Articles, Gaming Laptops Reviews

Lenovo Y510p Review (SLI, I5): Still the fastest gaming laptop under $1000

Table of Contents (in short):

++ Main reason to consider:

Excellent package of highest gaming performance under $1000 and even under $1200, nice 1080p screen, good sound and good looks.

– Main reason to avoid:

The high heat emissions might scare some off.

Availability

New version: J&RAmazon, Newegg, TigerDirect, StaplesProvantage

Pro:

+ Best gaming performance in the price range, even up to $1200.
+ Good looking
+ Comfortable backlit keyboard
+ Very good sound quality and the best in class
+ Satisfying matte 1080p screen.
+ Good build quality.

Con:

- High temperatures under some circumstances and for some games / software.
- Battery performance with SLI is average at best.
- Though good, the 1080p screen could be better, preferably an IPS or PLS panel based.

 

Introduction

Component
Description
Price$950
CPUI5-4200M (2.5 - 3.1GHZ)
GPUGT 750M SLI, core@1058MHZ (w/ Turbo Boost), GDDR5@1250MHZ (5000MHZ effective)
RAMHynix 2x4GB DDR3 1600MHz
HDDSeagate ST1000LM014-1EJ164 1TB SSHD (8GB SSD)
LCD Panel1080p matte display. Model: LP156WF1-TLB2
Weight / Dimensions2.9kg / 6.4lbs,  38.6cm (w) x 25.9cm (d) x 3.6cm (h)
KeyboardBacklit (red-orange), 3 levels
Connection Portsright side: 1xUSB 3.0, Kensington Lock, mic and headphones connection ports
left side: 1xUSB 3.0, 1xUSB 3.0 powered, 1xHDMI, 1xVGA, 1xLAN, power connection port
front: card reader
More9-in-1 Card Reader; MMC/RSMMC; SD/MiniSD/SDHC/SDXC; MS/MS Pro/MS Duo
Camera2.0 Megapixels; FHD 1920x1080; 30fps
WiFiIntel Centrino Wireless-N 2230 BGN 2x2 HMC WiFi/Bluetooth Adapter + Bluetooth 4.0
Speakers2.0 JBL system
Battery6 cell, 58W

The Y510p series is a successful 15.6″ gaming laptops series from Lenovo. The previous gaming laptops series from Lenovo were also quite successful and popular mainly due to the high performance and features they packed compared to the competition and features like very good speakers.

The more interesting Y510p versions are the ones with SLI of GT 750M (two GT 750M GPUs working in concert) since they deliver a lot of power for their price. There are two main versions for the Y510p, that interest me:

  • The Y510p I5 version (model #: 59390909) with GT 750M SLI, I5-4200M, 6GB DDR3 RAM and the standard 1TB SSHD from Seagate (HDD + 8GB SSD). (Link to deals page)
  • The Y510p I7 version (model #: 59388313), same only with 8GB DDR3 and an I7-4700MQ. Currently costs around $100 more. (Link to the deals page)

The model I’ll review is the I5 model which unlike a the desktop I5, has 2 cores (and 2 HyperThreading cores). You might ask why I picked the I5 version given the much-more-powerful I7 version is selling for only $100 more. Well, as I discussed about it in the ‘first impressions’ post, first of all, probably no one will review this model. Secondly, the I5 is a potent cpu and since almost no game really make good use of the I7 capabilities in most cases, the Y510p I5 model might save you another ~$100 for the same gaming performance. Third, the I5 is less energy hungry and will produce less heat which translates into better battery performance and less/no throttling meaning the performance might even be better than the I7 version in some games@settings.

 

In the box

The Y510p, drivers discs, all the power things (no international adapter). What can we expect really?

 

Build quality, Case, design and looks

Build quality. The Y510p is sturdy in most areas with parts that are more flexible – the speakers panel (above the keyboard part) and a bit over the area where the ultrabay goes in. The outer lid is, like in any other laptop I’ve tested and many more I used, is flexible, but not that much – I would say it is average or a little better than that. The screen’s hinges could have been more firm. The screen’s protecting panel, although not hard, is sturdy enough, in my opinion – the W230ST surrounding lid was not as strong. The keyboard area itself and the bottom are sturdy. Saying that, generally the feel is very good and the Y510p does not feel cheap to me, though I wished the hindges were less flexible (though you should not touch them anyway).

The insides do not include an NGFF connection port, unlike previous Y510p models, unfortunately. The CPU and built-in heatpipes are connected, it would seem.

The looks are quite nice. The Y510p has a elegant solid and ‘we are serious, but we are also gamers’ looks. The corners are rounded and the outer lid, as well as the whole working area (keyboard, touchpad, speakers panel) and the bottom have a brashed metal finish which is very nice. It tends to catch fingerprints but that’s not that bad. The keyboard’s keys are a bit rounded in the lower parts and the speakers’ cover has a twisted trapeze shape (see photos).

You might notice that there is no connection port for an mSata (or am I blind?)

 

Keyboard and touchpad

Keyboard is quite nice and comfortable. I wouldn’t say it’s a superb keyboard as keys can dance a little bit in their place and clicking is not as fluent as it could be, but it has its solid personality, good response and clicking is predictable so you’ll very quickly get used to it and find that typing rapidly is not a problem and not annoying. It’s better than the W230ST keyboard in my opinion, but maybe not as good as the Toshiba X70, at least for me. It is very subjective matter, though. the red back light of the keyboard is indeed very nice and helpful.

Touchpad. Many have complained about the touchpad, but actually it’s not that bad. One problem is that clicking the integrated buttons triggers the touchpad itself too if your finger is on the edges of the buttons. You can either get used to this specific touchpad so clicking without moving the mouse will be more natural. Or you can apply this solution of tastynoms from reddit.

Another problem is that there is no side scrolling – the solution above addresses this problem too, and finally, you can use two fingers like you’d use a single finger – it will make the synaptics of the touchpad confused, but that’s not really a problem by itself.

Other these problems which are solvable if a problem at all, the touchpad is comfortable, though I wished it would have been bigger.

One final thing – the drivers make it so that if you type keyboard, it voids your touchpad gestures for the moment of typing. This is really annoying for gaming (in case you are using the touchpad and not a separate mouse) and it is called PalmCheck. You can disable it by going to the mouse properties -> Device Settings -> Settings -> Advanced -> drag the PalmCheck slider down to off / 0%.

 

Sound & Speakers

The jewel of the Y510p. Really, I’m surprised by the quality.of these speakers (branded as JBL). They are far better than the laptops’ speakers I’ve heard so far and while it is not high quality compared to some very good earphone (which won’t cost more than $15-$20, btw) or good pair of speakers, the Y510p speakers are very satisfying.

I’ve thrown at it my whole arsenal, including soft silky dreamy music, hard punk, prog rock, old dixie, RATM music or some rap or whatever and it handled them all quite well. There is richness and deepness in the sound – somehow the cover don’t hurt the sound as much as in the other laptops I’ve listened to. The bass levels are good too. The maximum volume is not that high, but it will suffice for a small room if it’s not noisy.

So, bottom line, the speakers are quite nice. Don’t get me wrong, these are not even close to a level of some $100-$150 speakers (which are not as good as $300 speakers), but for a laptop they are surprise and definitely a selling point you should consider if you tend to use the laptop’s speakers.

General Subjective Performance Experience

The general feeling is very good and the laptop is quite responsive. In my opinion, it was much thanks to the SSHD from Seagate (ST1000LM014-1EJ164) which was responsive even while I was copying simultaneously several chunks of files so I could continue browse and work. Boot is fast too. In my opinion this is an excellent path to go, only the capacity of 8GB of SSD is obviously too small.

 

Gaming Performance

The test includes some synthetic benchmarks and a small amount of games and the point is to give a reference benchmarks compared to other machines. For more numbers are available over the web in sites like Notebookcheck.com.

I had problems running Metro: Last Light and Total War : Rome II well. Total War : Rome 2 does not support SLI very well and only one GT 750M was utilized. MLL acted too – performance was lower than expected and when I checked CPU and GPU info during the benchmark, it showed that both the CPU and GPU were significantly underutilized, with 70%-80% load only. I had not success trying solving it, but I saw many have reported the same issue.

One important notice about Turob boost in the Y510p: The Y510p cpu is throttled to 2.4GHZ (base clocks) in many cases when the GPU is loaded too, even if the CPU was not fully utilized and was not hotter than usual. It does not happen while running CPU intensive software only, like wPrime. I don’t know why Lenovo did it so, but it’s their doing. The same behavior was observed by notebookcheck in their Y510p SLI I7 tests (look in the ‘Turbo boost’ section).

I used ThrottleStop 6.0 freeware to avoid this problem in those cases and the difference in performance was sometimes significant, like in the CPU hungry Crysis 3. Don’t worry – TDP, power usage and heat did not got significantly higher, if at all.

I’ll talk about it more in the next sections and I’ll also test the modded svl7 Y510p bios.

 

Test Methods & Drivers

Drivers in use were the latest beta 331.40 drivers. Windows 8 fully updated as I write these lines. HWInfo and MSI Kombustor/Afterburner were used to measure temperatures.

The settings I used in each game differ from one to another and the reason is that I tried to find the highest settings which still let you play smoothly. All games are tested with 1080p resolution.  There are enough standard benchmarks over the web to compare performance of different GPUs. For each game, I also wrote how I felt playing, if it was smooth or not.

All games were set with vsync = ‘off’ since enabling it resulting in stuttering and zombie lines in some games (WoT, BL2, Bioshock Infinite ..).

 

Synthetic 3D benchmarks

For CLBenchmark, I run only the raytracing test as it is the only one that will run on GT 750M SLI.

Lenovo Y510p Review (SLI, I5) : 3dmark13

Lenovo Y510p Review (SLI, I5) : Kombustor testLenovo Y510p Review (SLI, I5) :  clbenchmark raytracing

 

Games benchmarks!

Just to get some of the picture in an imageLenovo Y510p Review (SLI, I5) : all games benchmarks, highest settings@1080py510p all games benchmarks, highest settings@1080p

 

World of Tanks (WoT)

Highest settings, FXAA on HQ, 1080p resolution, you’ll get an average of 30-50FPS, depends on the scene. Very smooth and responsive. Currently there is some problem with the Source 3D engine or the Nvidia drivers (or both) resulting in tearing effect while not in full screen mode.

EDIT: with the new 331.58 drivers, the problem is fixed

 

LoL (League of Legends)

highest settings, 1080p resolution, a lot of units fighting and 5-6 players at a scene – not lower than 90FPS and usually around 100-120FPS. Smooth and responsive.

Crysis 3

TD = Texture Details, PP = Post Processing

Crysis 3, 1080p
SettingsFPSFeel
Highest, MSAAx413-23, AVG: 17Not smooth, but somewhat playable
Highest, SMAAx216-25, AVG: 20-21Not smooth
Highest, no AA15-33, AVG: 23Not smooth, playable (see no reason to play it so, though)
High TD, Specs = very high, SMAAx211-25, AVG: 17Not smooth
High TD, Specs = very high, SMAAx2, PP on ‘normal’11-30, AVG: 18-19Not smooth
High, SMAAx222-41, AVG: 27Not smooth, but playable
High, MSAAx413-41, AVG: 24Not smooth, but playable
High, no AA20-49, AVG: 34Mostly smooth
High, no AA, PP = ‘medium’18-50, AVG: 34Mostly smooth
High TD, medium Specs, SMAAx221-51, AVG: 34Mostly smooth

For the campaign, I would certainly go with one of the lowest “High” options, as they were very playable and mostly smooth even in heavy 3D scenes with several figures. The ‘High TD, medium Specs, SMAAx2′ option is the most appealing, in my opinion – it was very smooth yet looking very good.

Crysis 3, 1680×1050 & 1366×768
SettingsFPSFeel
1680×1050, High, SMAAx217-56, AVG: 30Felt very smooth mostly and highly playable, though not totally smooth.
1680×1050, High, FXAA19-51, AVG: 33same
720p, High, FXAA19-68 AVG: 33-35Not feeling smooth (though playable)
720p, Very High, FXAA17-55 AVG: 30Not feeling smooth (though playable)

What do we see here?

The 720p settings results: Going from ‘High’ to ‘Very high’ resulted in only a small FPS rates change. We’ve probably hit some bottlenecking here. The CPU usage data from HWInfo showed that niether the CPU nor the GPUs were fully utilized. The result might be that the CPU might also be a limit here, unlike in 1080p resolution where the GPU is much more of the bottleneck.

This thought is supported by our investigation of Crysis 3 against the number of cores performance (here) – in short, in some settings where the CPU role is much more pronounced, you’ll see performance hit with only 2 cores (including the 2 HT cores, 4 total). This should not be a problem by its own, as it happens in such cases like gaming on 720p which won’t happen with the Y510p or while playing a multiplier game with a lot of players. In that case, you can lower the ‘Specs’ .

The bottom line is that Crysis 3 can make use of an extra core (again, here) and the maximal FPS rates will be limited with the I5-4200M compared to the I7-4700MQ with same GPU. BUT, it’s the case only when the graphics settings are quite low, for higher settings a.k.a. at least medium-high@1080p, you won’t notice a difference. The Toshiba Qosmio X70 sporting a GTX 770M and an I7 got in my test (same scene) 28-30 average FPS which is around the same as the Y510p results.

 

Bioshock Infinite

Highest settings in all tests, Ambient Occlusion, Texture details and texture filtering on ‘Ultra’, Post processing on ‘alternate’. There was some problem of lagging/stuttering although the FPSs were high, see here how to solve it – these are the files I used: xengine.ini (replacing the one you already have), run.bat (place in the bioshock exe directory and run).

Bioshock Infinite, 1080p
SettingsFPSFeel
Highest, Ambient Occlusion on ultraAverage: 41-42.Min: 30 at some really rare scenes with PP = ‘alternate’Smooth
Highest, Ambient Occlusion on ultra, PP on ‘normal’Average: 47FPSSmooth
ThrottlingNo

Running smoothly on highest settings with numbers higher than the Toshiba Qosmio X70. I did notice a strange behavior – the CPU did not go above 2500MHZ, though the temperatures were not high (around 70C). Using ThrottleStop 6.0 you can set the multiplier to x30 to get the ‘maximal’ performance, though I see no reason.

Now, the Bioshock Infinite benchmark tool:

Average FPS Min FPS Max FPS Scene Name
39.75 9.86 159.71 Welcome Center
38.92 14.50 74.90 Scene Change: Disregard Performance In This Section
41.39 23.50 101.41 Town Center
38.51 23.33 110.56 Raffle
58.38 30.32 141.16 Monument Island
64.17 38.77 137.37 Benchmark Finished: Disregard Performance In This Section
43.02 9.86 159.71 Overall

The results I got with the y510p are higher than the notebookcheck results. It might be due to difference in drivers or the fact that in their Y510p SLI test, the Y510p CPU got throttled like my Y510p (why Lenovo why), only I used a ThrottleStop 6.0 software to avoid it. I can’t see what other reasons could be taking place here since this is a standard benchmark.

Compared to the Anandtech results of several laptops with GTX 780M, 680M, 675MX and more, the GT 750M SLI positions itself very close to the GTX 680M and significantly above the 675MX. (Input from your own machines will be great!)

Anyway, the results are excellent for Bioshock infinite.

Skyrim

Skyrim, 1080p
SettingsFPSFeel
Highest, 8xAA, TF on quality, AO on quality, AFx16minimum of 40-45, usually around 45-50Very smooth
Highest, 8xAA, TF on quality, AO ‘off’, AFx16Around 60FPS, with minimum of 52-53 at most.very smooth
Highest, 4xAA, TF on quality, AO on quality, AFx16minimum of 42-45, around the same as 8xAAvery smooth
ThrottlingNo

Skyrim runs very well on the GT 750M SLI resulting in a very smooth gameplay. It is unclear to me why I got considerably lower results with the Toshiba Qosmio X70 and its GTX 770M as I used the same drivers and settings. I retested the X70 and got the same results.

 

Tomb Raider

Tomb raider (2013), 1080p
SettingsFPSFeel
‘Ultimate’AVG: 37, Min: 13very smooth
‘Ultra’ (same as notebookcheck)AVG: 49, Min: 38very smooth
ThrottlingNo

I used Tomb Raider benchmark. Compared to notebookcheck results of the same benchmark, these are better results, surpassing both the Y510p I7 version and the GTX 770M equipped laptops – this might be the newer drivers performance gains. Anyway, the performance is very good and even the minimal FPS are high enough to ensure smooth gameplay.

Also interesting to see that I got no difference in results with the core@3GHZ or core@2,4GHZ. It seems that the Tomb Raider engine relies considerably more on the GPU compared to other games. It is also visible in the notebookcheck results of the GX70 (AMD A10-5750M CPU) and Anandtech results too,

 

Borderlands 2

Fun game

Borderlands2, 1080p
SettingsFPSFeel
Highest, 8xAF, FXAA, all on including Ambient Occlusion25-55. AVG: 41Very smooth
Highest, 8xAF, FXAA, all on including Ambient Occlusion, Physx on medium
28-61, AVG: 42-45Smooth
Highest, 8xAF, FXAA, all on including Ambient Occlusion, Physx on ‘low’ (notebookcheck benchmark settings)
47-69, AVG: 59-60Super smooth
Highest, 8xAF, FXAA, all on including Ambient Occlusion, Physx on ‘low’, running from the village gate to Hammerlock hut (notebookcheck benchmark settings + benchmark)
AVG: 75Super smooth
ThrottlingNo

The average FPSs are quite good. They were all taken from the ‘Boom’ and ‘Bawm’ scene with lots of splash and bombs. it seems that one major factor for lower FPSs is the Physx thing. You can try it for yourself and see. I haven’t notice any significant increase in performance when turning off Ambient Occlusion (unlike in Skyrim, for example)..

The Physx feature will add several objects and some more effects of splash, booms and such. I would suggest setting it at least on ‘medium’, but I would set it on ‘high’ – the game is super smooth and there is no reason not to do so.

 

Dota 2

Running a replay from some tournament (271145478)

Dota 2, 1080p
SettingsFPSFeel
HighestMIN: 30,. AVG: 65Very smooth, but in very intensive scenes, a little jumpy
ThrottlingNo

I saw no stuttering of some kind. The results match more or less those of noteobokcheck with a GTX 770M. Dota 2 will run smoothly on the GT 750M SLI configuration.

 

Thermals, Throttling & Noise handling

Ah, Lenovo. You could have taken another hour to make a better cooling solution, really, but lets start from the good news. The Y510p cooling system isn’t bad – the fans are relatively quiet under load and almost slient under light use or while idling (can’t hear them). Temperature in some games is even not that bad, like in Bioshock Infinite. Moreover, the CPU and GPU do not throttle almost never and the performance is quite good, surpassing the GTX 770M in many cases (Bioshock Infinite).

However, running specific software that stresses the system to its fullest, in some specific conditions, will result in the GPUs and CPU temperatures getting very high, up to 97C (!) for the GPUs. There are several reasons for it : the fans don’t run fast enough under load, the thermal paste isn’t well applied, the CPU and the built-in GT 750M use the same heatpipe and there are probably some more design faults that I can’t see by simply look at the laptop from the outside. Moreover, the laptop’s surface gets really hot in its upper part around the 1-2-3-4-5-6-.. keys and it might bother some people (I’m ok with it).

I think that one problem is that not enough cool(er) air enough is taken in by the vents. Not only the air is sucked from below,  but also the flow is quite low. I could barely feel any air moving in the area where the cool air is sucked from. Combine these with the fact that the air in the surrounding area gets hotter as you stress the laptop for long period and there you are. So I really think one good (semi) solution could be a cooling pad.

Now, other laptops with such a hardware (GTX 765M / 770M) also get really hot and sometimes even hotter and throttle, like the W230ST (which gets hot), the Toshiba X70, Valkyrie CZ-17 that throttle the GPU a bit (see NBC review). But many laptops handles the heat much better, for example the Asus G750JX an MSI GT70 and even the 15.6″ Valkyrie CZ-15.

Lets start with the tests and then we’ll show how to handle the high temperature to some degree.

Tests settings:

1. wPrime: 1024MB test

2. Kombustor 2.5.2 ‘GPU burn-in’ test with the following settings: 1080p, AAx8, DX11, Post-FX on.

3. Bioshock on highest settings and Crysis 3 on some very high settings.

4. OCCT GPU test – default settings

5. Prime95 (max heat settings) + Furmark (1280×720). This is compatible with notebookcheck tests of their ‘stress tests, in order to create comparable results.

Test conditions:

The results are the maximal temperature attained after long period of activity. Room temperature: 26 C – 27 C. Note: The area surrounding the laptop was not ventilated and you can assume that the air taken in by the vents was warmer than the room temperature.

Lenovo Y510p Review (SLI, I5): temperatures

The I5-4200M cpu is the cooler part in the y510p system, usually. You can see that under the right software, the temperatures can get really high. However, as I mentioned, the surroundings of the Y510p test unit were not ventilated at the time of the measurements and the air taken in by the vents was probably hotter than the not-too-low room temperature. Conducting the same tests outside, where the there is a nice temperature of 23C, the temperatures were actually around at least 5-10C lower for the same settings, for the CPU and GPUs. Keep that in mind.

Saying that, it is not a solution and the cooling system should have been better. I’ll discuss the undervolting results later on.

Throttling.

No throttling whatsoever took place, but the Y510p might meet its limits in some cases like Crysis 3. In my testing, the limits for throttling which are 97 C (GPU) were not met in games, but came close to this. The built-in throttling of the CPU was avoided by using the ThrottleStop 6.00 freeware and settings the multiplier to x30 resulting in core@~3000MHZ. Anyway, see undervolting section – it could help you a lot.

Noise.

The Y510p is relatively very quite in light load and I could barely hear it. It is very suited for light work and stuff. during playing 1080p youtube videos, there was no increase in the noise levels. Even under full load, though you can hear the fans, it is not an annoying sound.

 

Undervolting the I5-4200M and the GT 750Ms: thermals and 3D performance

So, in order handle the heat issues of the Y510p, I tried undervolting the CPU and 750M GPUs.

  • CPU: undervolted by 80mV. More than that in my case, resulted in system crashing.
  • GPU: Since I couldn’t undervolt thr GT 750M directly, Nvidia Inspector was used to limit the temperatures of the GT 750M cores (both) while overclocking them by 100MHZ or so (could go higher). The result is that the Kepler system tried to keep the temperature limits by underclocking and undervolting the cores. The overclock is needed since the core is underclocked automatically and we had to negate it n order to maintain the original clocks (more or less).
  • Test software: Prime95 (max heat settings) + Furmark (1280×720). This is compatible with notebookcheck tests of their ‘stress tests, in order to create comparable results.

Lenovo Y510p Review (SLI, I5) : Lenovo Y510p undervolt results

You can see that with both the GPUs and CPU undervolted/underclocked, the temperatures seem more reasonable.

As for 3D performance, here are Bioshock Infinite benchmark results:

Average FPSMin FPSMax FPSScene Name
41.476.46197.72Welcome Center
41.7019.8573.00Scene Change: Disregard Performance In This Section
44.2610.80115.31Town Center
40.086.82122.67Raffle
61.968.27192.84Monument Island
69.2030.75144.96Benchmark Finished: Disregard Performance In This Section
45.456.46197.72Overall

Funny, but they are actually higher than my non-undervolted results. The results are good and you have nothing to worry about.

There are more steps you can take to reduce the y510p temperatures – reapplying a good thermal paste, as people report that the thermal paste often does not applied as well as it should be and fixing it could result in several degrees less. Cooling pad should be another good option, as I explained in the Thermals section – I believe it would eliminate part of the problem of the y510p ventilation problem. Results with a cooling pad will be posted soon.

 

Screen & Screen quality

ModelLG LP156WF1-TLB2
Resolution1080p
MatteYes
IPSNo
Stated valueMeasured value
Color coverage (stated)60% NTSC64% NTSC, 68% adobeRGB, 91% sRGB
Brightness300cd/m^2370cd/m^2
Contrast500 / 1 (min)540 / 1 (min)
Viewing Angles (stated)50 / 50 / 40 / 40

How should I put it? average, but satisfying. The Y510p screen is an average matte 1080p screen. Though not top, it is good rather good in some aspects. It’s a TN panel based with average viewing angles which are much better than most 720p screens’ viewing angles and subjectively relatively good color for the common user. Contrast and brightness are good enough for reading the small characters (due to the 1080p resolution) and they are also high enough for many different light conditions. The image quality is generally good. For gamers this is a good enough screen and shouldn’t be a deal breaker. Subjectively, it is a satisfying 1080p screen in the manner of having good enough viewing angles, colors, contrast and brightness so using it is enjoyable, but a good IPS screen like the one on the W230ST is visibly superior and more fun to use.

Contrast is good, though not great. You’ll be able to read small characters in your screen. Maximal brightness is high enough and will suffice even for use under daylight. You can see that in the more common cases of 25% tp to 75% of brightness levels, the black levels are quite good and the contrast too.

y510p screen contrast vs brightness

Colors are again, ok. NTSC gamut of 60% and sRGB of 91% is rather good for the common user. It seemed to me like there should have been a little more red in the image. The graphs indeed show that the red colors are the ones that lack, but I don’t really know if that’s what I see.

y510p LP156WF1 TLB2 adobeRGB y510p LP156WF1 TLB2 NTSC y510p sRGB

 

Viewing angles. The stated viewing angles of 50 / 50 / 40 / 40 are not good for a high quality gaming laptop. However, in practice for the common use, the horizontal viewing angles are good and you’ll be able to read or watch from the sides with relative ease. Don’t get me wrong – you will notice change in colors at around 40-50 degrees indeed, but it doesn’t seem to me that bad. Vertical angles are average at best, especially when looking from above as you can see in the pictures – you’ll quickly notice the changes in brightness and colors. Looking from below is better.

You’ll notice it is hard to see real color changes in these colorful images when tilting the screen horizontally, but in white and grey screen you’ll notice it quickly. vertically, the average quality of the y510p screen is more apparent

Bottom line – A rather standard 2013 1080p screen and it should be satisfying for a gamer and good enough for 1080p movies too. Reading and writing is not a problem with this screen and the viewing angles are good enough so you won’t have to worry about looking from specific angle to make sure to see the image well. Compared to other TN-panel based 1080p screen in this price range, the Y510p screen is on the same level. However, a good IPS screen will be clearly better, like in the W230ST, and you should keep that in mind when you are making you final decision.

 

Battery Performance

We’ll start with the performance in case you use both the GT 750Ms:

Load level
Running time (hours)
Idle~4.5
Light load: light web browsing, reading/writing~3.5-4.5
1080p youtube video~2.5

With both GT 750Ms, the HD4600 is disabled automatically and the Y510p uses one GT 750M as its main graphics card, resulting in lower battery performance where with HD4600 enabled, the battery performance would have been better. This mainly affects the low load situations where in the HD4600 would be used, like reading, light web surfing, idling, etc. I couldn’t enable SLI in game on battery for some reason.

Now with a single GT 750M, with HD4600 enabled:

Load level
Running time (hours)
idleup to 6-7
light use4.5-6

With only one GT 750M, the battery performance because rather good with 5-6 hours of light use which is higher even than some clearly non-gaming laptops.

 

Overclocking the GT 750M SLI

Overclocking the GT 750Ms is actually not that hard. Using Nvidia inspector / MSI Afterburner I was able to overclock the core clock 150MZ higher to 1200MHZ and the memory to 2750MHZ (10% increase). I didn’t notice significant gains as a result from the memory overclock, but the the core overclocking yielded around 10% gains in the Kombustor test with the settings as in the image (don’t mind the system information, it’s not correct)

Kombustor GT 750M SLI overclock results

Bioshock Infinite benchmark was also up by around 10% on average.

However, I would not suggest overclocking just like that. I’d try to set temperatures limits for the GPUs through Nvidia Inspector, too. Otherwise, in some cases like Crysis 3 as we’ve seen, the system will really heat up.

 

Y510p Wifi problem

There have been some complaints on the Y510p WiFi performance. I had no significant problems with the WiFi, except while playing SC II the WiFi would lag for some reason, but most of the time it worked very well. I would have to test it more, since I have problems with my router anyway. Anyway, there are some problems and some solutions (1, 2, 3)

 

Y510p modded bios

I flashed the modded bios from svl7 (link). The update enabled a lot of features in the bios menu, including many option regarding the CPU and Memory. For the owners of the I7 version, I’d suggest trying to deactivate 1 core of the I7. That way you’ll save some energy and heat and still get optimal performance in gaming. Several option were also unlocked in the Intel XTU interfaces.

Also, with the modded bios, the WiFi whitelist Lenovo set in the bios is disabled and you can install whatever WiFi card you wish.

Personally I didn’t use almost none of the options unlocked, except the CPU voltage option in the Intel XTU, but it is there.

Some pictures with the unlocked bios;

 

Competing gaming laptops / Alternatives

The Y510p performance level places it against GTX 765M / 770M equipped laptops. GTX 765M will be slower than it for gaming, even if they have an I7 inside. GTX 770M equipped laptops won’t be faster than the Y510p and its GT 750M SLI in many games too. On the other hand, it costs around $950 (I5) to $1050 (I7), which places it against the options in this price range.

So, the two main categories the Y510p competes against are the gaming laptops under $1000 and GTX 770M level gaming laptops. For the $1000 price range competitors check here for updated list. Generally, the the most competitive alternatives will be mostly the Clevo based laptops, all equipped with a GTX 765M:

  • Sager NP7370 (17.3″) – the 7370 has the advantage of considerably better thermals, customizability, having larger screen (for those who want it). Disadvantages will be the noise (probably) and in some games (like Bioshock Infinite or Tomb Raider), significantly lower performance, lousy sound quality.
  • Sager NP7355 (15.6″), generally same as above, only 15.6″.
  • Clevo W230ST (13.3″), advantages will be the excellent IPS screen and compactness. Disadvantages will be the battery performance and the heat which is around the same (not exactly disadvantage, but also not an advantage) and again lousy sound quality for music.
  • Asus N550JV (15.6″) with GT 750M and I7. The main advantage is the IPS screen (touchscreen). Otherwise, the gaming performance is way lower as the GT 750M SLI is between twice to trice faster.
  • The older Y500 with GT 650M SLI that is still available through several retailers for around $800-$850. The performance is lower, but still very good, This is also a very cost effective gaming laptop under around $800-$900

All these models cost more if you include in the Windows OS that is not included with them, especially compared to the $950 Y510p I5 version reviewed here.

Not included: MSI GE60 as it has no real advantage besides being lighter. Otherwise, it has lower gaming performance, it’s at least as hot.

And for the GTX 765M/770M competitors:

  • For GTX 765M, the Clevo models above mainly. The Asus G750JW costs considerably more and besidese being much better cooled, it has no advantage with lower gaming performance, higher weight and not exceptional screen.
  • For GTX 770M, the Toshiba Qomsio X70 that sometimes sells for $1000-$1100 (add around $100 for tax and shipping) is a good competitor. The advantage is the larger screen (again, for those who are interested in it) and single GTX 770M and maybe better keyboard. Otherwise, the battery performance is lower, screen is not as good in my opinion and it gets hotter than the Y510p. Gaming performance equals the y510p performance at most.
  • The Sager NP8235 (Clevo P151SM1) 15.6″. For around $1200 (w/o OS) with I7 and GTX 770M. Advantages are high customizability, single GPU and probably better thermals. Disadvantages are considerably higher price for around the same performance, higher weight and no-backlit keyboard.

You can see why the Y510p is a very good gaming laptop around $1000, having excellent gaming performance.

 

Conclusion

UPDATE: new variant is now available with a the better Intel 7260 WiFi card and GT 755M SLI.

No question the Y510p SLI I5 gaming laptop makes a lot of sense: top gaming performance for the money, combined with relatively good (though TN-panel) 1080p screen, good looks, comfortable backlit keyboard, very good sound system and 1TB SSHD. The only major issues are the heat and battery performance (on SLI) with the heat being the most important. A good IPS screen is another important component that should have been there.

The Y510p can get really hot under full load (Crysis 3, but not Bioshock, for example). There are ways to deal with it and more importantly – you’ll get the high GTX 770M level gaming performance almost always even if you’d do nothing, without throttling and without the temperature really getting that high. So, if you want the highest gaming performance for the money, coupled with the other pros listed above, the Y510p is probably would be my recommendation

But there is another issue and it’s the I5-4200M CPU which is why I review this specific model. Most people will probably get the I7 version since it makes more sense to take the one with the faster CPU which also has twice the cores. That’s what I wanted to check in this review. We’ve discovered that the I7-4700MQ equipped Y510p doesn’t offer much additional value for gaming – the gaming performance is at least as high as the I7 version in most cases and sometimes even higher (comparing to the notebookcheck review), except Crysis 3. But then again, the difference is only $100 – why not get the I7 version and cancel one or two cores through the bios? you’ll also get faster cores that way.

I would say that it is up to you. Personally, I see no reason to get the I7 version unless you have some specific use for it. First, the I7 will run hotter, even with 3 cores enabled anyway. Secondly, even in the rare cases like Crysis 3 which can benefit from the extra core, it will run quite smoothly on the I5 CPU as it runs on the I7. Moreover, with Mantle and Nvidia’s own nvapi coming, and given that enough games engines will support it, much of the stress poised on the CPU due to DirectX calls could be eliminated, freeing the CPU to run naked in the wild. For example, take the Tomb Raider case – I saw no difference between 2.4GHZ core and 3GHZ in the benchmarks and while it’s probably not the whole picture, it is obvious that the CPU limitations are not mandatory part of life.

But why not get the I7 nontheless? because you can get a nice SSD instead, buy something nice for yourself or simply save it for the next generation laptop. I really don’t think the I7 investment worth it just like that. Also because in two years your $100 will be worth much more while the I7 won’t give you much for gaming.

Back to the the Y510p competition. If you appreciate a good IPS screen (I do), the Clevo W230ST is an excellent option for $1000 and if you’d prefer to avoid the Y510p due to its maximal temperature, the 15.6″ Sager NP7352 would be my second suggestion. However, both will be slower for gaming than the Y510p, will it be an I5 or an I7 model.

Final words. I would strongly recommend the Y510p SLI I5-4200M laptop for anyone who looks for a fast gaming laptop under $1000. All in all, the Y510p SLI I5 laptop gives you a lot for your money in a nice package and good build quality. The system itself is snappy and responsive, also thanks to the Seagate SSHD which really makes a difference. An IPS screen should have applied by Lenovo but nevertheless, this is a good laptop and the fastest even up to $1200-$1300. I would not recommend the Y510p I7 version unless you know you need it and therefore this model of Y510p would be my recommendation among the Y510p at least as long there is $100 or more price difference, and if you are looking for the fastest 15.6″ gaming laptop around / under $1000, the Y510p is definitely for you.

  • Vikum B. Wijekoon

    Awesome review mate. Since you have posted about the unlocked bios I believe you have access to tech infernos attachment downloads. For some reason I can’t register in techinferno. Is it possible for you to email me the files for bios mods and sli vbios. That would be a great help. Cheers. Again an awesome review

    • Vikum B. Wijekoon

      If you’re interested in helping me. My email is vikumbandara@gmail.com have a nice day

      • http://www.gaminglaptopsjunky.com/ Junky

        yes, ofcourse, although the forums are open to anybody

  • Garick

    Could you provide some nvidia inspector settings for undervolting? Or maybe some links for reference?

    • http://www.gaminglaptopsjunky.com/ Junky

      I don’y have the laptop anymore, so I can’t create a guide, but there are links over the web + we can do it here:
      1. open Nvidia Inspector
      2. click on “show overclocking” (right bottom)
      3. There you have something like “Power and Temperature Target” -> change it to like 89C for both GPUs
      4. Apply

      Tell me if there is a difference?
      What are you seeing now? what’s the problem?

      • Garick

        Thanks for the tips. I was seeing temps in the upper 90′s on the ultrabay card and they now stay consistently in the lower 80′s and it still runs at or above default clock speed. CPU runs much cooler as well.

        • http://www.gaminglaptopsjunky.com/ Junky

          great, I’m really glad to hear it worked

          You can also downvolt the CPU with Intel XTU software – I used a -100mV change, though it’s different for each CPU

  • Done

    Hey, awesome review. I have really big problem with picking laptop that is set to last me around 2 years for gaming (untill I buy myself fancy desktop with Intel 8 cores hehe). But as I will travel a lot soon I need something that I can play on everywhere. The thing is I like games like MMOs and they tend to be hard on the CPU (amount of players in one spot). Should I rather invest in i7 or just go with i5. Also would you think a better option would be getting a MSI laptop with same CPU as Lenovo but with gtx760m? Is gtx760m much better than gt755m?

    • http://www.gaminglaptopsjunky.com/ Junky

      Hi Done!

      1. it really depends on the specific games. Generally, you would be better off with an I5 + faster GPU in almost any case. The CPU becomes a choke point usually when the GPU power is too much, so the CPU power is more pronounced or something like that.

      2. The I5 version is currently seemed to be quite out of stocks. Maybe they are releasing new stuff

      3. And also, there are cheaper options that will allow you run most games on medium-high settings while saving considerable amount, like the refurbished Dell 3540:

      http://www.gaminglaptopsjunky.com/forums/topic/refurbished-dell-latitude-3540-radeon-8850m-for-550-650-on-ebay/

  • frankmartin

    what driver version you recommend?

    • http://www.gaminglaptopsjunky.com/ Junky

      The latest you can get – generally, bugs get more fixed as the versions go up and up, though sometimes you might need to rollback to some older version
      I would suggest starting with the latest (even if it a beta) and if you have a problem in a specific game, ask about it

  • LAKSHMI NARAYANA

    Wonderful review..

    quick question.
    How to use the throttlestop application..can you please guide me?

    I got this i5 version..Do you suggest using throttlestop..as i’m planning to play Crysis3 and Battlefield4(as per many reviews) which are CPU heavy..!
    Will it make considerable difference for cpu heavy games at high or very high settings?

    • http://www.gaminglaptopsjunky.com/ Junky

      thanks man (or woman!)!

      BF4 doesn’t need throttling, Crysis 3 might need. Using ThrottleStop:
      a. install it
      b. set the “multiplier” to 25, say, and click “Turn On”

  • Bobby Bryan

    hey man, great review really helpful! =)
    i just need to ask you on the thermal problems, is it really that bad, im planning on buying this laptop but ive heard a lot of reviews saying this laptop have serious heat issues and so i hv to ask someone who have actually use this laptop for quite awhile. thanks man

    • http://www.gaminglaptopsjunky.com/ Junky

      thanks!!!!

      well, it does heat up: the upper surface might be a little hot and the CPU also *sometimes* heats up to a point of throttling.
      As for the CPU heating – in the I5 version, you just need to limit the clocks a bit and if you can, undervolt the CPU a little (it is not harmful)
      Also, if you are in a cooled area, it won’t get too hot

  • Omar Arrieta

    So i finally got the y510p and it arrived with win8 and my questions is that if i should update to win8.1? i mean, would it be trouble with the sli?

  • Jobine

    Awesome Review

    -Jobine from NBR

    • http://www.gaminglaptopsjunky.com/ Junky

      thanks!!!

  • jrob

    Nice review. I think I will go the gaming laptop route, found the Lenovo’s, and now am deciding between the i5 and i7 versions. The i5 is on sale at newegg for $879. Might just go for that.

    • http://www.gaminglaptopsjunky.com/ Junky

      Hi!

      Thanks for posting it – I just looked several hours ago and it was $950.
      I say you better either go with the I5 model or wait for the price of the I7 model go down. If the I7 model is cheap enough you can get it and simply turn off one or two cores, for example