Gaming laptops are a great way to enjoy your favorite PC games on the go, but most of the time they tend to be really pricey. Or, if you end up buying a gaming laptop that’s affordable, it doesn’t perform as well. Thankfully the introduction of new graphics chips has meant that you can now get a great gaming PC or laptop that is surprisingly affordable. The Lenovo Legion Y520 is one such laptop, armed with a very attractive price tag and some decent specifications under the hood.
Build quality & design
A lot of gaming laptops have really outrageous designs or colors, but the Legion Y520 has a much more muted look. In fact when it’s closed it looks just like any other ordinary laptop, which personally I think is a good thing. Apart from the slanting vents at the back, you really wouldn’t think this is a gaming laptop at all. Lenovo have opted for a mostly plastic body, so you won’t see any nice brushed aluminum designs like you’ll see on higher-end gaming laptops. Still, there’s a discrete pattern etched into the lid which makes for a nice touch. The lid is slightly prone to fingerprints and smudges, so make sure you’re carrying a soft cloth in your laptop bag if you need to wipe it down.
Opening up the Legion Y520 and things are much different. Lenovo have opted for aggressive red accents on the interior, just so the laptop clarifies that it’s built for gamers. A red backlit keyboard is the first to greet you, with a fairly decently-sized trackpad at the bottom. Two forward-facing speakers flank the bottom of the screen, which for reasons unknown has a slight tapered edge on the top to add to that ‘gamer’ styling. There’s also a numeric keypad to the right, along with full-sized arrow keys just below.
On the left side is where you’ll find ports for power, Ethernet, and audio, while on the right you’ll find a card reader, both USB and USB-c ports, and a full-sized HDMI port. The Ethernet port is a no-brainer here, as no self-respecting gamer would try and play games via Wi-Fi.
The Legion Y520 comes in a couple of different configurations – our review unit came with 128GB of flash storage and a 1TB HDD, GeForce GTX 1050Ti Graphics, 8GB of RAM, and an Intel i7 Processor running at 2.8GHz. Those are pretty decent specs, and if you like you can ramp up the RAM to 16GB at a later date to get more life out of this little beast.
Benchmarks & Performance
When looking at performance figures for the Legion Y520, you have to keep in mind that this laptop is designed to run games at an acceptable level. So if you want butter-smooth 60fps performance, you’re not going to always get it. In our standard tests the Legion Y520 scored 1820 in 3DMark’s TimeSpy DirectX12 tests, and topped at 5513 in the Fire Strike test. PCMark yielded a score of 4049, while the VR Orange test came in at 3027. What all this means is that normal PC tasks such as typing, emails, watching media etc will be fine, as will running games on medium settings. For VR, the Legion Y520 technically can run VR sets such as Oculus Rift or HTC Vive, but it’s not going to be as smooth as it should be, so it’s best you leave this for more beefed up laptops.
Coming to actual in-game performance, playing Overwatch with all graphic settings maxed out yielded a frame rate of about 42fps. Turning everything back down to low with all graphics effects disabled yielded a much more respectable framerate of 58fps. The game is certainly playable, but 60fps seems a bit too much to expect. Likewise, playing Diablo III with a mix of medium and high settings saw it running at about 38fps at times. The takeaway is that most games will run just fine, but you’ll have to sacrifice some of the ‘pretty’ effects, which is perfectly fine to do on a budget gaming laptop.
One of the areas that the Legion Y520 does seems to stumble with is the screen. The 15.6” display is a good size for gaming on, but the screen’s overall brightness and colors are really bad. If you’re playing in a darkened environment, you’ll not mind, but in average indoor lighting you’ll suffer from muddy blacks and generally muted colors, even when watching videos. It’s an obvious sacrifice that Lenovo has had to make in order to keep the Legion Y520 affordable, so perhaps the only solution is to connect an external monitor where possible.
Keyboard & Audio
The Legion Y520’s keyboard feels quite good when typing or playing games. The keys are responsive and comfortable, though I have to point out that the left Shift key is half the size of what you’ll be used to, so I often found myself accidentally hitting the key next to it instead of the Shift key when playing games. The Function keys also serve as quick hotkeys for media control as well as controlling display brightness, and you can cycle through two brightness levels for the keyboard backlighting by using the spacebar. A feature I do love is the dedicated recording button on the lower right of the keyboard, which instantly starts recording whatever is on screen – great for those frantic matches that you want to relive later.
The touchpad is however, another story. While the surface is smooth and responsive, it doesn’t press down, so you have to fumble to press the hard plastic buttons at the bottom instead. What’s supremely annoying though is that the touchpad itself isn’t square or rectangular – it’s an odd trapezoid shape thanks to two unnecessary pieces of plastic that flank it. Why on earth was this even allowed in the design? I get that Lenovo wanted to keep the whole ‘gamer aesthetic’ going, but it becomes absolutely infuriating to use this laptop without plugging in an external laptop, even for simple tasks.
Audio on the Legion Y520 is provided by two forward-facing speakers near the bottom of the screen. While most laptops feature upward-facing speakers or worse still have speakers located towards the bottom of the unit or near the keyboard, the Legion Y520’s speakers are directed towards you, which makes audio a lot more audible and clearer. There are Dolby effects that you can tweak further, but honestly the performance from the speakers is a bit drab at times. You’re much better off using headphones, but if you are using the speakers you’ll notice that they may be loud, but lack much depth or range.
Software-wise there are a few apps that are installed to tweak various settings in the laptop, but the app is so slow to load each page that it’s really frustrating at times. There’s also an annoying number of bloatware games installed, such as the infuriating Candy Crush, so make sure you bin these as soon as you can.
This is the critical factor for any laptop, and for gaming laptops it’s even more important. On a standard day of usage which didn’t include any gaming at all, the laptop ran for around 3 hours and 15 minutes before demanding I plug in a charger. Playing Overwatch on low settings on a full charge lasted just under two hours, so the moral of the story here is to never leave your home without your laptop charger. There is an ‘Express Battery Charge’ mode that you can use to quickly get up to full power again, which is a useful addition.
Despite being a gaming laptop, the Legion Y520 doesn’t get extremely hot or loud. Yes, there is an ‘Extreme Cooling’ mode that you can switch on which greatly increases the fan speed and noise levels, but when this mode is turned off, the laptop sounds just fine. If you’re using headphones then you won’t have to worry, but even without headphones the sound isn’t too distracting.
The Lenovo Legion Y520 is a smart move for the company – make a laptop that’s durable and can run most games, and slap on an affordable price tag. At AED 3,099 the Legion Y520 is a great start for someone who wants to game on the go but doesn’t want to buy something super-expensive or bulky. While the Legion Y520 can run most games decently, it’s let down by the mediocre screen and very average battery life. Still, it’s a laptop that’s perfect for first-time gamers who need a kit that can just run games, not matter how pretty they may or may not end up looking.