Little one likes the lights on the keybaord

So I received my Lenovo Legion Y740 last week and have been putting it through its paces and comparing it to my previous Alienware 15 R3. This laptop was a rather large departure for me as I have been a staunch Alienware owner for the past decade starting with the Alienware m11x, moving through the Alienware 17 R2, Alienware 14, Alienware 17 R3, and finally the Alienware 15 R3. Why didn’t I choose their newest m15 or m17? There are various reasons but ultimately it came down to too many compromises: thermal issues still persist, the design is gaudy, their lighting is a step backward from the per-key RGB lighting of the Alienware 15 R4 back to zone lighting, and the fewer customization options. Also, they are considerably more expensive as they are Alienware’s first true foray into thin-and-light gaming laptops. Suffice it to say with the lack of reviews and going with Lenovo, it was a leap of faith. I was looking for something lighter and more portable, same/better performance, an IPS screen with 144 Hz, RTX-series graphics.

  • i7-8750H hexa-core processor with HT (2.2 GHz base, 3.9-4.1 GHz boost)
  • RTX 2070 Max-Q with 8 GB GDDR6 (90W)
  • 16 GB DDR4 RAM at 2666 MHz
  • 15.6″ LG IPS 144Hz 1080p display with G-Sync
  • 256 GB NVMe SSD + 1 TB 7200rpm HDD
  • 1x USB 3.1 Gen 2, 2x USB 3.1 Gen 1, 1x Thunderbolt 3, Mini DisplayPort 1.4, RJ45 Ethernet, 3.5mm combo jack
  • Corsair iCUE per-key RGB lighting
  • 230W AC Adapter
  • Dolby Atmos Speaker System
  • Killer Wireless 1550 card
A much smaller footprint allows it to fit easily into regular laptop bags/backpacks

Build

The Lenovo Legion has a much smaller footprint than the Alienware despite having the same 15.6″ screen. It’s considerably lighter as well.

  • Y740 Dimensions: 14.2″ x 10.5″ x 0.88″; 5.1 lbs.
  • Alienware Dimensions: 15.3″ x 12″ x 1″; 7.7 lbs.
The wedge shape makes the front much smaller than its rear

Now, it is certainly lighter and some of that has to do with the thin aluminum chassis. While it is fairly rigid and robust, it is not thick at all. The magnesium upper and lower on the Alienware are thicker. The Y740 does not feel cheap but there is a little bit of flex around the keyboard if you are typing a little harder. It’s not a deal-breaker by any stretch of the imagination but a point to note. Typing on the keyboard is a breeze as there is a similarity to the Alienware with the offset layout due to the macros on the side. It took me no time to get accustomed to it; actuation is light and precise. I rarely make any accidental key-presses and the overall experience is pleasant and “clicky”. There is a slight sponginess/squeak to the keys occasionally but I don’t mind as it is not loud.

This laptop has an orientation that is a good mix between gamer and professional. The lights are a nice touch and you have full customization over them with the Corsair iCUE software. The speakers on this thing get quite loud! There is not much bass to it but the remaining frequencies are fantastic. Additionally, the simulated surround sound with Dolby Atmos is very good and accurate. In Apex Legends, I could identify where the enemy was simply by hearing the footsteps; that’s impressive.

Screen

Simply put: the screen is absolutely stunning. It’s a 15.6″ 1080p IPS display with G-Sync and a 144 Hz refresh rate and supports HDR streaming (yes, streaming only; there is a 500-nit display that is coming that will apparently be full HDR, but it is currently not an option). It is a LG IPS display (LGD05CF) and the colours pop, the viewing angles are fantastic and do not shift nor degrade. It is extremely smooth in motion and gets sufficiently bright (300-nit). I did get a little bit of backlight bleed on the left side but it is only noticeable in dark scenes and black backgrounds. It’s honestly not bad at all and something I can deal with.

Performance

Here’s the thing; after reading a bunch of reviews and seeing other laptops with the 2070 Max-Q performing at or around the 1070 Max-Q, I wasn’t really expecting much. I was hoping that it would be at least a bit of an upgrade from the full overclocked GTX 1070 in the Alienware. This RTX 2070 Max-Q performs incredibly well! It varies quite a bit between games but all of them saw an increase across the board in both average FPS as well as lowest 1% average FPS. This was surprising.

Increased FPS across the board. All settings were recorded and set evenly between the two laptops for 1-1 comparison.
The 1% low was the most dramatic increase.
No issues with gameplay in the newest games like Anthem (shown here).

Firestrike scores were a bit on the low side and don’t show the reality of the situation. As you can tell from the performance in game, the graphics score of 17,847 is not as good as the 18,890 that the Alienware achieved (15,003 overall). However, reality showed a vastly different situation than the benchmark.
A minor OC of +50 core and +150 mem does well with Max-Q.

I was surprised that there was that much of an increase in performance, while at the same time maintaining the same or lower temperatures that the Alienware (which is notorious for its thermals and I was only able to get under control with Thermal Grizzly Kryonaut and PCH mod). One anomaly I noted was that sustained gaming will actually put it at the same FPS as the 1070; which means that hours of gaming may heat-soak the laptop despite having lower temperatures. You can always activate max fans by pressing Fn+Q. Honestly it’s not that bad even at full scream; it’s half as loud as the Alienware and that’s a great thing. Both laptops are undervolted with -125 mV on the cores and cache.

Better temperatures but the thing will get heat-soaked.

Plus, this thing has great headroom as a stable overclock on the GPU of +100 memory, +300 core in MSI Afterburner puts this a the top end of the RTX 2070 Max-Q spectrum.

Benchmarks are one thing but reality paints a promising picture!

Battery life leaves a little more to be desired. With a relatively small 57 Wh battery, you won’t be away from the charger for long. With G-Sync on you’re going to see about 2.5 hours. Now, you also have the option of enabling Optimus with the Lenovo Vantage software by selecting Hybrid mode and restarting. With that you can see 3.5-4 hours on 50% brightness and low brightness on the back-lit keyboard. The 76 Wh battery that is alluded to will likely be released when the new display is revealed.

Verdict

Is it the thinnest or the most powerful? No; that honour would probably go to the Razer Blade 15 with its 2080 Max-Q. However, thermal performance would likely go to the Lenovo as it stays relatively cool while gaming and under load. iFixit’s breakdown reveal that the thermal paste Lenovo uses is actually very good (unlike Dell/Alienware) and it is incredibly easy to upgrade component’s or re-paste. Additionally, with eBates and a discount through Lenovo, you can get this laptop for under $2k CAD. You really cannot beat the price/performance ratio with this laptop. Lenovo has a real winner on it’s hands with this amazing laptop. I certainly can recommend it wholeheartedly.

Next I will be looking to compare it to the 2060 Lenovo Y740 that is coming this week. It will be interesting to see how it compares to the 2070 Max-Q. The frequency is slightly higher on the 2060 so we shall see if that translates to a performance boost or is the 2070 Max-Q more than adequate to remain as king? Check back soon.

The Good:

  • The gorgeous display
  • The performance
  • The sound
  • Customization
  • Thermal handling
  • Headroom for overclocking the GPU
  • Bluetooth, despite being 5.0 is compatible with 4.1 headphones I have

The Bad:

  • Battery life
  • Only one M.2 slot
  • Killer software suite and McAfee need to be uninstalled immediately

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