Lenovo Legion Y920 Review – A Big, Bulky Gaming Laptop Powerhouse

The Good: Terrific performance, beautiful display, overclockable GPU and CPU, doesn’t get too hot

The Bad: Really short battery life, so-so audio, this particular mechanical keyboard feels strange, dated design, Wi-Fi connectivity issues

Who it’s for: Pro gamers, aspiring pro gamers, VR enthusiasts, streamers

The Short: The Lenovo Legion Y920 is a red-hot 1080p gaming laptop, even if it’s weighed down by bulk and battery life issues.

The Gear: Lenovo sent us a Core i7/16 GB RAM/1 TB HDD+512 GB PCIe SSD Legion Y920 to use for two weeks.

The name Legion made me feel a sense of scale and upon unboxing, and my feelings were confirmed — the Lenovo Legion Y920 is a really big laptop! That’s a departure from the trend of thinner and lighter laptops, and for good reason. The Y920 is Lenovo’s latest gaming laptop, and it’s the most powerful one they’ve got. Every device maker under the sun is trying to get in on the gaming gold rush being fueled by esports, and it’s given us a deluge of gaming laptops this year!

That means Lenovo has lots of competition. High-end specs? Sure, but what about all the little things that make or break a gaming laptop? Lenovo sent us over a Legion Y920 to review for a couple weeks, and we put it to the test. After all, it needs to deliver — it’s pricey at $2,700, although Lenovo has already started offering some discounts.

Should this be your gaming go-to? It’s hard to say. We like that it has enough power to let you both game and stream at the same time, but we still like a gaming laptop to have enough battery life to let us get in a gaming session without worrying about outlets. Short battery life, even for a gaming laptop, makes that a non-starter.

It also comes off looking a bit outdated — the old black and red gaming style is getting tired, and we’re increasingly seeing hardware makers abandon it. And, with a crop of much thinner and lighter gaming laptops on the horizon, the bulkiness of this one might be coming at the wrong time.

Need more details? We’ve got them. Ahead, we’ll go in depth about the Legion Y920’s performance, keyboard, audio, and a lot more!

And, just one note before we get going — we don’t have a VR rig ourselves, so while the Legion Y920 has the hardware to run headsets like HTC Vive and the Oculus Rift, we can’t speak to how well they perform running on this laptop!

Next page: Performance

Performance

The Lenovo Legion Y920 runs on an unlocked Intel Core i7-7820HK processor and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 GPU, and there’s no shortage of storage space with a 512 GB SSD and a 1 TB HDD. Its power is comparable to many gaming desktops, which gets to the heart of why this machine exists — it’s a portable option for gaming fanatics to take to LAN parties or weekend tournaments, or a training rig for esports pros on the road.

To test out this machine’s gaming prowess, I fired up Forza Horizon 3. It performed flawlessly on ultra settings at 40 FPS — I don’t doubt that this laptop can manage the fabled 60 FPS, but Forza Horizon 3 has well-documented performance issues on its end. I can safely say you can expect to run most games very well on ultra settings at 60 FPS — the Lenovo Legion Y920 only ships with a 1080p display. That’s not a bad decision! Lenovo wants this to be a no-fuss laptop that delivers clean, smooth performance no matter what. Trying to push the envelope with a 1440p display might have resulted in some unwanted headaches.

Here’s a feature both of those camps will love —  the ability to overclock by simply pressing a button on the top left of the keyboard. This relies on presets, although there are more settings to tinker with in the software that we’ll get to later. Of course, overclocking means you’ll hear the fans kick it up a notch, but not so much to where fan noise becomes an issue.

Speaking of fans, I was very impressed with the heat dissipation of the laptop. Even when overclocking, playing a game, and streaming on Twitch, I did not feel any heat on my lap as would be common with other normal laptops. The fans on the laptop are positioned in such a way that the hot air blows out the back of the laptop as opposed to downwards.

I did encounter some Wi-Fi issues when I first booted up the laptop. The Wi-Fi could not connect until I used troubleshooting in Windows 10. Then, when I was streaming on Twitch while playing Forza Horizon 3, the Wi-Fi would drop and the stream would end. Even when browsing the web, I still saw the Wi-Fi occasionally hang. I’m not sure about the initial connectivity issues, but I’ve seen others point out potential problems with the laptop’s aluminum casing interfering with the antenna, so that might be something to watch out for. Fortunately, there’s still an ethernet port on this laptop, so you can retreat to the dependability of good old wired internet if you need to!

Next page: Keyboard

Keyboard

The Lenovo Legion Y920 sports a mechanical keyboard with RGB lighting. If you’re used to regular laptops, it’s a big departure! Mechanical keys need to be pressed down farther and with more force than your average keys, but they make for much more accurate key presses — crucial to just about any gamer.

I’m used to mechanical keys for gaming myself, but this mechanical keyboard felt very weird to me. The actuation force (how much you need to press a key for it to register) feels heavy at first, but I actually found it to be very light. That made for a bit of a learning curve as I tried to get used to how hard I really needed to press on these keys! Once I started typing, the key presses were registering, but I would feel as though I wasn’t pressing down hard enough.

But, the keyboard does offer its conveniences. There are four macro keys that run along the left side of the keyboard under the turbo button. These can be used as handy keyboard shortcuts to launch programs or execute more complex keyboard commands — you can program them using Lenovo’s software, which we’ll get to in a couple sections.

A really cool feature for sharers is the dedicated record button. This replaces the right Fn key, and lets you start recording your gameplay instantly. If you know your team is finally going to use a few ultimates in Overwatch together (like they’re supposed to!), you can just tap that button instead of needing to bring up a separate program or menu.

Next page: Display and audio

Display and audio

The Lenovo Legion Y920 is equipped with a 17″ 1080p display with an anti-glare layer on top. As we alluded to earlier, the laptop probably has the hardware to handle a 1440p display, but Lenovo opted to lock in a rock solid 1080p experience, instead. We’re not complaining — the 1080p display here is bright and colorful, and it helps that Nvidia G-Sync technology keeps the hardware and the display in harmony to keep the picture smooth — no stuttering or ghosting here!

Now, if you want to push this thing to the limit, you can. We didn’t have souped up monitors to test on, but if you’ve got a couple of 1440p or 4K monitors, you can absolutely run multiple monitors off this laptop thanks to an HDMI port and a DisplayPort.

The speaker system, on the other hand, was a little underwhelming. The laptop has two 2.0 W JBL speakers and a 3.0 W subwoofer with Dolby Atmos sound processing. Without Atmos turned on, the sound is nothing special. Definitely head into Lenovo’s software to make sure it’s on — Atmos creates a really cool virtual surround sound effect that makes it seem like helicopters are flying overhead and cars are tearing by either side of you. I will say that these laptop speakers don’t quite get as much out of Atmos as some other devices do — the soundstage still felt a little too narrow at times. There is also a nice bass vibration effect when playing with hands on the keyboard, but ultimately, it did not quite pack the punch that I felt like it should have given the price.

Next page: Practicality

Practicality

I think the Lenovo Legion Y920 is best used as a travel laptop for pro gamers or pro hopefuls, but travel is definitely a relative word. The Lenovo Legion Y920 is 16.75″ x 12.41″ x 1.43″ and weighs a whopping 10.12 pounds! I found it quite heavy and difficult to travel with but on the flip side, it feels very sturdy and solid thanks to its aluminum build.

In years past we wouldn’t dwell on the bulk of gaming laptops — it’s to be expected! Not so anymore. Nvidia introduced their Max-Q design for laptops earlier in the year, which gave hardware makers a way to pack these same high-end specs into thin and light laptops. We haven’t been able to do full reviews of any of those Max-Q laptops (we’ve briefly touched on ones from Acer and Asus), but we have to think that they represent the future of gaming laptops.

The Legion Y920 comes in black with bright red accents. I’m actually not sure about that approach — a few years ago, black and red were the de facto gaming technology colors, but in recent years we’ve seen more and more hardware makers try to shed that image for something a little more fashionable. It makes the laptop look a little dated, but I can still appreciate some of the details and craftsmanship, like the brushed aluminum and the light-up logo on the laptop lid.

We know well enough to not expect miracles from gaming laptops when it comes to battery life, but even then, the Legion Y920 is rough. That does hurt because a travel laptop is really hamstrung when you need to always make sure that you’re near an outlet. I got only three hours just web browsing — that went down to a little over two hours while gaming and under two hours when both gaming and streaming. I cannot imagine a scenario where I would play for an extended amount of time on battery power with the Legion Y920 and risk losing my progress or getting yanked from a match.

Finally, I didn’t like that the Legion Y920 does not include a built-in Xbox Wireless Adapter. If you like using Xbox controllers for some PC games, it’s a real bummer that you don’t have the option to use your wireless controller out of the box. Instead, you’ll be better off going wired.

Next page: Software

Software

All of the extra features in the Legion Y920 are controlled from the Lenovo Nerve Center. The Nerve Center features the Turbo Boost, Light Shift, Extreme Cooling, Network Priority, Custom Macro Keys, Prevent Mistaken Input, and Sound Enhancements features. Turbo Boost lets you see how the CPU and GPU are performing while overclocked or at rest, Extreme Cooling lets you boost fan speeds, Prevent Mistaken Input allows you to disable the Windows Key, and Sound Enhancements turns on Dolby Atmos sound processing.

Two standout features in the Nerve Center are the Network Priority and the Light Shift. Network Priority detects when a game is being played, then prioritizes that game on your home’s network — just have some apology ecards ready for family members who might be watching Netflix at the time, because they might start getting hit with some longer buffering times! Light shift allows you to have three custom settings for the RGB backlight behind the keyboard. Each key can be customized individually, or you can customize areas of the keyboard such as WASD. There are also different functions such as a wave setting where the backlight waves across the keyboard periodically, or have the keys light up as you press them. Of course, you can have no backlight at all as well. The speaker has a raised section in the middle that has backlights around it that can also be customized to your desired color, too.

Next page: Tech specs

Tech Specs

CPU Intel Core i7-7820HK
GPU NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 8GB GDDR5
RAM 16GB (64GB Max / 4 DIMM Slots) DDR4 RAM
Storage 1TB 5400RPM + 512GB PCIe SSD
Display 17.3″ 1080p LED-backlit IPS with anti-glare and Nvidia G-Sync
Battery 6-cell, 90Wh Li-Polymer battery
OS Windows 10 Home
Webcam 720p with internal dual array digital microphones
Dimensions 16.75” x 12.41” x 1.43” / 425 mm x 315 mm x 36 mm
Weight 10.12 lbs
Audio 2 x 2.0W JBL speakers + 3.0W subwoofer with Dolby Atmos
Wireless Killer Wireless AC 1535 + BT4.1 and Killer LAN
Ports 4x USB 3.0
1x USB 3.1 Type-C Thunderbolt
1x HDMI 2.0
1x DisplayPort
1x RJ45 (Ethernet)
1x 3.5mm Headphone Jack
1x 3.5mm Microphone Jack
4 in 1 Card Reader (SD, SDHC, SDXC, MMC)
1x Kensington Security Lock Slot
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