Gamers looking to buy a mid-range gaming laptop have all the choice in the world. They also have no choice at all. While there’s plenty of laptops sold for around $1,000, they all have similar hardware – an Intel Core processor with a GTX 1050 or GTX 1050 Ti GPU. No other pairing can beat the value of this dream team.
That makes life difficult for humble laptops like the Lenovo Legion Y730 15-inch. Armed with an Intel Core i7-8750H, Nvidia GTX 1050 Ti, 16GB of RAM, and a 1080p screen, nothing about it stands out at a glance.
Yet that doesn’t mean you should dismiss it. In fact, the similarity of today’s many gaming laptops means there’s opportunity for a dark horse to unset popular competitors. Can Legion mount an offense against Dell, Asus, and MSI?
Familiar, but handsome
Lenovo’s has a tight design language, with traits noticeably leaking between the company’s many sub-brands. Past Legion laptops have bucked that trend, mimicking the look of laptops from Alienware, but the Y730 15-inch is firmly inside Lenovo’s wheel-trod aesthetic. Its simple, boxy, slate-like look is reminiscent of an IdeaPad, while the matte gray exterior is reminiscent of the ThinkPad’s workmanlike appearance.
It ultimately lands on the boring side of subtle, but it’s certainly not offensive, and it has some handsome touches. The Legion branding looks great and made us want to slap an X-Men logo on the laptop’s lid.
The Y730 is also thoroughly modern. It has thin display bezels, which cuts down the footprint, and it’s less than an inch thick. It’s not as svelte as the Razer Blade, but the Legion Y730 is quite a bit less expensive, instead competing with laptops like the Dell G5 Gaming Laptop and Asus ROG Strix Hero.
While reasonably thin, it’s not so sleek that it compromises connectivity, which includes three USB ports, HDMI, Mini-DisplayPort, a Thunderbolt 3 port, a headphone jack, and Ethernet. That’s a solid array of connectivity that should cover any peripheral a gamer would use.
The keyboard feels off, but boy, is it pretty
The keyboard is another area the Lenovo Legion Y730 cribs from the company’s other designs. It’s a very Lenovo keyboard, with flat keycaps, lots of space between keys, and a slightly strange layout that includes macro keys on the left-hand side.
We struggled a bit at first. The key layout felt shifted from where it should be due to the macro keys, but we adjusted after a couple days. Key feel is fine, with decent travel but a vague overall motion, and there’s plenty of space to make long typing sessions comfortable.
The display is otherwise unremarkable, but that’s not a bad thing.
It’s a colorful keyboard, as Lenovo has stuffed a per-key customizable RGB LED backlight into the laptop. The control of it, which is managed by Corsair’s iCue program, is a bit confusing, but offers a huge range of options. You can even upload an image and have the keyboard do its best to mimic it.
The LEDs behind the Legion logo and the side fan vents can also be changed. MSI’s GP63 Leopard is the only serious alternative that can rival Legion’s extensive lighting customization.
We like the touchpad. It’s not amazing, but it’s large, smooth, and never registered unintended input. Gaming laptops often treat touchpads as an afterthought because gamers don’t use them to play, but the Y730’s is fine, which instantly makes it better than most.
The 1080p screen suits the laptop’s hardware
Every Lenovo Legion Y730 15-inch comes with a 1080p anti-glare panel. It’s unusual to see anti-glare in a gaming laptop. Most have a glossy coat, which tends to improve contrast and vibrance, but make the laptop harder to use in bright rooms. Going anti-glare makes the Y730 a more utilitarian option, one that you can haul anywhere and expect to use in comfort.
The display is otherwise unremarkable, but that’s not a bad thing. It offers solid color accuracy and a contrast ratio of 860:1 at the panel’s maximum brightness of 305 lux. The Y730’s competitors are not a tough crowd. The Acer Predator Helio, Dell Inspiron G3 Gaming, and even Razer Blade rank slightly below the Legion in color accuracy and contrast. A truly great display, like that on the MacBook Pro or Surface Book 2, will decimate the Y730’s scores in every category – but such laptops aren’t the Y730’s competition.
Overall, games look sharp, with strong color and lots of detail in dark scenes. Even the 1080p resolution isn’t a problem. It’s not as crystal-clear as 4K, of course, but it’s a more realistic match for the Y730’s affordable hardware.
Audio is provided by a pair of Harman branded speakers with Dolby Atmos support, and we liked what we heard. Games and movies were crisp, clear, and served with a bit of bass. They’re not better than a good pair of headphones, but they’ll keep you from reaching for your cans the moment you launch a game.
The processor and hard drive overperform
The Lenovo Legion Y730 15-inch comes with Intel’s Core i7-8750H processor, which has six cores and a maximum Turbo Boost clock speed of 4.1 GHz. It’s a common processor in high-end laptops and perhaps overkill for gaming – cores five and six won’t be used much in most games. The CPU was paired with 16GB of RAM.
Geekbench had good things to say about the Legion Y730. It did as well as the Dell XPS 15 we reviewed and defeated the HP Spectre x360 15-inch. Our Handbrake test was put the Y730 right alongside these peers. It’s not the fastest laptop ever made, but it’s a strong performer that could even serve as a portable workstation.
Our review unit’s 256GB PCIe solid state drive also performed well, hitting read speeds of over 1.5 gigabytes per second and write speeds of 425 megabytes per second. That easily beats the Dell G3 Gaming, which hit a read speed of 500 MB/s and a write speed of only 209 MB/s. These strong results go well beyond what’s needed to load games quickly.
The GPU is only as quick as you’d expect
As with the display and processor, the Lenovo Legion Y730 15-inch comes with just one choice of graphics: Nvidia’s GTX 1050 Ti 4GB. This is by far the most common GPU in affordable and mid-range gaming laptops, which means it’s difficult for laptops to stand out in performance.
3DMark’s Fire Strike benchmark gives us no reason to think the Legion Y730 will be different. Its score of 7,066 slightly defeats the pair of similarly equipped Dell laptops, but the margin of victory is extremely small.
No surprises so far, then. Let’s load up the games.
Again, the Legion Y730’s performance is no surprise. Yet the results do require some explanation. There’s a wide variety of designs and configurations in the list of competitors we’ve placed the Y730 against. The Dell XPS 15 lags the Y730 in some games due to throttling issues despite the fact its hardware is extremely similar. The older Inspiron 7677 Gaming, with a GTX 1060, mostly wins by a large margin over the GTX 1050 Ti laptops – except in Civilization VI, where a slow processor holds back its results.
On balance, though, the Legion Y730 provides the performance we’ve come to expect from the GTX 1050 Ti. It’s fast enough to play any game, though demanding games like Deus Ex: Mankind Divided will force you to abandon hope of playing at 60 FPS and high detail settings. Whether this laptop suits your needs depends on what you expect. Hardcore PC gamers may demand a higher display refresh rate and GPU performance to match, but most players will find the Legion comfortably adequate.
The battery life is bad, even by a gaming laptop’s standards
The Lenovo Legion Y730 15-inch ships with a 57 watt-hour battery, and that gave us immediate reason to worry. That’s similar in size to the Dell XPS 13’s battery, yet the Y730 is much more powerful. The math isn’t in Lenovo’s favor here.
Our worries were confirmed by our test results. The Legion Y730 15-inch didn’t even last three hours in our video loop test, our least demanding. It failed to last two hours in the more demanding Basemark browser benchmark loop. Dell’s G3 Gaming laptop offers roughly twice the battery life of the Legion. Even the Alienware 17 R5, a GTX 1080-powered laptop, lasted longer in most tests.
Real-world results were no better. A few episodes of Disenchanted drained three-quarters of the battery. Light web surfing and document editing ate through a full charge in less than four hours. You’ll need to bring the power brick on most journeys.
Lenovo’s Vantage software suite makes an appearance on the Legion Y730. It replaces the standard Windows battery life indicator and offers a few other extras, like extra hotkey support. The keyboard’s lighting is controlled by Corsair’s iCUE app, but there’s also a separate Lenovo menu which…well, we never quite figured out what it’s supposed to do, aside from control the macro keys. McAfee LiveSafe trial edition was installed on our review unit, as well.Our Take
Handsome and sturdy, the Lenovo Legion Y730 is an enjoyable laptop that’s held back by its price. Our review unit, with a 256GB solid state drive and 2TB mechanical disk, sells for $1,550. That’s way too much for a gaming laptop powered by the GTX 1050 Ti.
Entry-level models start at $1,200 and differ from our review unit only in RAM and hard drive size, so we recommend you go for the base version unless you need more storage. Yet even the most affordable version puts the Y730 up against peers packing the GTX 1060, a substantially better graphics chip. We’d like Lenovo to shave at least $100 from the price.
Is there a better alternative?
Though it has a less attractive display and similar battery life woes, Dell’s G3 Gaming can match the Lenovo Legion Y730 15-inch in performance at a lower price.
There’s also a long list of laptops that compete on price but pack a GTX 1060. These include the Asus ROG Strix Hero, the Dell G5 Gaming, and MSI GP63 Leopard. We haven’t reviewed these particular models, but we do know the GTX 1060 is significantly quicker than the GTX 1050 Ti.
How long will it last?
The Lenovo Legion Y730 15-inch will last you longer than it’s capable of serving as a gaming laptop. Its sturdy, well-built, and has far more processor power than it needs. The GTX 1050 Ti graphics chip is the weak spot, however, and will start to feel pokey after a few years.
The Lenovo Legion Y730 15-inch comes with the usual one-year warranty against manufacturer defects. That’s typical for a system in this price range.
Should you buy it?
Not unless it’s on sale. The Lenovo Legion Y730 15-inch is a solid affordable gaming laptop that’s more attractive than many of its peers, but we’d expect to see a GTX 1060 at this price.