Lenovo IdeaPad Y510-300
- Attractive design, good sound and connectivity, built-in webcam
- Limited viewing angle, facial recognition is not a viable security measure and One Key Recovery can cause problems for novice users due to inconvenient partitioning
The Y510-300 is a fairy decent all-purpose notebook suitable for those with a strong budget and an eye for design. With good connectivity and strong hardware performance, just make sure you use the D drive after purchase.
Price$ 2,399.00 (AUD)
Although Lenovo is traditionally synonymous with business platforms, its new Y510-300 IdeaPad represents a bold step towards consumer notebooks. With a stylish body a world away from the clunky utilitarianism of Lenovo's usual business models, this unit generally performs well and comes with a host of features; some of which work better than others.
The first word that comes to mind when using the Lenovo Y510-300 is shiny. From the highly reflective 15.4in (1280x800) WXGA LCD screen to the piano black touch-sensitive control panel through to the gun-metal grey palm rests, this sleek notebook is definitely an attractive option for the fashionable consumer. The red-lit battery meter is actually reflected off the interior plastic, promoting the modernist chic look.
Moving inside the unit reveals an Intel Core 2 Duo T9300 2.5GHz CPU with an 800MHz front side bus speed and a 6MB L2 cache, 2GB of DDR2 RAM which is upgradeable to 4GB, as well as an NVIDIA GeForce 8600M graphics card and a DVD re-writer supporting dual-layer burning. Add this to a 250GB SATA drive spinning at 5400rpm and a built-in 1.3-megapixel webcam with microphone, and so far you have a very promising all-rounder.
This particular Intel CPU is based on the latest Penryn 45nm core, which means that it's smaller than older models, and therefore should produce less heat. While using it, we definitely found it to be a cool-running unit, even after it had been running for hours.
Unfortunately, the buzz-kill for this model was what should have been an excellent innovation. The out-of-box configuration comes with Lenovo's 'One Key Recovery' system as standard, which automatically partitions the hard drive into two sections; a 30GB 'C' drive and a 188GB 'D' drive. Although an experienced user might see this and make sure all programs are installed into the bigger drive, both Windows and the majority of owners targeted by this model will simply default to installing onto the 'C' drive, resulting in problems. The swap file space needed for the heavy multimedia programs this notebook is capable of handling will easily hit walls, and the pre-installed Vista operating system already takes up almost one-third of the drive. This flaw could easily have been turned into a positive point had the designers levelled the split better.
The screen, whilst attractive, also suffers from limited viewing angles. The unit's size is suitable for lap use, but if used on an aircraft in a confined space or against a wall it can become a little impractical due to its L-shaped hinge. For travellers, the notebook weighs 3kg on its own, and 3.5kg with its power supply.
A big talking point for this unit is the 4.1 'Dolby Home Theatre' package. Advertised by Lenovo as 'theatre-style' sound, the results aren't quite that dramatic. The added speakers definitely boost the notebook's capabilities and there is a noticeable increase to the sound stage, but to call it surround sound would be a bit of a stretch. Even so, the sound reproduction is fairly good for a notebook and ranks relatively well.
An interesting replacement in the Y510-300 for the now common fingerprint scanner is the facial recognition package offered by Lenovo. Simply stick your mug in front of the camera, and the software should recognise you, select which account you're assigned to and let you in; no typing or touching required. Unfortunately, we managed to fool the software with nothing more than a standard facial photograph on all but the highest settings. Trying to access your notebook in public by staring at the screen with frozen intent may also attract some curious attention.
In our benchmarks the Y510-300 performed fairly well, but it failed our simulated Blu-ray burn test due to the aforementioned swap file problems. The 87 it achieved in WorldBench 6 means that it can handle office multitasking and common applications with ease. With its 3DMark06 score of 4346, it can handle older games like FEAR when playing with mid-level settings. On our MP3 encoding test, where we use iTunes to convert 53 minutes of WAV files into 192Kbps MP3s, the Y510-300 managed it in 71 seconds; a reflection of the CPU's strength. The unit lasted 82min in our worst-case scenario battery run-down test where we loop a DVD movie, and this is a fair result.
For connectivity, the Y510-300 is also fairly well equipped with Bluetooth, Wi-Fi 802.11a/g/n, three USB 2.0 ports, a FireWire connection, VGA and S-Video output, a modem jack, an Ethernet port capable of 10/100 speeds and an Express Card slot, as well as a 6-in-1 card reader supporting MMC, MS, MS Pro, SD, SD Pro and xD cards.
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