback and nice, evenly-spaced keys. The red backlight gives it a pop of color, though I have one minor complaint, as a gamer: The keys are so evenly-spaced (and the numberpad is right next to the keyboard) that a multi-color backlight would be helpful. It's hard to distinguish where keys are, quickly, with an all-red keyboard.
The Y500's touchpad is large and easy to use, but nobody really cares. This is a gaming machine, which means you're most likely going to use an external mouse. The touchpad was a tad jumpy and oversensitive, in my opinion, but it can be disabled with a quick function keystroke.
Great-looking display, but no touch?
The Y500's screen is one of its biggest assets, even though when you tap it--and you will, this is Windows 8, after all--you'll discover that it's not a touchscreen. The screen itself looks great: It's big, bright, and crisp, colors look accurate, and off-axis viewing angles are pretty good. It's got a full HD resolution of 1920 by 1080 pixels, and high-motion content looks excellent in playback. But it's still...not a touchscreen. Of course, this isn't quite as big of a deal because it's a gaming machine--touchscreens aren't really the gamer's instrument of choice. But since it does have Windows 8, it's a bit frustrating to realize that you can't take advantage of all the awesome swipe gestures that Windows 8 has to offer. That said, it's important to remember that even the uber-pricey Origin EON17-SLX doesn't have a touchscreen either.
The Lenovo IdeaPad Y500 is a great choice as a gaming laptop that's lighter and cheaper than your typical desktop-replacement monstrosity. Despite a few minor drawbacks, overall it's a great machine that offers excellent performance and specs for the price.