Thursday, January 14, 2010

Lenovo IdeaPad Y650 Multimedia Laptop

Thursday, January 14, 2010
Published April 14, 2009 at 10:49:23 AM, by Daniel Shain
The Lenovo IdeaPad Y650 is a large, fairly capable and highly stylish multimedia notebook offering. The glossy 16-inch widescreen is impressively large, as is the multitouch capable touchpad. Throw in an Intel Core 2 Duo P8700 2.53GHz processor, 4GB RAM, a 320GB HDD, a 256MB NVIDIA GeForce G105M GPU and you’ve got yourself some respectable internals to go with the gorgeous externals. And did we mention the weight is only 5.6lbs, and felt like less? If only the price were a little lower and the keyboard a little larger, this laptop would have some pretty high marks all around.
Design - Case look and feel

Lenovo has clearly put some time into the look of the Y650. The black, subtly honeycombed matte lid is smooth to the touch and easy on the eyes, with nothing marring it save a silver Lenovo logo in the bottom right corner. Above the glossy LCD a black webcam is embedded in the bezel, and the whole display is surrounded by an attractive copper trim. The keyboard is completely white, with a pair of JBL speakers and a couple of buttons surrounding the strangely recessed keyboard (more on that later). Above the keyboard lie a few touch buttons in black, and below it is the nicely oversized touchpad. The touchpad and wrist rests are also white and even the IdeaPad logo in the bottom right corner glows white. The only other color besides white here is the copper trim around the base and the copper function accents on the keyboard keys.
Size and Weight

The IdeaPad Y650 does an excellent job of being large without being either bulky or heavy, and for that it should be commended. With dimensions of 15.4” x 10.2” x 1.0” it almost, but not quite, achieves MacBook-like slimness. It does this despite having a 16-inch screen compared to the MacBook’s 15-incher and only weighing a tenth of a pound more at 5.6 lb. It’s obviously pretty wide compared to standard aspect ratio 14-15 inch laptops, but as long as you know what size laptop you’re getting you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the weight and thickness of this laptop. Considering its size, we were very impressed with the portability.
Keyboard and Touchpad

With a laptop this large you can generally expect a large keyboard. Personally, I’m a fan of dedicated numberpads if they can fit comfortably, and the 16-inch form factor is about where you start to see them appear. However, Lenovo has decided to play tricks with our mind here, taking a keyboard you might see in a 14” laptop and literally shoving it towards the very top of the available keyboard space, giving the whole thing a fairly scrunched look. We can understand the lack of a numberpad, as they aren’t terribly common, but were disappointed to see shrunken keys (like right shift and tab) with so much available space.

The shrunken backspace even went so far as to make an annoying springing noise every time we touched it, as if it weren’t quite settled into its slot. On the flipside, the touchpad is wonderfully large, and even boasts some basic pinch-me multitouch functionality. The keyboard and touchpad are both comfortable to use, with just a little flex in the center and a comfortable gridded feeling respectively. Finally, a few push and touch-sensitive buttons casually surround the keyboard on three sides. The features are nice, but we’re not sure why Lenovo included two different and redundant ways to adjust volume or call up OneKey. We’ll explain more below.
Display Quality

The display quality of the Y650 is well above average. The LED backlit screen is bright and helps fight the glare of the glossy screen, which makes the colors sharp. There is even a button to set the display to “movie mode” with brighter colors still. Horizontal viewing angles are good, although distortion sets in a little sooner than we’d like on such a media-centric unit. Vertical viewing angles are fine though, especially from below.

You can’t shed pounds without making some sacrifices, and the connectivity is a little weaker than we would have hoped. However, we can’t say Lenovo was lacking for creativity, going so far in their space saving measures as to load the DVD tray in the front. There is also HDMI and eSATA, which we’re always happy to see.

The left side of the unit contains the power jack, followed by the HDMI and VGA ports. 1 of the 2 (yes, there’s only 2) USB ports follows this, and then you’ll find the fan exhaust.

The right side features an Ethernet port, Expresscard34 slot (no 54), eSATA, audio in/out and the last USB port.

The front of the laptop sports the DVD drive and a wireless on/off switch, with a few status lights in between.

The back is bereft of ports as the display hinges downward, covering it entirely when in use.

The Y650 has an all-in-one bottom plate that you have to remove to access any of the internals, which makes it easy to do big upgrades, but kind of a pain to do small ones. Our laptop was more or less the high end of the Y650s on Lenovo’s site, but it’s possible to tick down the processor to a P8600 and get 3GB RAM on 32bit Vista if you want to save $100. You could also opt for integrated graphics, but currently it won’t save you a dollar (thanks to a Lenovo sale), so we don’t recommend this unless you’re insanely concerned about battery life. There doesn’t seem to be a way to get a higher resolution screen or bigger battery, both of which would be nice additions.

The IdeaPad Y650 comes loaded with Veriface facial recognition technology, which essentially lets you capture an image of your face with the integrated webcam and use it instead of a password to login. The feature is cool and extremely quick and easy to use, but in extreme cases it can still be hacked just like a password, so it’s no reason to be careless if you store sensitive material on your laptop. The Y650 also comes with the front loading DVD drive, which we’re counting as a feature just for its uniqueness.

Other nice features include the enormous touchpad, measuring 4.4 x 2.5-inches, which Lenovo boasts is the largest on any laptop. There is a touch slider at the top which brings up a menu composed of Easy Capture, Ready Connect, Veriface and OneKey. There is also a touch button to switch between “movie mode” and “regular” and next to that, a touch button to call up Dolby sound software. There are physical buttons on either side of the keyboard, but aside from the power button they only let you adjust volume and call up OneKey. OneKey can be run from the slider and the volume is also a function feature on the regular keyboard, so we suspect these buttons were only put in place to take your mind off the fact that the keyboard is so scrunched.

On a multimedia notebook we don’t always expect the best performance in terms of gaming, but with a dedicated GPU and plenty of RAM and processor speed, we expected good performance and were not disappointed. For more information on our testing practices, see here:

Windows Vista Experience
Overall 4.3
Processor 5.4
Memory 5.9
Graphics 4.3
Gaming Graphics 5.0
Primary Hard Disk 5.3
Surprisingly, gaming graphics posted a very respectable 5.0 here, leaving regular old graphics in the dust as the low man. Everything else posted average to above average scores.

Lenovo IdeaPad Y650 3867
Lenovo ThinkPad T400 3746
HP Pavilion HDX16 3320
Sony VAIO FW270j 3235
Lenovo IdeaPad Y530 2872
Dell Studio 1537 2845
The Y650 performed excellently in PCMark’s test, posting a notably better score than the recently reviewed Y530.

WorldBench 6
Lenovo ThinkPad T400 91
Lenovo IdeaPad Y650 81
HP Pavilion HDX16 80
Dell Studio 1537 79
Sony VAIO FW270j 74
Lenovo IdeaPad Y530 70
WorldBench puts the Y650 back into the realm of the average, although it again spanks the Y530.

Battery Performance - General Use
Runtime in minutes
Dell Studio 1537 357
Lenovo ThinkPad T400 334
Sony VAIO FW270j 181
HP Pavilion HDX16 156
Lenovo IdeaPad Y650 148

Here the Y650 lags behind the pack, posting less than 2.5 hours during general use. It should be noted that these were under the “natural” settings achieved when disconnecting the power cord. If you use the included battery stretching software to the fullest, it’s likely you can reach just about 3 hours. We said it before about the USB ports, you can’t shed pounds without making sacrifices.

Battery Performance - DVD UseRuntime in minutes
Dell Studio 1537 206
Lenovo ThinkPad X301 117
Sony VAIO FW270j 101
Lenovo IdeaPad Y650 84
HP Pavilion HDX16 80

Considering the general use battery life, the Y650 didn’t do too badly here, comparing reasonably well to multimedia laptops like the HDX and FW270. This test was conducted with the brightness and sound-boosting movie mode enabled too. Still, it would be nice to actually finish a movie before the (rather irritating) low battery warning starts to chirp.

Real Life Usage

In general use, the IdeaPad ran cool and fairly quiet, even during DVD playback. It felt surprisingly light and the large widescreen in conjunction with the helpful “movie mode” was excellent for watching media. The relatively short battery life didn’t prove problematic for us, but then again we never tried to take it on the road beyond going to the office and back. With an external mouse and a USB thumb stick in tow it was worrying that there were no other USB options, and we anticipate trouble for those used to leaving their printer plugged in at home or charging electronics in a spare port. The recessed keyboard design also had the unfortunate side effect of extending the palm rests, which is less than comfortable. However it was weirder than it was awkward and didn’t affect typing as much as the shrunken keys themselves did.


The IdeaPad Y650 is surprisingly powerful for a laptop whose power isn’t a selling point. From a beautiful thin design to a large screen and wonderfully small weight, the IdeaPad is stylishly designed for multimedia. Of course, you can’t have your cake and eat it too, so the IdeaPad is a bit skimpy on battery life and ports. It’s not exactly skimpy on price though, with our model costing a total of around $1400 while currently on sale. But if you’re making MacBook comparisons, it suddenly doesn’t look so bad does it?


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