Review: Lenovo Y50 Touch

“Entry level” and “gaming machine” aren’t phrases that normally go together, and “Lenovo” isn’t typically a manufacturer that goes with either of them. Wisely ditching the ThinkPad brand is about the only decision that makes any sense around this oddball laptop—it’s just the Lenovo Y50. But all told, it’s an “entry level portable gaming machine” that is likely to appeal to absolutely no one.

The Y50 comes with three different display types: touch, non-touch, and 4K. For my tests, Lenovo supplied a Y50 Touch, the model with a 10-point touchscreen. Like you’d expect from Lenovo, it’s a jet black 15.6-inch notebook, but the similarities to the ThinkPad line end just about there. The bright red keyboard backlighting is an instant tip-off that this isn’t dad’s laptop. The curious beveling on the back of the laptop—highlighting some showy JBL speaker grilles—further attempts to step the Y50 away from the stodginess of the ThinkPad line’s business-minded aesthetics.

The Y50 features a few upgrades over the typical laptop, but as its “entry level” tagline implies, it’s hardly on the bleeding edge. The Core i7 CPU included, running at 2.4GHz, is one of the slowest versions of that chip available on the market, and the Nvidia GeForce GTX 860M graphics processor is two steps down from the top of the line. 8GB of RAM are probably plenty for most gamers, but the choice of hard drives—a 1TB HDD hybrid with an 8GB SSD—really doesn’t have enough solid state storage for high-end applications. Ports include an SD slot, Ethernet, HDMI, and three USB ports (two of which are USB 3.0).

Performance is largely uninspiring. The Y50 is outpaced by many Core i5 systems I’ve recently reviewed when considering general application performance (this is largely due to the relatively slow hard drive). Graphics scores are good enough for modest-quality gaming sessions but aren’t enough to let you push the system too far.

Finally there’s the touchscreen, which is easily the low point of the device. Its 1920×1080 resolution is fine, but the screen is quite dim and, more importantly, I found the touchscreen itself to be frequently unresponsive to certain gestures. The biggest problem I had was with swipe-from-right gestures, which are pretty much essential to using Windows 8.1 in any capacity. Considerable experimentation with starting point and fingertip pressure helps, but still it shouldn’t be this difficult. The touchpad is also jumpy, and the island style keyboard, despite assertions that the keys are slightly rounded, feels completely flat (and slippery). For a company that prides itself on its input systems, this is just a big fat mess.

The retail list price on this machine is $1,499, but you can find it at online retailers for around $1,200. However, even at that price, Lenovo is asking an awful lot from buyers for a system that isn’t going to please hardcore gamers and just doesn’t justify the price tag it requests from more mainstream users.

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