[Review] Lenovo Ideapad Y480 Windows 8 laptop

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Lenovo has been coming into the spotlight with its great range of consumer laptops, and that’s no surprise to me after actually using the Lenovo Ideapad Y480 for nearly three months. While it may be one of the less popular Y Series models, the Y480 has been upgraded since it was first announced and, as such, is well suited for the professional tasks its specs warrant.

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Specs

Here are the specs for this particular laptop:

  • 14-inch display; 1366×768 resolution
  • Intel Core i7-3630QM @ 2.4GHz
  • NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M GPU
  • Intel HD 4000 GPU (Optimus switching support)
  • 1TB 7200RPM HDD
  • 8GB DDR3 RAM
  • Integrated HD webcam
  • 3x USB 3.0 ports
  • 1x USB 2.0 port
  • DVD combo drive

Y480 – Quick Bites

  • One of the biggest selling points of a laptop is its build quality, and it is here that the Y480 doesn’t excel, but it also doesn’t falter. Most of the Y480 is plastic, but it still feels like a well built laptop.
  • As for size, it is fairly thick, but would you rather have a thin laptop with overheating issues?
  • Weight is not much of a problem, especially due to the 14-inch form factor. The Y480 might weigh overall more than my previous 15.6″ laptop, but the weight is condensed into the 14″ form factor, so it is much easier to manage.
  • The lid of the laptop sports a stylish bezel and pattern design alongside the Lenovo logo which is raised slightly above the rest of the cover, and the back of the Y480 houses the battery.
  • On the left side you have a Kensington Lock Slot, fan, VGA output, Ethernet port, HDMI output, and the two USB 3.0 ports.
  • On the right you have power connection, USB 2.0 port, DVD drive, another USB 3.0 port, and an analog audio in/out jack.
  • On the front you have status lights and a memory card reader.
  • The Y480’s lid houses a 1366×768 14″ display, HD ]webcam, and a microphone array.
  • The keyboard area features an all-click touchpad (you can left-click anywhere except in the designated right-click area), Lenovo’s new chicklet keyboard style, JBL speakers (one on each side, of course, power, quick boot (to boot menu), media mode button, and a mute button.

Review

I purchased this laptop primarily for video games and video editing, and it is definitely up to the task. The Core i7-3630QM CPU combing with the GeForce 650M GPU work together to provide a very nice gaming experience, and the processor renders videos very quickly. Surprisingly, the performance is faster than that of my 3.3GHz Intel Core i5-2500K. As for the non-full-HD display, don’t worry, as the HDMI output supports much higher resolutions, so if you have a real need for it, you can plug it into another monitor or a television.

Staying with the display area, the webcam is decent, but not great, and the same goes for the microphone array. I tweaked the settings for both, and while at default settings, they are both better than many other laptops, they are not really suitable for media creation.

As for the keyboard area, the Quickboot button (next to power) is awesome. No more pounding the F12 key for boot menu, as you can simply press the quick boot button to Boot into Boot menu, with options for Windows 8, the BIOS, and more. Being someone who occasionally likes to boot from external media, this is a perfect feature. Next to this button is the power button, which is lit white when the laptop is on.

The Media Mode button, for some reason, refuses to work currently (second button from right speaker), possibly because I may have disabled a Lenovo app from booting which it controls, but in any case it is kind of “just there,” not really useful in any way (even if it is controlling the mode, which is not very useful). On a better note, the mute button works great! It even lights up when the system is muted.

Lastly for this section, the speakers. They are powered by JBL and are of pretty good quality. They aren’t cheap by any means (if they do sound cheap, take a second to configure your Dolby Audio Settings), but certainly not Bose quality. At first, they sounded quiet, even with the volume all the way up. To fix this, I went into the volume control panel. Low and behold, with a few adjustments, I had full sound coming from them.

The keyboard itself is rather good. The backlight is nice, and the chicklet-style keys are somewhat loud (like a mechanical keyboard). As for the touchpad, it is an “all click” touchpad, almost exactly like a MacBook Pro. There is one section of the right side dedicated to right-click, which is nice, and the rest of the touchpad is for left click.

The Y480 is indeed running Windows 8, and the only bad part about that is that the touchpad can do gestures (swiping in from the sides) which I find to be incredibly annoying if you don’t use Metro Style apps frequently (for which the gestures are a nessecity).

One last, but very important feature of the Y480 is the excellent battery life on the Intel HD 4000 graphics (no games running of course). You can pretty much get netbook-like battery life if you configure your power settings correctly.

Software

As for the OS and “crapware,” Lenovo really doesn’t pre-load too many programs. The ones that they do are very useful (IE: DVD software, no more DVD playing in Windows 8 w/o purchase of codecs) and once you simply delete the shortcuts from the desktop, you are left with a laptop PC that is not bogged-down with Lenovo, constantly prompting you to buy more.

Conclusion

If you are looking for a powerhouse laptop that can also transform into a very portable & conservative machine, the Lenovo Y480 is a great option. With good build quality, great battery life, and the amazing power of the i7-3630QM and the NVIDIA GT 650M, the Y480 really is a great all-around laptop, even for those on a budget.

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