Review: Lenovo Ideapad Y460

Buy a laptop today and you have to make (at least) one big decision that is an exercise in trade-offs: Get a machine with cheap, integrated graphics and better battery life, or buy one with a high-performance graphics card that sucks down more power and runs hot?

Can’t decide? Get the Lenovo Ideapad Y460. It’s both.

Perhaps we should explain. An innocuous switch on the front of the Y460 lets you control how much graphical power this otherwise unassuming notebook pumps out. Flip it on, and you’ll have full access to the ATI Radeon HD 5650 graphics chip. In graphics-on mode, gaming rocks, with performance on par with recent games-focused machines we’ve reviewed, but battery life fizzles to barely an hour and a half.

Not fragging this afternoon? Switch yourself into integrated mode. Gaming suffers immeasurably (framerates are on par with your average $500 system), but battery life shoots through the roof, jumping from 90 minutes to nearly four hours, perfect for long plane rides when an A/C outlet is miles below you.

Best of all: Graphics are switchable in real time without a reboot, so you can jump from spreadsheet to Sims 3 and back in seconds.

The only problem with the Ideapad Y460 is that you can’t switch the price. At a thousand smackers, it’s expensive, considering it bears the Ideapad brand instead of the more upscale Thinkpad logo. Clearly designed with consumers in mind, it offers an attractive, yet a little out-there, industrial design. It has desirable features like a multitouch trackpad, super-loud JBL speakers, and a mega-bright 14-inch LCD (at 1366 x 768 pixels). Other top-notch features are a 2.4-GHz Intel Core i5 M520 CPU, 4 GB of RAM and 500 GB of hard drive space.

The only question is whether you will want to pay nearly a grand for all of this. It’s not quite in MacBook territory, but it’s awfully close.

Maybe you can justify it. The Y460’s performance is so dazzling and the machine is put-together so well that I think you can make the case that it’s worth the cash upgrade. Just tell the wife you’ll eat ramen for a month. She won’t understand, but you’ll be so happy with your computer you probably won’t care.

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