Lenovo Legion Y520 Review

A non-PC gamer's perspective on a powerhouse

When it comes to laptops, my time with these machines is usually spent doing nothing but productivity-related tasks. Between checking in with my online college classes, editing videos, and typing heaps and heaps of articles for freelance clients, all work and no play is the mantra that I follow whenever I open up my MacBook Pro. I bring this point up because I am certainly not the kind of person that Lenovo is trying to target with one of its latest laptops — the Legion Y520.

Lenovo’s Legion lineup of laptops (try saying that five times fast) has been dedicated to PC gamers, and while that’s a demographic I once used to fit into, I now find myself much more comfortable with a controller and analogue sticks than I do with a keyboard and mouse when it comes to pwning newbs on Call of Duty or Paladins.

Despite this, I was still quite excited to put the Y520 through the ringer to see just what it was capable of. The Legion Y520 is bringing a whole lot of power to the table for not a lot of cash, and if you’re in the market for a solid laptop that’s incredible for gaming, this just may be worth checking out.



Design and Build Quality

Going from my 2016 MacBook Pro to the Legion Y520 was quite the stark transition, to say the least. Where my MBP is all about offering a sleek body and unmatched build quality, the Legion Y520 is a tank of a machine that embraces its larger footprint.

Weighing in at 5.3-pounds and featuring dimensions of 14.96 x 10.43 x 1.01-inches, the Y520 is a very large and in charge laptop.

Looking at the top of the Y520, the plastic here feels cheap and flexes when pressure is applied to it. That said, the patterned texture and raised lines throughout help give it a bit of added pizzaz. This design looks really good out of the box, but use the Y520 for even a short amount of time, and you’ll quickly start to realize that it likes to pick up and show off your skin oil to the world around you.

Open the Y520 up, and you’ll be met with a 15.6-inch display and a keyboard and trackpad that both feature prominent red accents. This red accent is something that’s quite common with budget gaming laptops, and as much as people like to complain about them, I really enjoyed the added bit of color here.

Towards the top of the keyboard you’ll find a strip of plastic that tries to mock and resemble brushed metal, and below that is a soft touch finish that makes up the majority of the body inside.

The screen does show some signs of flexing when you try to move it around while the laptop is open, but it’s it’s a lot better than what I’ve seen with similarly priced gaming machines like this.

That flexing aside, the rest of the Y520 feels quite sturdy. The plastic construction may not be the prettiest or most elegant around, but it does make the laptop feel like it could take a fair beating if it was ever subject to it for whatever reason.

Ports

One of the areas where the larger size of the Y520 is a clear benefit is with the amount of ports that it has to offer. On the left hand side of the machine you’ll find a charging port, RJ45 LAN, USB 2.0, and a 3.5mm headset jack. Move over to the right side of the Y520, and you’ve got USB Type-C, SD/SDHC/SDXC/MMC card reader, two USB 3.0 ports, and a full-sized HDMI-out port.

Keyboard and Trackpad

On the keyboard side of things, I found myself liking the Y520’s keyboard setup quite a bit more than I was initially anticipating. I really appreciate the full-sized arrow keys, and although the layout of the number pad is a bit odd when compared to more traditional setups, it’s still nice to have the added buttons for when you need to call upon them.

In regards to the feel of the keyboard, it didn’t take long at all for me to get comfortable typing on this Y520. Being a freelance writer, a good portion of my day is spent doing nothing but typing. Although this isn’t a laptop that’s made for productivity work, I can see myself typing away at this keyboard for hours and not getting irritated with it. Some hardcore gamers may find the keys a tad on the mushy side, but overall, the experience is really great. The keys are responsive, the soft-touch finish makes typing extra comfy, and the multi-stage backlight makes it easy to see what you’re doing when the lights go dim.

As great as the keyboard is, I, unfortunately, can’t give similar praise to the trackpad. The surface area is large enough for general use, but the type of plastic being used for it often caused my fingers to glide over it roughly; thus resulting in jittery mouse movement. Move down to the left and right clickers, and there’s another questionable design choice here. Rather than using two separate buttons for left and right click actions, Lenovo decided to use just one. This means that the button rests on a pedestal of sorts, so pressing the button closer to the middle won’t result in any action at all. That may sound like a small gripe on paper, but in day-to-day use, it can prove to be quite annoying.

Then again, if you’re using the Y520 the way it’s made to be used, you’ll likely have it paired with a dedicated gaming mouse and not ever bother with the built-in trackpad at all.

Display

While you’re using the Legion Y520, you’re going to be looking at a large 15.6-inch screen. Lenovo used an IPS panel with the Y520, and it features a matte finish with a resolution of 1920 x 1080 (Full HD). The display looks decent enough and will suffice for quick gaming sessions on the go, but to me, it just looks a little drab. Colors feel muted out at times, text occasionally looks fuzzy, and I would have preferred to see the screen get a bit brighter as well.The display isn’t necessarily bad, but I’d like it if Lenovo tried improving itself with this area of the Y520 the next time around.

Performance

There are four different models of the Legion Y520 that Lenovo is selling, and the unit that we have can currently be purchased for $999.99. This is the second-to-most expensive version of the Y520 that you can buy, and it comes with a 7th Generation Intel Core i7 processor clocked at 2.80 GHz, 16 GB of DDR4 RAM, an NVIDA GTX 1050 graphics card, and a 1TB hard drive that’s also backed up by a 128GB SSD.

For a gaming laptop that’s selling for under $1000, that’s a really solid combo of specifications. The spec list here is considerably more power than what you’ll find with the Alienware 13 and Acer Aspire VX 15 that both feature nearly identical price tags, and when you compare the Y520 to even more laptops that are around that $1000 marker, you’ll see that it typically beats out most of the competition in regards to its specs-to-price ratio.

If you don’t know what all of those above specs mean, however, they essentially translate to very speedy performance. I don’t have the most impressive Steam library built up, but the Y520 was able to play Team Fortress 2, Skyrim, and more without any problems at all. You can obviously get better performance if you’re willing to hand over more cash, but if $1000 is your limit, The Y520 packs in a whole lot of value in these regards.

Battery

You need a beefy battery to power all of that silicon packed inside of the Legion Y520, and this is, unfortunately, the weakest part of the laptop. Lenovo advertises up to 4 hours of use on its website, but this estimate is very generous. In my testing with the Y520, it typically died on me after around 2 to 2 1/2 hours of moderate usage (i.e. light gaming sessions, browsing Chrome, and downloading files from Steam).

Mileage here will vary depending on how much you tend to throw at your laptop, but no matter what game you’re playing or how long you’re playing it for, you’ll likely need to bring your charger with you if you decide to take the Y520 out of the house.

Final Thoughts

Conducting this review was a bit difficult for me seeing as how I don’t have a whole lot of experience when it games to mobile PC gaming. However, after plenty of research and a lot of playing the the Legion Y520, I’ve come to the conclusion that this is a really solid choice if you’re in the market for a gaming laptop that’s under $1000.

Although this isn’t a perfect machine, it’s simply hard to beat all of the power that Lenovo packs into this package for the price it’s asking. Combine that with a decent design, great port selection, and a shockingly great keyboard, and the Y520 is easy to get acquainted with.

The plastic build, ho-hum display, and weak battery are certainly low points that are worth considering if you’re thinking about handing over your cash for the Y520, but even with those cons put into consideration, the laptop is still a good buy. It may not be for me, but for a lot of you reading this review, it just may be the budget gaming laptop you’ve been searching for.

Get the Legion Y520