Lenovo Y700 AMD Review (FX-8800P, Radeon M385X)

++ Main reason to consider:

Overall a good laptop with some nice features and qualities compared to competition for such a price (build quality, best speakers in price range, by far) and future DX12/Vulkan performance may be much higher in this AMD based laptop.

-- Main reason to avoid:

3D/gaming performance isn’t on par with current GTX 960M competitors, by far (but it may get changed with DX12/Vulkan optimized games)

Availability
Pro : + Very good chassis build quality with rigid outer lid
+ Temperatures under high loads are relatively low
+ Noise levels are low
+ Very good speakers, dusting the competition
+ AMD hardware should prove very efficient and good performer with DX12/Vulkan games/software
+ TPM 2.0
+ High contrast and high brightness IPS display
+ M.2 "M" slot, allowing PCIe SSDs.
+ Solid stylish looks
+ External DVDRW
Con : - Gaming performance in DX11/OpenGL is no match to current GTX 960M equipped laptops
- The 1080p IPS colors aren't great and possibly there is PWM mechanism/flickering (according to other's tests)
- No Thunderbolt 3, USB Type-C, USB 3.1 gen 2 or DisplayPort
- Default storage is a rather slow 5400RPM HDD and the difference is felt
- High memory usage + pre-occupied 1GB of RAM for iGPU
- Battery performance could be better at around only 5-5.5 hours of light use (56Whr)
- Two RAM slots occupied
- Weight could be considered higher than competition at 2.6-2.7kg
- Touchpad sensitivity isn't good enough - hard to use with gloves, for example
- Seems like memory is not using dual channel mode (even though there are 2 sticks)

Introduction

Lenovo Y700 front

So, the new Lenovo Y700 15 – Lenovos’ Y50 successor – has been available for some time now and I have the AMD version here with me. The Y700 15 brings a new design to the table, perhaps a better default IPS screen and in this case, an AMD FX-8800P Carrizo APU and a Radeon M385X GPU.

Why did I go with the AMD version? well, because the capacities of the Intel + NV hardware are well known. There won’t be any surprises really in the performance department. So why not trying something different, especially because they both very similar in price (the AMD version is playing around the $800-$850 zone). The Radeon M385X could be a powerful GPU for DX12/Vulkan, and a very good GPU given some $700 deal will pop up. Although the new AMD Polaris architecture should start reveal itself in around half a year, it’s still an interesting hardware to test.

Let’s see how well does the Lenovo Y700 fares in this review.

ComponentDescription
ModelLenovo Ideapad Y700 AMD version (LENOVO Lenovo ideapad Y700-15ACZ)
PriceAs tested, $840
CPUAMD Carrizo FX-8800P, 2C/4T, 2.1-3.3GHZ, 6MB cache, CZ-A1
GPUAMD Radeon M385X (GCN 1.2), 896 shaders, core@900-1100MHZ, GDDR5@1252MHZ, 128-bit bus
Motherboard / ChipsetLENOVO Allsparks 5B / AMD CZ FCH
3xPCI Express x1, 1xPCI Express x2, 1xPCI Express x4, 1xPCI Express x8
RAMRamaxel 2x4GB DDR3L@1600MHZ HRMT3170MN68F9F1600
StorageHDD : WDC WD10SPCX-24HWST1 1TB
SSD: none
M.2 : M.2 SATA/PCIe/NVMe 2280
LCD PanelIn review: LG LP156WF6-SPK1 IPS 1080p eDP
Weight / Dimensions2.59kg (~5.72 Lbs.)
387 x 277 x 25.9 mm
15.24" x 10.91" x 1.02"
(w x d x h)
KeyboardRed backlit (3 levels including off)
Connection PortsRight side: 1xKensington key, HDMI, 2xUSB 3.0
Left: AC power, USB 2.0, SD Card Slot, headset jack
Rear, front: None
Camera720P
WiFi / EthernetWiFi: RealTek RTL8821AE Wireless LAN 802.11ac PCI-E
Ethernet: RealTek RTL8168/8111 PCI-E Gigabit Ethernet
Speakers / Audio2.0 2W speakers + 3W subwoofer
Realtek ALC288
Battery60Wh, 4 cells
Bios / EC version (test unit)CECN43WW / 1.43
Extra features
more details

Build quality, Case, design and looks

The new Lenovo Y700 chassis build quality is noticeably better than the Y50’s and even the VN7-592G and MSI PE60 (I’d guess that it’s better than the GE62’s too). The chassis is rigid. The screen’s outer lid is also relatively rigid which is not a common quality and it’s important. The bezel is not rigid, but that’s not that important really. The Y700 feels good in the hands. Hinges also feel stronger (but it doesn’t necessarily means they are better).

Finish looks relatively high quality. The keyboard surface is smooth and the screen’s outer lid has a metal brush finish.

Looks

The Y700 has the simple gamer looks: combination of mostly black and a bit darker red with angles finish, but nothing too flashy and stuff like that. I like that for gaming.

 

Maintenance and inner parts

Opening the Y700 is not hard and includes something like 8 screws. In this version, you’ll see the HDD, 60Whr battery, M.2 slot. The M.2 slot is an “M” key slot and can house a PCIe x4 SSD.

 

Lenovo Y700 AMD Review motherboard

The GPU and CPU share two heatpipes (big and small) and two fans that take cooler air from below and throw it to the rear. CPU and GPU and soldered and cannot be changed.

Keyboard and touchpad

Keyboard. Definitely improved over the last generation keyboard. Although not perfect, it has some strong points, or at least, the bottom line experience is good enough. Let’s start with the bad news – the keys lack resistance mostly, and it’s a little hard for me to click it without hitting it too hard which could result in some inconvenience in the fingers. Also, keys surface could be more pleasant. However, the keyboard itself is rigid and won’t yield easily, the keys are have clear pressure point, good feedback and they are well spaced. haven’t had almost no missed clicks, either. The keyboard is better in my opinion compared to the previous generation Y50. It’s not great or perfect, but it is way more useful and typing experience is better.

Touchpad. The touchpad is average – it’s big as usual, but the surface texture isn’t as pleasant or easy to use as you’d want. Touchpad sensitivity isn’t good enough – hard to use with gloves, for example

Sound & Speakers

Leading the pack. The Lenovo ideapad 15.6″ gaming laptop series (Y560, Y570, Y580, Y500, Y510p, Y50 and not the Y700) has been for years the leading in speakers quality. The Y700 is equipped with a 2x2W JBL speakers + 3.0W subwoofer, according to the manufactured. The Y700 sound system produces pleasant, rich, sound. The strong points are probably the lows and mids which sound warm and rich, the highs are relatively less pronounced, but with a small equalizer configuration it can be fixed (you can use the bundled Dolby software for that). The sound has a clear advantage in clarity, balance, responsiveness (the speakers can keep their pace and won’t falter with fast, changing music type).

Although I’ve somewhat liked the VN7-592G speakers and maybe even more the Alienware 15 R2’s sound system, they do not match the Y700’s. It might be that the Y700’s speakers aren’t as good in tests (not that I know of such), but subjectively, I didn’t have to struggle to convince myself they sound good (no software “enhancements” used).

Bottom line, this is a strong point of this laptop. I really don’t understand why it’s so hard to the others to do the same.

General subjective performance experience

The 1TB 5400RPM HDD is a bit of an issue here, at least this model, but after removing some of the bloatware and real crap that is running up when you start Windows, the Y700 runs better. However, a small test with a really low cost 120GB SSD shows a huge difference in experience. The M.2 slot can house a nice PCIe SSD. I’d wait to some PCIe SSD for a reasonable price (don’t get the current Samsung 951 Pro).

There was a problem with memory usage – often I’ve faced a very high memory usage even without running nothing by myself and with not special application running, that I know of. It might be something with the AMD drivers/software that runs the show and some of the crapware that Lenovos’ installing (which I tried to remove), but also, the iGPU has 1GB dedicated to it from the 8GB DDR3 system ram, so for gaming you really left with 7GB RAM.

Added CPU-Z and GPU-Z screenshots.

 

Gaming Performance

Test Methods & Drivers

OS : Windows 10, fully updated

Drivers: AMD Radeon 15.12/16.1 Hotfix

Synthetic 3D benchmarks

3DMark performance – link to source:

Lenovo Y700 AMD Review 3DMark benchmark

Summarized gaming performance

The 3D/gaming performance numbers of this system are problematic ones. The 3D performance is hampered by the slow and throttled CPU, the DX11 API inefficiencies with AMD’s GCN architecture and the AMD’s own API overhead which already know is huge (link). In DX11, this system can really compete with GTX 950M DDR3 based system which is actually pretty nice.

I couldn’t run Ashes of Singularity DX12 mode, because for some reason it ran only on the iGPU automatically. None of the involving parties (AMD, Steam, Oxide) provided real help, clue or responded really after 3 weeks via support or forums.

Lenovo Y700 AMD Radeon M385X gaming benchmarks updated Lenovo Y700 AMD Review GTX 950M DDR3 vs Radeon M385X vs GTX 960M 1080p gaming benchmarks updated

You can see that the Radeon M385X + AMD FX-8800P system can easily match Intel + GTX 950M DDR3 systems which is actually pretty nice. I look forward for the ability to test DX12/Vulkan to see how well such a system can compete.

Crysis 3

Lenovo Y700 AMD Review Crysis 3 M385X benchmarksLenovo Y700 AMD FX-8800P CPU and GPU clocks - Crysis 3 1080p Very High

Thief

Thief sees some advantage using Mantle API over the DX11. Heavily Vulkan/DX12 optimized games/game engines should see much higher improvements.

Lenovo Y700 AMD Review Thief M385X benchmarks

Bioshock Infinite

Lenovo Y700 AMD Review Bioshock Infinite Radeon M385X benchmark

Civilization : Beyond Earth

Lenovo Y700 AMD Review Civilization Beyond Earth M385X benchmarks updated

Total War : Attila

The new iteration of Total War : Rome II, Attila is a much more demanding game and FPSs are much lower.

Lenovo Y700 AMD Review Total War Attila M385X benchmarks

Metro : Last Light

Lenovo Y700 AMD Review Metro Last Light M385X benchmarks

Battlefield 4 Campaign

BF4 campaign benchmark

Lenovo Y700 AMD Review Battlefield 4 M385X benchmarks

World of Tanks

Lenovo Y700 AMD Review World of Tanks M385X benchmarks

Elite : Dangerous

Lenovo Y700 AMD Review Elite Dangerous M385X benchmarks

Shadow Of Mordor

Lenovo Y700 AMD Review Shadow Of Mordor M385X benchmarks

Dragon Age : Inquisition

Lenovo Y700 AMD Review Dragon Age Inquisition M385X benchmarks

Anno 2205

Lenovo Y700 AMD Review Anno2205 M385X benchmarks

Fallout 4

The new Fallout 4 is rather demanding, but the benefits of the high graphics presets are not clear to me.

Lenovo Y700 AMD Review Fallout 4 M385X benchmarks

Thermals, Throttling & Noise handling

As described before, the GPU and CPU has two heatpipes which are connected to two fans. Cool air sucked from the bottom of the machine (hence, it’s important to keep its bottom above the sitting surface) and is thrown from the rear ventilation hole.

Four tests:

1. Idle, power saver mode

2. Gaming : Crysis 3 gameplay. “very high” settings with SMAAx2 For Crysis 3, “High performance” power mode.

3. Prime95 torture test. “High performance” power mode.

4. Prime95 + Furmark on 1366×768 test, AAx2. “High performance” power mode.

Lenovo Y700 AMD Review CPU & GPU temperatures

Strangely, the highest temps were during Crysis 3 and I’m not sure what was the reason, but anyway, the temps were usually around 80 degrees for gaming, often less than that. GPU temps were pretty good.

You can see that idling or very low work load result in very low temps as well.

Heat

Under high load of Prime95 + Furmark, the upper parts of the keyboard get a hotter, but not reaching annoying levels. Same goes for the bottom of the laptop. Palm rests remain relatively low on temperatures.

Throttling

Under Prime95 “torture” load, the FX-8800P could keep 3.1-3.2GHZ which is great. With Furmark thrown into the mix, the FX-8800P did throttle a bit here and there and the GPU core went down to around 780MZH. However, the behavior in Crysis 3 gaming and other software was a roller coaster for the CPU and a little better for the GPU which could keep around 850-900MHZ core clocks.

This CPU behavior is not unique to AMD CPUs and we’ve seen it with many high performance Intel based laptops like the MSI GT72 and GT72S, Acer VN7-592G and others. Usually in the Intel case, I would recommend using the ThorttleStop software in order to negate the downclocking and it really works. However, in the AMD Enduro laptop case, I know of no good software tools that can do it – AMD’s Overdrive throws some error message about unsupported hardware (while it’s all AMD’s). I guess that with the right tool, a much better performance in gaming can be achieved in some applications/games, or at least, a more constant gaming experience.

Lenovo Y700 AMD Review : Furmark + Prime95 Lenovo Y700 AMD Review : FX-8800P Prime95 Lenovo Y700 AMD FX-8800P CPU and GPU clocks - Crysis 3 1080p Very High

Noise

  1. Under light load / browsing load and ‘balanced’ or ‘high performance’ power mode, the fans were really quite. I barely heard the HDD too.
  2. With ‘high performance’ power mode and very high load (like Crysis 3 or Furmark + Prime95), the fans were audible, but not too noisy. I don’t have objective measurements, but I wasn’t really noticing it while using the laptop, so that shows.

Screen & Screen quality

The Y700 uses the LG Display LP156WF6-SPK1 IPS 1080p display. It did looked good to me in terms of contrast and brightness (a feeling that was confirmed by the measurements), but the colors weren’t as good. Viewing angles were average for an LG IPS display.

The Y700 seems to have at least two screen models – the one above and the Samsung LTN156HL09-401 (the one in the LM review). Both seems to have relatively low rate of sRGB coverage. According to the Lenovo Y700 Hardware Manual (google it), these are the options, in Lenovos’ language:

  • LCD Module L Y700-15ACZ 5D10K255682
  • LCD Module L Y700-15ISK UHD 5D10K29634
  • LCD Module L Y700-17ISK AG+FHD 5D10K37624
  • LCD Module L 80NV AG+FHD For 3D 5D10K81625

Measurements from NBC and Laptopmedia (check additional reviews links) shows flickers occurs in lower brightness levels of around 50-60% in their tests. It is considered to be unhealthy for the eyes for some or at least having the potential of making headaches and eyes fatigue. However, in my low tech camera flickering test, I didn’t see the pattern that matches PWM mechanism and certainly not in 60HZ as in these tests – it might be a different mechanism in the AMD model, and it may be that my low tech test is not good enough.f

Bottom line, the screen is much better than the previous generation Y50’s (at least the non-IPS display), but it lacks nonetheless.

ICM calibration file

ContrastBrightnessBlack levels
610 218 0.36
sRGBadobeRGBNTSC
95 74 69

Battery Performance

Lenovo Y700 AMD Review Battery performance

Issues

  • Not sure, but the WiFi seems to have high ping rates problems from time to time and also the maximal throughput isn’t very high.

Competing gaming laptops / Alternatives

  • In the same price range, the usual suspects are the Acer VN7-592G, MSI GE62/PE60, Dell 7559 and XPS 9550, Alienware 15 R2 with GTX 965M (only deals or refurbished) and Clevos’ N150/N155 laptop. In terms of gaming performance, the Lenovo Y700 AMD version can’t match any of them laptops with GTX 960M, but if the price will go low enough (around $650-$700) with some deal, it could be a nice laptop compared even to the faster Dell 7559, mostly because of the speakers, build quality and keyboard.

Conclusion

Well, the Y700 AMD version can’t match current competition in terms of DX11 gaming performance. The GTX 960M + Intel CPU combination is way more powerful for DX11 than this AMD system. The laptop itself is relatively convincing with good build quality and outer lid (better than the VN7-592G and 7559), very good speakers outperforming the competition by far, good looks, high contrast and brightness IPS display, low temps and low noise, relatively – again, better than the VN7-592G. Keyboard isn’t great, but it’s a big improvement over the Y50’s keyboard and it’s nice, bottom line. However, the IPS display colors aren’t great, the Y700 uses PWM and it has no TB3/USB 3.2/DisplayPort.

The usual price is $800 if you watch Bestbuy for a week or two, which is relatively a low price, but you can still get the Dell 7559 for such a price, which will be much faster for gaming (although lacking other in other areas).

As for the Y700 Intel+NV version, I would consider it a good competitor for around $800-$850 mostly, because of its build quality advantages over the VN7-592G and the better speakers, but remember that the display and connections ports are not as good.

I hope that an update from AMD/Steam/someone will allow running Ashes of Singularity on DX12 mode on this laptop and I’ll be able to post results.

Till then, for current price of $800, it’s really hard to recommend this laptop for those who are looking for the higher performer, but for $700-$750 it could be a reasonable buy for many who can do with GT 950M DDR3 performance and appreciate the better qualities of this laptop.

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