Legion Y520 Gaming Laptop review: Lenovo takes on the gaming market with an eSports-focused effort

Lenovo Legion Y520 gaming laptop
  • Lenovo Legion Y520 gaming laptop
  • Lenovo Legion Y520 gaming laptop
  • Lenovo Legion Y520 gaming laptop
  • Expert Rating

    3.75 / 5

Pros

  • Very eSports friendly
  • Lighter than most gaming laptops

Cons

  • Ergonomics need work
  • Not suited for AAA gaming

Bottom Line

Though Lenovo’s foray into the gaming notebook space hasn’t come without some growing pains, their angle on the market is definitely worth serious consideration.

Would you buy this?

The Pitch

Lenovo has recently made their big move into the gaming notebook space and while that move isn’t a huge surprise in of itself - gaming notebooks are proving to be a huge growth area for the industry with the rise of eSports and streamer culture - they’re approaching it in a way that’s a little different to the usual players.

Under the banner of “Legion by Lenovo”, they’re making a very slightly-different pitch to the usual combination of squeezing as high-end a CPU and GPU as they can into the smallest frame possible.

After all, when you think about it, not everyone necessarily wants or needs the absolute best possible performance. Sure, it's desirable - but plenty can get by on just good. Some gamers just have a single game that they play - sometimes socially, sometimes solo - on the regular and want a device that can power that experience without taking up the physical footprint of a desktop.

For those people, the Lenovo Legion Y520 is probably going to not just catch their attention but fit the bill outright.

The Specs

The Lenovo Legion Y520 is available in two processor variants (7th Gen Intel Core i5-7300HQ or i7-7700HQ), supports up to 32GB of DDR4 RAM (split across two 16GB sockets) and comes equipped with an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 Ti graphics card (4GB of GDDR5). There are multiple configurations available for on-board storage as well, with tradition HDDs available in either 1TB or 2TB sizes and M.2 SSDs available in either 128GB, 256GB or 512GBs.

In terms of its physical form-factor, the Lenovo Y520 features a 15.6-inch FHD (1920x1080 pixels) IPS display. Then, when it comes to ports, it’s packing ethernet, combo audio/mic jack, 2 USB 3.0 ports, a single USB 2.0 port, a single USB-C port, HDMI and a 4-in-1 card reader. There’s also a HD 720p webcam with fixed focus and a combo array microphone. Finally, Battery-wise, it’s got a 3-cell (45Wh) Lithium-Polymer battery.

Design

The only question really worth answering when it comes to design is whether or not the Legion Y520 fits into the stereotype of gaming laptops as a glowy-metal-sci-fi-death-machine - and the answer is yes, it absolutely does with crimson acting as Lenovo’s color of choice for the lining of an otherwise obsidian black aesthetic. Unfortunately, Lenovo’s relative-inexperience with designing gaming tech shows here.

There are plenty of other brands playing the same game here, and most pull it off with more pizazz. As far as glowy-metal-sci-fi-death-machines go, the Lenovo Y520 just doesn’t look or feel as sharp and polished as some of the other options out there. There’s a lack cohesiveness or vision here, and it doesn’t quite commit strongly enough to the usable ergonomics side of things to make up the difference.

Likewise, in an age where gaming laptops are edging closer and closer to true eSports-ready mechanical kits, the Legion Y520 plays it straight with a ultra-traditional keyboard and touchpad. The latter here frequently felt unresponsive and frustrating to use. Basically, if you plan on playing with this thing, you’re going to want to budget for a decent mouse or gamepad.

Though the 15.6-inch display size means that it is a little too large to easily slip into your bag, the Legion Y520 shapes up as surprisingly light in practice. That said, the plastic-heavy design makes the Y520 feel pretty cheap to the touch - hurting the feel-factor. It’s like a cheap car or budget phone. Well, more like the former than the latter - budget phones have actually gotten quite good in recent years. What I’m trying to say is that you can almost physically feel where the corners have been cut in the process of reconciling the Y520’s solid spec-sheet and its compelling $1499 price-point.

Still, performance is the most important part of the package. It’s the biggest dealmaker at the table - and the Lenovo Y520 doesn’t sell itself short.

Performance

In terms of the usual benchmarks, we compared the Legion Y520 to all the usual suspects - which is to say that we compared it to the last couple of gaming PCs we reviewed. Given that a few of these are high-end hero products, there’s a clear difference here. However, it’s useful to put the performance of the Y520 in context and compare what you’re getting relative to the big guns.

For the most part, the Y520 consistently outpaced the Alienware 13. However, the more intensive that benchmarking became, the further the gulf between the performance of the Y520 and the heavy-hitters like Dell’s value-driven Inspiron Gaming Desktop and MSI’s GE&3VR gaming laptop became.

Regardless, when it comes to everyday performance, it hits most of the marks. It’s snappy and can handle eSports-friendly games like Overwatch, League of Legends and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive without too much trouble.

However, when it came to more mainstream AAA titles like Middle-Earth: Shadow of War we really had to bring the settings down to almost as low as they could go in order to get even the barest of playable framerates.

The Bottom Line

Though it definitely has its limits, the Lenovo Y520 is still a pretty compellingly-priced gaming laptop. If you’re one of those who try to find the time to play every single major release, this probably won’t fit the bill. It’s a little too rigid on a technical and held back by a lot of easy mistakes on an aesthetic one. However, if you're one of those people who pretty much just devote themselves getting good at one single game: it's an option that's well worth considering, even if it does have its caveats.

In both design and execution, the Y520 feels like a first effort.  However, the core pitch that makes up the foundation for the Legion brand - gaming laptops for those who don’t need something that can play everything out, just that one special game that they keep coming back to - carries the product a lot further than you'd expect and, even if it's held back by growing pains, it’s still a foundation that could well prove crucial as Lenovo looks to carve out its niche in the gaming space.

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