While Lenovo are fairly new at making gaming laptops, their Legion lines include some of the best-value products in the segment.
In this article we’re talking about their entry-level gaming notebook for 2018 and first part of 2019, the Legion Y530, a significant update of last year’s highly popular Legion Y520 series.
This is one of the most affordable gaming notebooks built on Intel 8th gen hardware and Nvidia GTX 1050/1050 Ti graphics, with a starting price of around $750 in the US / 800 Eur in Europe at the time of this article. Its compact build, clean design, nice backlit keyboard and an IPS screen are among its selling points, as well as a fair-sized battery and a cooling solution that squeezes excellent performance out of the hardware inside.
You will however have to accept the all-plastic construction, the 60 Hz screen with only an average-quality panel, a cluncky touchpad or the non-RGB keyboard, but these shouldn’t be deal-breakers for most of you, especially since you’ll find very few competitive alternatives in this price range.
We’ve spent time with a retail-version of the Legion Y530, several months after the series was launched, so enough time to address the potential issues of the early models. Out test unit is a higher-end configuration, with the i7-8750H processor and GTX 1050 Ti graphics, a configuration available as of August 2018 for around $1000 in the US and 1000 EUR over here across the pond.
We’ve gathered all our impressions below, so read on if you want to know where the Lenovo Legion Y530 excels, where it falls short and whether it’s the right buy for you or not.
Specs as reviewed
||Lenovo Legion Y530 Gaming Laptop
||15.6 inch, 1920 x 1080 px, 60 Hz, IPS, non-touch, matte
||Intel Coffee Lake Core i7-8750H CPU
||Intel HD 630 + Nvidia GTX 1050 Ti 4GB
||8 GB DDR4 (2x DIMMs)
||1 TB 7200 rpm HDD (2.5″) + empty M.2 PCIe slot
||Gigabit LAN, Wireless AC (Intel AC 9560) , Bluetooth 5.0
||3 x USB-A 3.1, 1x USB-C 3.1, HDMI 2.0, miniDP 1.4, LAN, mic/headphone, Kensington Lock
||51.5 Wh, 135 W charger
||365 mm or 14.37” (w) x 260 mm or 10.24” (d) x 24.2 mm or 0.95” (h)
||5.15 lbs (2.34 kg) + 1.3 lbs (.59 kg) for the charger
||white backlit keyboard, webcam
Design and exterior
Two main aspects set the Legion Y530 apart from most other entry and mid-range gaming laptops: the clean looks and the compact format.
Most gaming notebooks get various amounts of patterns, logos and lights that simply scream “Hey, look at me, look at me, I’m a gaming laptop!”. The Legion Y530 is one of the few exceptions, with simple black aesthetics, no colors and merely one subtle light that actually integrates nicely within the LEGION branding on the lid-cover. You’ll notice there’s merely one Lenovo logo on this computer, hidden behind the display, as they’re trying to cement the LEGION brand into the minds of potential buyers, just like other OEMs are doing with their gaming lines (Asus with ROG, Acer with Predator).
The status LEDs are placed on the side, so away from the user, but the power button is just beneath the screen and is always lit, which is rather annoying when watching a movie in dark room, but at least it’s fairly dim an you’ll learn to ignore it.
As far as the footprint goes, you can tell from the bezels around the screen this is a compact computer. There’s still a big chin underneath though, and with 8 mm bezels on both the sides and on top Lenovo had to adopt a nose-cam underneath the display. The Legion Y530 is one of the few gaming laptops with small bezels in its segment, but not one of a kind, as Asus also offers the TUF Gaming FX505 (available Q4 2018) and I’d expect others to have similar products as well in the next months. The Legion Y530 is thinner than the TUF FX505, but at the same time also heavier, at almost 5.2 lbs.
As for the choice in materials, plastic is used all around for the outer-case and inner chassis. The palm-rest and keyboard deck get a smooth soft finishing that feels very nice to the touch, but will show smudges easily. The underbelly and bezel around the screen are made from rougher plastic, while the hood gets a patterned texture, with tiny concentric ripples spreading away from the LEGION logo. Both these materials feel a bit cheap in comparison to the interior.
A metallic lid would have been nice, preferably a thicker one like on the Asus TUF, as the lid feels somewhat flimsy as it is, so I’d be careful when carrying this Legion Y530 in the backpack. The interior is however fairly strong, even if there’s still some warp in the keyboard deck.
As far as practicality goes, the Legion is well anchored on the desk by the two large rubber feet on the belly. Down here you’ll also notice massive intake grills for the two fans inside, with the hot air pushed out through the grills on back, which suggest that Lenovo carefully considered the cooling implementation on this computer, and you’ll see how this translates in real-life use in a further section.
This particular design moved most of the connectors on the back, which leads to uncluttered edges and makes this laptop a suitable option for both left and right handed users. At the same time, you’ll need a more spacious desk for the cables to stick out in the back. The IO offers most of the connectors you’ll need on a modern computer, but there’s no card-reader and no Thunderbolt 3 port.
The screen is hold in place by two small hinges, strong enough to keep it firmly as set-up, as well as smooth enough to allow you to lift it and adjust the inclination with a single hand. As an extra ace down its sleeve, the design also allows to open the display all the way back to 180 degrees, which is going to come in handy when using the laptop on the couch or in other non-conventional places.
All in all, the Legion Y530 is a well-thought computer and a step-up from the previous Y520, as well as from most other competitors in its class. I have few nits with the design and construction: the plastic lid-cover could have been stronger and that always-lit power button is a little annoying, but these aside, there’s little to complain about here. Of course, Lenovo could have also gone with nicer materials for the lid and bezels, but let’s not forget this is an entry-level gaming laptop built with budget in mind.
Keyboard and trackpad
The Legion Y530 inherits the keyboard from the Y520, but with a twist: the keys get white writing and white backlighting, instead of the red theme of the past generation.
The layout is mostly fine, with proper sized and spaced main-keys and arrows, but an unusual NumPad design and no dedicated keys for secondary functions like Home/End and PgUp/PgDn . The Enter/left Shift design also differs between implementations, we had the International/US layout on this sample.
As far as the typing experience goes, this is one of my favorite laptops to type on in the class. However, keep in mind it uses short-stroke keys with a soft feedback, which is pretty much what I’m used to, but it might not be for everyone, especially if you’re coming from an older laptop.
This keyboard is also one of the quieter out there, and backlit, with two levels on white light intensity to choose from (Fn+Space). You’ll have to step up to the Legion Y730 series to get RGB illumination.
As a side note, a handful of Legion Y520 buyers had issues with the keyboards on their units (details on the forums). The Legion Y530 no longer seems to be plagued by the same internal design flaw, but this is nonetheless something you should double check if you’re interested in getting this laptop.
The touchpad is not that great. It’s a Precision surface with a soft plastic surface and it handles everyday use, swipes, taps and gestures fine. However, it’s rather small for a 15-inch laptop and it implements physical click buttons down beneath. Normally I’m a big fan of physical clickers, but these are very stiff, clunky and difficult to press, nothing like the implementations I’ve seen on other notebooks.
I should also add that the Legion Y530 doesn’t get a finger sensor, which I wasn’t expecting in this class anyway, but it’s a feature you might want on your computer and you won’t get it on this one.
Lenovo puts an average-quality screen on this laptop, an upgrade from what we got with last year’s Legion Y520, but not a high-tier offer by mid-2018 standards.
It’s an IPS panel with a matte coating, 60 Hz refresh rate, mid-range response times (around 30 ms BTB), as well as average brightness, contrast and color reproduction, as you can see below (data recorded with a Spyder4 sensor).
- Panel HardwareID: BOE BOE06FB (NV156FHM-N61);
- Coverage: 95% sRGB, 71% NTSC, 74% AdobeRGB;
- Measured gamma: 2.3;
- Max brightness in the middle of the screen: 280 cd/m2 on power;
- Contrast at max brightness: 700:1;
- White point: 6800 K;
- Black on max brightness: 0.40 cd/m2.
This will do fine for everyday use and multimedia content, but is not that well suited for color-accurate work, not bright enough to take in brigh-light environments, and not as well suited for games as some of the higher refresh-rate alternatives either.
I also noticed a fair-bit of screen bleeding around the lower-edge, with the bezel pinching the panel in a few places. On the other hand, only high frequency PWM (22 GHz) is used for brightness modulation, and you can use our calibrated color profile to address some of the white point and gamma imbalances.
I should also add that Lenovo seems to source panels from a multitude of sources, as other reviews mention LG Philips or AU Optronics panels on their samples. They’re not much different than the BOE panel on our test unit, which is what’s available in stores in Eastern Europe.
All in all, this is definitely not a bad screen for the $800-$1000 price segment, but also not on par with the 120 and 144 Hz screens you’ll get with some of the competitors. Lenovo mentions a 144 Hz 300-nit panel option for the Legion Y530 as well, but that’s not available at the time of this review and is only reserved for the Legion Y730 series. You should however look for it at the time you’re reading the article.
Hardware and performance
We got to test a higher-end configuration of the Lenovo Legion Y530 series, with the six-core Intel Core i7-8750H processor, GTX 1050 Ti graphics and 8 GB of DDR4 RAM, but just a 7200 rpm HDD.
The lack of an SSD hinders the overall experience, but in this case the buyer had a limited budget and opted for the i7 CPU and no SSD, planning to add one later one, as well as add more RAM.
You need to remove the back panel hold in place by a handful of screws, all clearly visible, in order to get inside. You’ll get access to two RAM slots, the Wi-Fi module, an M.2 80 mm PCIe slot for storage, as well as the 2.5″ storage bay. Both storage options are easily accessible, but the RAM is hidden behind a metallic radiator/shield that you’ll need to carefully remove first. The video below shows how to get inside the Legion Y530 and how to access the various components (you don’t have to remove the battery, but you can disconnect it to prevent any shorts).
As far as the performance goes, our test model felt snappy. The initial Windows updates and program installs are gruesomely slow without an SSD, but once those are done, the Y530 handles everyday chores with minimal effort, running cool and quiet.
You’ll want this computer for more demanding tasks and games though.
We test the CPU’s behavior in demanding chores by simulating a continuous 100% load with Cinebench R15. The i7-8750H processor has a clock speed of 2.2 GHz, but can Turbo up to 3.9 GHz in all-core loads.
Out of the box, our sample did well. The CPU’s Turbo Speeds only dropped to 3.5-3.6 GHz in concurrent Cinebench runs, returning results between 1130 to 1180 points. The die reaches temperatures of 94-95 Celsius.
We under-volt the CPU on our test units in order to improve performance with demanding loads (improve Turbo Speeds) and lower temperatures/energy drain with everyday chores. This article explains how you can do that as well.
The i7-8750H was stable at -110 mV and this translates in slightly better results in the Cinebench multi-run test. As you can see below, the CPU never drops under 3.8 GHz in this case, which translates in results around 1200-1220 points in concurrent runs. The CPU still reaches 94 degrees Celsius, but due to the reduced voltage it no longer needs to clock down in order to prevent thermal issues.
If you’re interested in raw-numbers, here’s what we got in benchmarks. Keep in mind the lack of an SSD takes its toll in certain tests.
- 3DMark 11: P9061 (Graphics: 9289, Physics: 8961);
- 3DMark 13 – Fire Strike: 6896 (Graphics – 7683, Physics – 14993);
- 3DMark 13 – Time Spy: 2527 (Graphics – 2332, CPU – 4820);
- PCMark 08: Home Conventional – 3491;
- PCMark 10: 3980;
- PassMark: Rating: 4676, CPU mark: 12257, 3D Graphics Mark: 6394;
- GeekBench 3.4.2 32-bit: Single-Core: 3805, Multi-core: 21284;
- GeekBench 4.2.3 64-bit: Single-Core: 4825, Multi-core: 18127;
- CineBench R15: OpenGL 107.52 fps, CPU 1177 cb, CPU Single Core 178 cb;
- x264 HD Benchmark 4.0 32-bit: Pass 1 – 192.38 fps, Pass 2 – 71.89 fps.
We also ran some of them on the -110 mV undervolted profile:
- 3DMark 13 – Fire Strike: 6938 (Graphics – 7711, Physics – 15837);
- GeekBench 4.2.3 64-bit: Single-Core: 4680, Multi-core: 18233;
- CineBench R15: OpenGL 98.06 fps, CPU 1218 cb, CPU Single Core 177 cb;
- x264 HD Benchmark 4.0 32-bit: Pass 1 – 192.37 fps, Pass 2 – 76.37 fps.
Just as noticed in the Cinebench experiment, undervolting translates in marginal performance gains with multi-core loads, as well as lower CPU power-drain and slightly reduced CPU temperatures.
As far as gaming goes, our configuration is equipped with the GTX 1050 Ti GPU with 4 GB of GDDR5 memory. The implementation allows Turbo clock speeds up to 1.75 GHz and as you can see below, the GPU performance is consistent across all the tested titles, without any frequency drops or any other issues.
The CPU’s frequency on the other hand alternates between high-turbo speeds of 3.9 GHz and the default 2.2 GHz. That’s an odd behavior, but it doesn’t translate in any sort of stuttering or other unwanted effects in games. Performance on battery on the other hand is limited, with both the CPU and GPU clocking down significantly in this case. Details below.
Here’s what we got in our tests, at FHD resolution and maximum graphics settings. We also added a reference for GTX 1050 Ti laptops, based on our reviews and the averages on notebookcheck.net, which have a larger pool of tested products.
||Average GTX 1050 Ti
|Shadow of Mordor
|Rise of the Tomb Raider
Undervolting the CPU has a small, but welcomed impact on temperatures, as the CPU and GPU share one of the cooling heatpipes and heat can creep from one to the other.
In Far Cry 4, the most demanding title in our selection, the CPU settles at around 85 Celsius (with spikes up to 94 C) and the GPU at around 75 Celsius after 15+ minutes of play, on the default profile. After undervolting the CPU to -110 mV, the CPU only settles at around 78-80 C (with spikes to 85 C), while the GPU settles at around 72 degrees Celsius. This doesn’t translate in any sort of performance gains, no change in fan noise and minimal impact on outer-case thermals.
Emissions (noise, heat), Connectivity and speakers
The Legion Y530 gets a completely redesigned cooling solution over its predecessor, and one of the most complex designs in this class (picture via Dave2D on Youtube, I didn’t open this sample).
It includes two fans and three heat-pipes, a thicker one for both he CPU and GPU, as well as one thinner individual heatpipe for each. The longer heatpipe embraces the fans, with radiators on both the back edge and on the laterals, and you can see that the CPU/GPU plates also spreads across the various components around.
This aside, the Y530 also gets ample intakes on the underbelly and on the side edges, as well as ample outtakes on the back edge. As a side note, you should never cover them, and consider cleaning the fans of dust periodically, as I expect it to gather easily between the fins with this kind of a design.
All in all, this cooling keeps the i7 CPU and GTX 1050 Ti graphics at bay. The Legion Y530 runs quietly with daily use, with the fans staying off most of the time. I didn’t get any coil whine with our sample, but the spinning HDD is a noise source you’ll hear when accessed, in quiet environments.
They ramp up to up to 50 dB at head-level in long gaming sessions, which is fairly loud for a 1050/1050 Ti gaming laptop, and means you’ll probably want to hook up some headphones when playing games. It’s worth adding that we didn’t use the Lenovo Vantage application on our test sample, which provides a few fan profiles, but our past experience with this app suggests it’s better to skip it, as it negatively affects performance.
As far as temperatures go, here’s what we got:
*Daily Use – 1080p Youtube clip in EDGE for 30 minutes
*Load – playing FarCry 4 for approximately 30 minutes on ultra FHD settings
Our Legion Y530 configuration ran warm with daily use, which is understandable given the fact that the fans remain inactive, but also very hot with games, with parts of the back reaching mid 50 degrees Celsius. Undervolting reduces these temperatures by 1-3 degrees, but even so this laptop remains one of the hottest gamers in its class, hotter than the Acer Nitro 5 or the Asus TUF FX505. The keyboard and interior remain cooler, but overall the complex cooling can only do so much inside a thinner profile, so you’ll want to keep this on a desk while playing games and not cover any of its intakes/exhausts.
There’s Gigabit Lan, Wireless AC and Bluetooth 5.0 on the Legion Y530, so pretty much what you’d expect on a modern laptop. The Intel 9560 wi-fi module performs very well both near the router and at 30 feet with walls in between.
As for the speakers, they fire through the small cuts on the front edge, so at least they’re not placed on the belly and cannot be easily covered. They’re averagely loud (up to 78 dB at head-level) and pretty much average in terms of audio quality as well, with balanced mids and highs, but little on the lower end. I didn’t notice any obvious distortions or vibrations though, not even at higher volumes.
The webcam (and microphones) is placed beneath the screen and the Legion logo down there, so it’s as much a nose-cam as it can be. It’s not much in terms of image quality either, thus it will do for occasional calls, but not for streaming and much else.
There’s a 51.5 Wh battery inside the Legion Y530, about average for this class. Even with the lower-brightness screen you shouldn’t expect more than 3-4 hours of daily use on a charge, a bit longer with videos, and just shy of 50 minutes while running games.
Here’s what we got in our tests, with the screen set at 40% brightness, roughly 120 nits.
- 11.8 W (~4 h 20 min of use) – very light browsing and text editing in Google Drive, Better Battery Mode, screen at 40%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 12.1 W (~4 h 20 min of use) – 1080p fullscreen video on Youtube in Edge, Better Battery Mode, screen at 40%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 10.2 W (~5 h of use) – 1080p fullscreen .mkv video in the Movie app, Better Battery Mode, screen at 40%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 10.8 W (~4 h 45 min of use) – 4K fullscreen .mkv video in the Movie app, Better Battery Mode, screen at 40%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 18.8 W (~2 h 40 min of use) – heavy browsing in Edge, Better Performance Mode, screen at 40%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 60.0 W (~50 min of use) – gaming, Best Performance Mode, screen at 40%, Wi-Fi ON.
This laptop comes with a standard 135 Wh power brick and no quick-charging, so a full charge takes a little over 2 hours.
I also noticed that our configuration drains more power than the brick provides while playing the most demanding games, but undervolting the CPU helps with this matter.
Price and availability
The Lenovo Legion Y530 is available in stores around the world in multiple configurations, with prices starting at $750 in the US and 800 EUR in Europe at the time of this article.
The base version comes with a Core i5-8300H processor, 8 GB of RAM, Nvidia GTX 1050 graphics and a 1 TB spinning HDD. That’s a good all-rounder, but we’d suggest stepping to the GTX 1050 Ti configurations if you’re primarily interested in this computer for playing games, as the Ti version is 15-25% faster than the standard GTX 1050 chip.
Yon can also opt for configurations with SSD storage and more RAM, as well as the higher end version with the six-core i7 CPU, but you can also add the RAM and SSD yourselves, while the i7 is worth getting as long as you’re going to put its six-cores to good work in multi-threaded applications, but not necessarily for gaming.
Follow this link for updated configurations and prices at the time you’re reading this article.
The Legion Y530 is one of the best bang-for-the-buck all-round or entry-level gaming laptops you can get in the second half of 2018 and the first part of 2019.
As far as gaming goes, I’d suggest opting for configurations with the GTX 1050 Ti graphics, the i5 processor and preferably an SSD for the OS, which sell for around $900 at the time of this post. These will perform flawlessly and will allow you to play most titles at FHD resolution and high graphics settings, both right now and the next 1-2 years. Gamers will, however, miss RGB backlighting or a fast screen on the Y530, which for the time being is only available with the 60 Hz panel, but also have to accept the noisy fans and high-case temperatures.
On top of that, if gaming is what you’re primarily interested in, a GTX 1060 configuration is the sweet spot right now, as it’s roughly 25% faster and you can find modern ones for under $1000. Lenovo doesn’t offer the Y530 with this kind of graphics, but you can get it on the upper-tier Legion Y730.
Gaming aside, the Legion Y530 is also an excellent all-rounder. The simple looks, compact build, the fast and quiet keyboard, the excellent performance and silent fans in daily use are its main selling points, corroborated with very competitive pricing in all regions around the world. On the other hand, potential buyers would have to accept the only average screen and speakers, the all-plastic construction, the clunky touchpad, and the awkwardly positioned nose-cam.
All in all, there’s little competition for the Legion Y530 at the lower end, in the $750 to $800 price range, but there are some other options to consider: the Acer Nitro 5 (usually more affordable), the Asus TUF FX504 (120 Hz screen) and TUF FX505 (144 HZ IPS screen, RGB keyboard, tougher build), the HP Pavillion Gaming 15 or the Dell G5 Gaming. Each has its pros and cons and none is necessarily a better value notebook than the Legion Y530, but you should check them out in order to know all the options and make a well-documented decision.
This wraps-up our review of the Lenovo Legion Y530. The comments section below is open for your feedback, opinions, and questions, so don’t hesitate to get in touch.
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