Lenovo Legion Y530 review: Affordable portable gaming with hit-and-miss performance

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Lenovo-Legion-Y530-review

While I wouldn’t recommend the Lenovo Legion Y530 as we tested it, I’d definitely recommend it if you’re willing to spend a bit more on better components.

TA-ratings-85

Like their desktop counterparts, there are plenty of different levels of gaming laptops available for purchase. Our Lenovo Legion Y530 review takes a look at a mid-range gaming laptop with customizable specifications and an affordable price point for the average gamer.

Specifications

The Lenovo Legion Y530 sent to us for review has the following features and specifications (configurable when ordering):

  • Processor: Intel Core i5-8300H @ 2.30GHz (Up to 8th Generation Intel® Core™ i7-8750H 6 Core Processor (2.20GHz, up to 4.10GHz with Turbo Boost, 9MB Cache) available)
  • Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 630, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 Ti 4GB (GTX 1050 4GB and GTX 1060 6GB also available)
  • Memory: 8 GB DDR4 2666 MHz (up to 16GB available, supports up to 32GB)
  • Display: 15.6” FHD (1920 x 1080, 250 nits) IPS anti-glare, 60 Hz refresh (FHD, 300 nits, 60 Hz and FHD, 300 nits, 144 Hz also available)
  • Storage: 128GB SSD, 1TB 5400 RPM HDD (up to 512GB PCIe SSD, 16GB Intel Optane Memory, up to 2 TB 5400 RPM, 1 TB 7200 RPM, dual drive (HDD + SDD) configurations also available)
  • WLAN & Bluetooth: 802.11 AC (2 x 2) + Bluetooth® 4.1
  • Ports: 3x USB 3.1 Type-A, USB 3.1 Type-C, Mini DisplayPort 1.4, HDMI 2.0, RJ-45, Audio combo jack, Kensington Lock slot
  • Audio: Harman® speakers with Dolby Audio™
  • Battery: 3 cell Li-polymer, 52.5Wh (Up to 57Wh available) for up to 5 hours battery life
  • Dimensions: 14.37 x 10.24 x 0.95″ (W x D x H)
  • Weight: Starting at 5.1 lbs (2.3 kg)
  • Operating System: Windows 10 Home

What’s in the box

  • Lenovo Legion Y530
  • Power cable
  • Safety, warranty, and setup guide
  • Support card

Design

It’s been a couple years now since Lenovo introduced their Lenovo Legion gaming lineup. Last year, we took a look at the bulkier Lenovo Legion Y520. With the Y530, Lenovo has redesigned the series giving it a more refined and slimmer look. The company managed to shave off about half-an-inch in width and a bit on the height, but the design definitely looks thinner and sleeker.

The biggest design change on the Legion Y530 is that the lid hinge sits forward from the back of the laptop by about an inch. This matte black back lip has icons for the back ports (more on that in a second) as well as an LED light to indicate the laptop is plugged in. To the far right is the Lenovo logo inset on a glossy black tag.

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The lid of the Lenovo Legion Y530 gaming laptop.

The lid itself is textured with fine lines which radiate out from the “O” in the gloss black LEGION logo which is debossed on the left hand side of the lid. The middle of the “O” also has the familiar Lenovo Y icon splitting through it which lights up in white when the laptop is powered on. The hinge is gloss black as well, with the actual hinges towards the edges of the lid.

When opening the lid, one is greeted by the full-sized, backlit keyboard. The keys themselves are black topped with white edges so the backlight shines through the edges of the keys and not the white lettering on the keys. The keyboard is comfortable to type with, and the keys offer a low 1.7mm of travel, making them super responsive. The palm rest area is finished with a soft matte black, which is comfortable for extended sessions but still tends to display oily marks from skin or other items.

Off-centered below the keyboard is the touchpad, with two buttons for left and right click functions below it. Personally, I’m not a fan of touchpads, but should you find the need to use it, it is fairly accurate and responsive as well. Rounding out the keyboard area is the power button centered above the middle of the keyboard. The words “audio by HARMAN” are printed in grey underneath the keyboard on the left-hand side.

The screen itself is actually quite nice as there are thin bezels on the top and sides. These bezels are about one-quarter inch thick and offer a nice thin look when the display is on. As a result of these thinner bezels, Lenovo has moved the webcam into the lower bezel which is about an inch-and-a-half thick. The LEGION logo is printed in white in the middle with the aforementioned webcam below that.

Typically speaking, most laptops have their ports on the sides of the machine. Due to the design of the Legion Y530, the front lip and most of the side lips are angled down towards the bottom of the laptop, giving it an even slimmer look. As a result. each side only houses minimal ports. On the left is USB 3.1 port and a 3.5mm audio jack, while on the right is another USB 3.1 port and another LED power indicator light. Behind these ports on both sides are ventilation fins.

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The majority of the ports are located on the back of the Lenovo Legion Y530.

That leaves the location of the majority of the ports on the back edge of the laptop. As previously mentioned, the back lip has icons for each of the ports above it. The back ports are (from left to right if you were using the laptop): Kensington Lock slot, rectangular AC adapter port, RJ-45 Ethernet port, HDMI 2.0 port, USB 3.0 port, Mini DisplayPort, and USB Type-C 3.1 port. On either side of these ports is more ventilation.

The underside of the laptop has a large rubber grip going across the front and back, with the back one raised up slightly more. Near the back, a 12-inch by almost 4-inch metal grille covers two fans. These fans draw cool air in from the side vents and push the warm air out the back vent.

Overall, the Lenovo Legion Y530 definitely looks sleek, and I actually like having the majority of the ports along the back. I find that with some laptops and side ports, some of your peripherals can get in the way if you’re working in a smaller space. At any rate, while the Y530 does have a sleek and thin look, it still weighs over 5 lbs but is still nicely sized to take on the go.

Display

The Lenovo Legion Y530 gaming laptop comes with a 15.6” FHD (1920 x 1080, IPS anti-glare display. Our review unit came with the 250 nits brightness at 60Hz version, but you can get a 300 nits at 60Hz or 300 nits at 144Hz screen as well. While the 250 nits was bright enough in most cases, there were a few times during the day that I wished I could make it go just a bit brighter. As well, being a gaming laptop, you probably want to shell out a bit more for the 144Hz screen for smoother gameplay.

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Thin top and side bezels offer more immersion while working or gaming.

On that note, the display was crisp enough for both productivity and gaming, and I didn’t notice any screen tearing or anything of the like while gaming. The colours also seem decent enough, if not a bit muted at times, partially due to the lower maximum brightness.

The display does have a matte finish though so you don’t have to worry about glare from surrounding light sources while working or gaming. In addition, the thin top and side bezels really add to the viewing experience as there is less to distract from what’s on the screen.

Software

There’s nothing really new here. The unit ships with Windows 10 Home, which, as we’ve discussed plenty here at Techaeris, is just fine.

Preinstalled apps include the usual Windows 10 culprits along with Lenovo App Explorer, Lenovo Vantage, Lenovo Welcome, and LenovoUtility. As for anti-virus, Lenovo is still shipping with McAfee pre-installed as well. Lenovo App Explorer showcases and suggests apps and games you can install, but there doesn’t seem to be much here that you can’t get on the Microsoft Store. At first, LenovoUtility doesn’t seem to do anything, but when launched it enables on-screen display icons for various functions like toggling Caps Lock or Num Lock.

The most useful of the pre-installed Lenovo software is Lenovo Vantage. This app gives you a snapshot glance of your system including storage, RAM, CPU, and GPU usage. It also lets you configure options like Touchpad Lock for gaming or hot keys. You can also run diagnostics on your system with this app as well as check for system updates. Of course, you can still do the latter by way of the Windows 10 Settings as well.

Lenovo Vantage screenshot
The Lenovo Vantage app has its uses.

Performance

Maybe it’s just because I’ve become accustomed to using a higher end gaming laptop or desktop, but, unfortunately, the Lenovo Legion Y530 (as configured) is somewhat of a performance hit-and-miss.

For the most part, day-to-day tasks are just fine with our review unit as configured. However, I did find that having Chrome open with about 7 or 8 tabs and then trying to launch another app like Photoshop or Lightroom would cause some slowdowns in both Chrome and the app. This held over to games as well, and soon I found myself closing down Chrome completely or restarting the machine before I fired up Photoshop, Lightroom, or a game.

While the system came with both an SSD and an HDD, the size of the SSD (128GB) doesn’t allow for installing too much to it, especially game wise. I’d definitely recommend a 256GB or 512GB SSD instead and would even drop the extra HDD if you need to help offset the cost.

On that note, our gaming performance tests were done with the games running off the HDD for the most part. While SSDs don’t improve framerate performance, they do allow games and assets to load faster which prevents “hitching” which in turn may explain some of the extreme framerates as tested.

For Heroes of the Storm, set to Ultra settings and 1080p, we averaged about 85fps but saw the framerates hit as high as 100 and as low as 65. Either way, the game is totally playable on this system on Ultra settings.

Next up, Forza Horizon 4, which is an obviously more graphics intensive game. The game itself auto-detected low settings with a 60fps cap, but I felt it could do better. I turned the settings up to high and saw framerates as low as 14 and as high as 60. Unfortunately, the frequent framerate drops really make it unplayable on high. Dropping down to medium settings, the framerates improved to 55-60fps, with the odd drop to 40ish.

The next three games, we ran through the in-game benchmark systems and got the following framerates:

  • Forza Motorsport 7 (w/ framerate set to 60)
    • Ultra (1080p): min 27.9/max 62.1/avg 59.4
    • High (1080p): min 36/max 63.5/avg 60.1
    • Medium (1080p): min 48.1/max 63.2/avg 60.1
  • Tomb Raider (w/ triple buffer V-Sync )
    • Ultimate (1080p) on SSD: min 45/max 62/avg 56
    • Ultimate (1080p) on HDD: min 44/max 62/avg 56
  • Gears of War 4
    • Ultra (1080p): min 32.7/avg 51.9
    • High (1080p): min 44.8/avg 57.9

As you can see, for the most part, the games above ran well on High or Ultra/Ultimate settings. However, there was some noticeable “hitching” on all the games during gameplay, with the exception of Tomb Raider when we ran it off the SSD. As expected in that case, the framerates were comparable on SSD vs HDD, but during gameplay is when you’d experience those HDD loading issues.

As such, Forza Motorsport 7 was playable on Medium settings, Tomb Raider on Ultimate, and Gears of War 4 on High. While performance was good for the most part while gaming, assuming a fresh restart, the lag and stuttering on higher resolutions is a pretty big pain depending on the game.

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Dual fans and ample ventilation.

On a related note, once you get into running a game or other CPU/GPU intensive app, the fans spin up and can actually get a bit loud for a laptop. That being said, given the form factor, it’s a necessary evil for keeping your laptop cool while utilizing its power.

Again, you’ll definitely want to go with a bigger SSD drive for starters, and I’d recommend the GeForce GTX 1060 option as well instead of the 1050 Ti option which was in our review unit. I’d definitely love to see how much better the system performs with those options and even an additional 8GB of RAM.

Sound Quality

The Harman speakers are located on the front edge of the laptop and are angled slightly downward to bounce off of whatever surface you have your laptop on. While the speakers do get quite loud, and you can fine tune them a bit with the Dolby Audio app, there isn’t much bass to them at all. They’re decent enough in a pinch but for gaming you’re definitely going to want to pick up a decent gaming headset to fully enjoy the experience.

Camera

The camera offers up decent 720p quality but difficult to use due to its placement. In order to see your face properly, you need to angle the screen back further which, in turn, makes it odd to view the display. As a result, the webcam is pretty much useless while gaming if you’re a streamer and hoping to use it while playing and streaming your current game.

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The webcam is placed on the lower bezel which makes it virtually useless while gaming.

Battery Life

Lenovo claims a battery life of up to 5 hours on the Lenovo Legion Y530. Of course, as we all know by now, that depends on what you are doing with your system. When doing basic tasks like web browsing or music streaming with a few YouTube videos thrown in the mix, we got about 4 hours of battery.

During game testing, the battery life — not to mention game performance — dropped and we got about 2 hours and 15 minutes before we had to plug in.

Price/Value

The Lenovo Legion Y530 gaming laptop starts at US$949.99, but is available for as low as $788.49 with current sale pricing. As tested, our review unit comes in at about $1150. For another $350, you can snag the i7-8750 with 8GB RAM, a 512GB SSD, and the GeForce GTX 1060 6GB video card. While you can get a lower model for an affordable price, $1500 for the top of the line Y530 is definitely going to be your best bang for buck.

Wrap-up

While the design is sleek and the laptop runs well for the most part, our review unit as configured didn’t come without its performance issues. While I wouldn’t recommend the Lenovo Legion Y530 as we tested it, I’d definitely recommend it if you’re willing to spend a bit more on a bigger SSD drive and the GeForce GTX 1060 graphics option.

*We were sent a review unit of the Lenovo Legion Y530 for the purposes of this review.

Lenovo Legion Y530

US$949.99+
8.5

Design

9.5/10

Display

9.0/10

Software

9.5/10

Performance

8.5/10

Sound Quality

8.0/10

Camera

7.0/10

Battery Life

8.0/10

Price/Value

8.5/10

Nailed it

  • Sleek design
  • Plenty of configurations available
  • Thin top and side bezels
  • Comfortable, responsive typing
  • Most ports are on back
  • Dual fans underneath for cooling
  • Affordable price points

Needs work

  • Lower options not greatest for all gaming
  • Some performance issues as tested due to SSD size/RAM/GPU
  • Palm rest is an oil magnet

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