Up until the last couple of years, gaming laptops typically weighed over 10 pounds and looked every bit like it — needing discrete graphics cards and the batteries to run them, they were awfully bulky. Machines like the Razer Blade have done a lot to change that image, and Lenovo is following suit with Legion, their new line of gaming laptops. They’re getting started at CES with one gaming laptop that weighs about five pounds and another that combines a 4k display with Dolby Atmos sound.
Neither the Legion Y720 nor the Y520 are on the highest end of gaming laptops we’ll see this year, going the more affordable route. The 15.6″ Y720 is the higher-end of the two, with a 7th generation Intel i7 processor, 16 GB of RAM and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 GPU. For storage, the Y720 can be configured with up to a 512 SSD or a 2 TB HDD — while opting for an HDD will keep the price down, it could compromise performance, especially if you spring for the 4k display.
Nvidia 10-series laptop GPUs are quite a step up from 9M-series GPUs, although the 1060 is still one of the less powerful options up against the 1070 and the 1080. Still, the 1060 is powerful enough to enable the Y720 to run virtual reality headsets like the HTC Vive and the Oculus Rift, making the laptop a more affordable and practical way to get quality VR (versus buying or building a tower PC).
While a 1080p IPS display will be standard, there will be a 4k anti-glare option for those who want to go all-out — that said, without testing, we’re not sure that the laptop is quite powerful enough to make the most of that 4k display. What will set the Y720 apart from any other gaming laptop on the market right now is Dolby Atmos audio — the virtual surround sound-like tech is being combined dual 2W speakers and a 3W amplifier from JBL.
This is all being packing into a 29 mm thick frame that weighs 7.05 pounds — not light, but not bad for what you’re getting. To keep everything cool in close quarters, Lenovo has two metal cooling fans on the bottom that blow out hot air through the rear vents. Lenovo also took advantage of the larger frame to include plenty of ports, including three USB 3.0, one HDMI, one USB Type-C Thunderbolt, separate ports for a mic and headphones, an ethernet port, and a DisplayPort — in other words, it’ll be very easy to cast anything running on the laptop to a larger external monitor. Dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi is standard.
The Y720 will work with Xbox One wireless controllers out of the box — usually, that’s only the case for wired controllers. And, this being a gaming product, you know there’s going to be programmable LED lights (under the keyboard, in this case).
Lenovo is saying to expect five hours of battery life on a 60 Whr battery, although we’re not sure if that quote is for the 1080p or 4k configuration. Given the hardware, we’re not sure we’d always expect that much game time, but for a powerful gaming laptop, it sounds like it should at least be on par with what’s out there.
The cheaper option is the Y520, and it’s one worth considering. While processor, RAM, and storage options are the same, the Y520 comes with the less powerful GTX 1050 GPU, so you’ll be making some sacrifices to performance — this one doesn’t have the Oculus certification that the Y720 does, so while it’s probably still capable of running VR, the experience might not be smooth or clear. Lenovo has also (wisely) left off the 4k option here, although it’s still possible to get the anti-glare upgrade on the 1080p IPS display. The Y520 drops Dolby Atmos and the 3W woofer, settling for dual 2W Harman speakers with Dolby Premium audio.
A few ports have been left off, too, notably the Thunderbolt port and the DisplayPort. The Y520 has one USB Type-C 3.1 port, two USB 3.0 ports, one USB 2.0 port, one HDMI port, separate mic and headphone ports, an ethernet port, and a 4-in-1 card reader. The presence of the card reader makes us think the Y520 is meant more as an all-purpose laptop for anyone who likes to game when they have the chance. Single-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi is standard, but dual-band is an option. The LED lights are also a bit more boring — there’s a crimson backlighting option, but nothing programmable.
By cutting some of the features seen on the Y720, the Y520 ended up being pretty compact for a gaming laptop. It’s 5.3 pounds and measures 25.8 mm thick, and it has the same dual-fan cooling system of the Y720. Lenovo estimates it’ll get four hours of battery life on the smaller 45 WHr battery.
Lenovo plans to launch the Legion Y720 in April, starting at $1,400 (keep in mind, that’s with the 1080p display, not the 4k display). The Legion Y520 is scheduled to ship in February for $900.
Disclaimer: CES 2017 coverage is brought to you be Lenovo. All thoughts and opinions are 100% our own.