The Lenovo IdeaPad Y480 is an Intel Ivy Bridge powered laptop with a 14-inch screen designed to provide both power and portability. The Y480 replaces the formerly famous Lenovo Y470 with a few design changes and an internal component upgrade, of course. Thanks to its size advantage of easy fitting on a desk, relatively lightweight for carrying around campus, and enough output for just about any job—the Y series has become popular with the student crowd. The Y480 comes with a new Intel Core i7-3610QM 2.30GHz processor, Nvidia GeForce GT 640M LE graphics, and 8GB of RAM; here’s a full overview of the specs:
- Screen: 14″ LED-backlit display, glossy finish, 1366 x 768 resolution, 220-nits brightness, 500:1 contrast ratio
- Processor: Intel Core i7-3610QM 2.3GHz Quad-Core processor (3rd generation, Intel Ivy Bridge)
- Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GT 640M LE with 1GB of GDDR5 memory
- OS: Windows 7 Home Premium 64-Bit
- Memory: 8GB of DDR3 memory @ 1600MHz
- Storage: 750GB Hard Drive with 5400RPM rotational speed
- Ports: Two USB 2.0, Two USB 3.0 ports, 6-in-1 media card reader, Ethernet port, headphone out, microphone in, monitor out VGA port, HDMI port
- Optical Drive: DVD Super Multi-Burner
- Wireless: 802.11b/g/n Wireless Networking, Bluetooth 4.0, Wi-Di
- Weight: 4.85lbs
- Dimensions: 13.6” x 9.4” x 0.8” – 1.3” (Width x Depth x Height)
- Battery: Lithium-Ion 6-cell, 48Wh
- Features: Backlit keyboard, integrated webcam
- Warranty: 1-year
At the time of this writing, the price of Y480 is still a bit of a mystery. The Y480 was priced at $999 on TigerDirect.com when purchased. The Y480 will be available sometime in May 2012 at Lenovo.com, but we don’t know what Lenovo will charge as a starting price for the Y480. Just check out the Y480 first thoughts article we posted if you want to see the laptop’s unboxing images.
Design and Build
Since the Y480 comes with a few different design choices, you can go for either a black color case with a patterned lid or a brush metal grey finish. The model covered in this review has a grey brush metal finish. It’s a bit more conservative and conventional than the black finish. While the black design has some orange accents and a funky pattern on the lid, the grey design has the same brush metal finish all over.
There are a few other interface features that have been updated compared to the previous Y470.0, in addition to the latest color choices. At the top of the keyboard, Lenovo omitted some of the touch-sensitive media keys. The Y480 has only a mute button and a color control button for the screen, while the Y470 has the up/down volume buttons in addition to those.
I like that the media buttons are physical pushbuttons now, but I miss getting the up and down volume controls you used to get there. There are two more buttons at the top of the keyboard on the left, one for power and the other for a Lenovo Recovery button, one press and you can restore your PC to the original factory image.
The glossy bezel around the screen is one design touch I could do without. It appears to pick up fingerprints and reveal them, an irritating characteristic when you consider the fact you have to grab the screen to close the laptop. On the plus side, after a few openings and closings, the rest of the case is reasonably safe to fingerprints, although the cover showed some of my fingerprint marks. Another thing to note is that the top sides of the keyboard region are slightly sharp. You’re not going to cut yourself on the edge, but it would have been good to see the edges rounded off a little. The top sides of the keyboard region are slightly sharp.
We described the brush metal finish on the Y480, and to give a metallic look, there is also a thin metal layer applied to the lid and keyboard area. However, the major portion of the case is made of a rigid plastic material, not metal. The overall laptop, however, feels sturdy and reliable. The build quality is outstanding, and I would feel comfortable putting the Y480 in a backpack with a bunch of heavy books and carrying it. The only zone of visible flex is under the optical drive on the bottom of the laptop, but that’s typical of many laptops as it’s challenging to improve the hollow space in the area of the optical drive. In terms of construction, the one disappointment I have is that the screen hinges on the Y480 are not as rigid as they should be. In comparison to the ThinkPad X220 I own, if you push, it wobbles a little on the screen; it resists any wobble no matter how hard you flick or push the screen.
With a glossy finish, the Y480 has a 14.0-inch display. The glossy finish tends to make colors pop, but when you have a powerful light source from behind or above, it produces unnecessary reflections from the screen on the downside. On the Y480, the display is rendered by AUO. It provides nice and deep colors, both blacks and whites seem true, and when viewing straight on at a perpendicular angle to the eyes, color accuracy is great. Since the screen, like those used in the Apple iPad, does not use IPS technology, the colors distort as the viewing angles expand.
Lenovo offers a color optimization function for the screen and a button called OneKey Theatre, you click the button located on the top right side, and you can switch between Normal Mode, Movie Mode, and Intelligent Mode on the screen. Movie mode offers the richest and brightest colors, while screen colors in normal mode make it easier for documents to be read. If you switch to “Intelligent” mode, the Y480 can detect a pretty neat feature while you are playing a movie and switching to colors in the movie mode.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The Y480 keyboard didn’t change other than one major factor from the Y470-it now has a backlight! A real luxury is the keyboard backlight feature, making it so much easier to see keys in dimly lit rooms, enhancing the usability factor. Even if you’re a touch typist, to find those out of reach keys or cursor movement shortcut keys, you’ll sometimes need to look at the keyboard, and if it’s dark, then finding those is difficult to do without a backlight.
The only characteristic I don’t like about the Y480 keyboard is that it has the PgUp, PgDn, Home, and End keys aligned on the keyboard’s far-right side. This is an unnatural position and is distinguishable from most other keyboards, and even worse, Lenovo modified the right Shift key to accommodate these keys.
The Y480 touchpad has been revamped. It’s just one big touchpad with built-in buttons, usually referred to as a clickpad, and something people in the MacBook lineup are used to seeing. There is a thin vertical line at the bottom of the touchpad to signify the border between the left and right mouse buttons. In operation, the touchpad works well by pressing down anywhere on the touchpad to register a left-click. The dimpled surface that Y470 had is missing; the Y480 surface is smooth and not as textured.
Lenovo Y480 Performance
Buyers of the Y480 are searching for a portable laptop with extreme performance credentials, so this is the aspect that people care most about. In the form of a Core i7-3610QM processor and Intel HD 4000 graphics, the Y480 sports Intel’s technology. An Nvidia GeForce GT 640M LE dedicated graphics card is included as well. This GPU uses the old Fermi rather than the modern Nvidia Kepler architecture. Therefore the 640M in the Lenovo Y480 will disappoint some users as it is almost on par with the launches of graphics cards in recent years, such as the AMD 7690M and Nvidia GT 555M in the Y470. Later in the year, with the faster Nvidia 650M or 660M graphics cards, Lenovo should have Y480 configurations available, but those are not an option at this point.
Our Y480 came with a generous 750GB hard drive, but it’s a 5400RPM slow-spinning drive. As the hard drive is really the performance bottleneck, that’s a bit of a downer. Using the stock configuration hard drive, we ran most benchmarks. Still, we were also unable to resist throwing in the latest budget-friendly Intel SSD 330 120GB that costs just $150 but provides a significant performance boost compared to a 5400RPM HDD. Check out the analysis at StorageReview.com for a thorough review and context on the Intel 330 SSD.
With all that said, let’s dig into some benchmarks we ran on the Y480 and analyze the performance.
PCMark 7 – Measures overall system performance
|Laptop||PCMark 7 Score|
|Lenovo IdeaPad Y480 (Intel Core i7-3610QM, NVIDIA 640M LE, 8GB RAM, 5400RPM HD)||2,502 PCMarks|
|Lenovo IdeaPad Y480 (Intel Core i7-3610QM, NVIDIA 640M LE, 8GB RAM, Intel 330 SSD)||5,251 PCMarks|
|HP Pavilion dm4t Beats – Intel Core i5-2430M, Intel HD3000, 8GB RAM, 5400RPM HD||2,382 PCMarks|
|Sony VAIO SA (Intel Core i5-2430M 2.50GHz, AMD Radeon 6630M, 4GB RAM)||2,022 PCMarks|
|HP Envy 17 3D – Intel Core i7-2670QM, AMD 6850M 1GB, 8GB RAM, 7200RPM HD||2,592 PCMarks|
|Lenovo IdeaPad U400 – Intel Core i5-2430M, AMD Radeon 6470M, 6GB RAM, 5400RPM HD||2,287 PCMarks|
PCMark Vantage – Measures overall system performance
|Laptop||PCMark Vantage Score|
|Lenovo IdeaPad Y480 (Intel Core i7-3610QM, NVIDIA 640M LE, 8GB RAM, 5400RPM HD)||8,634 PCMarks|
|Lenovo IdeaPad Y480 (Intel Core i7-3610QM, NVIDIA 640M LE, 8GB RAM, Intel 330 SSD)||18,170 PCMarks|
|Lenovo IdeaPad Y470p (Intel Core i5-2450m, AMD 7690M, 6GB RAM, 5400RPM HD)||6,727 PCMarks|
|HP Pavilion g6z (AMD Fusion A4-3305M 1.90GHz, 4GB RAM, 5400RPM HD)||3,322 PCMarks|
|Lenovo ThinkPad X130e (AMD E-300 1.30GHz, AMD 6130, 4GB RAM, 5400 RPM HD)||1,981 PCMarks|
|HP Folio 13 (Intel Core i5-2467M 1.60GHz, Intel HD3000, 4GB RAM, 128GB SSD)||9,026 PCMarks|
|Dell Vostro 1440 Review (Intel Core i3-370M, Intel HD, 6GB RAM)||4,931 PCMarks|
|Lenovo ThinkPad Edge E420 – Intel Core i5-2410m 2.30GHz, 4GB RAM||6,056 PCMarks|
|Dell Vostro 3450 – Intel Core i5-2410m 2.30Ghz, 4GB RAM||5,901 PCMarks|
|Dell Inspiron N411z – Intel Core i3-2330m 2.30GHz, 4GB RAM||5,285 PCMarks|
|Lenovo ThinkPad T420 – Intel Core i3-2310m 2.1GHz, 2GB RAM||3,204 PCMarks|
Performance Test 7 is a benchmarking tool form PassMark software.
|Lenovo IdeaPad Y480 (Intel Core i7-3610QM, NVIDIA 640M LE, 8GB RAM)||HP EliteBook 8470p (Intel Core i7, Intel HD 4000, 8GB RAM)||ThinkPad X220 (Intel Core i5-2410m, Intel HD 3000, 4GB RAM)|
|Overall Computer Score||1,721.6||1,869.5||1,074.5|
|2D Graphics Mark||419.2||389.6||326|
|3D Graphics Mark||655.7||412.5||236.9|
Super Pi calculated to 1M
Yeah, we know how flawed (it’s not multithreaded) the Super Pi benchmark is but people still want to know the score! In 11 seconds, the Intel Core i7-3610QM calculated Pi to an accuracy of one million digits. Uh, not bad! For that calculation, the Intel Core i5-2410m powered processor in my X220 takes 15 seconds, so you’re looking at a 25 percent increase in processor speed in single-threaded mode, for a program that can use multiple cores, the speed improvements are even great.
3DMark Vantage – Measures 3D graphics performance
|Lenovo IdeaPad Y480 (Intel Core i7-3610QM, NVIDIA 640M LE, 8GB RAM, 5400RPM HD)||5,587|
|HP Envy 17-3000, Intel Core i7-2670QM, AMD 7690M, 6GB RAM, 7200RPM HD||6,970|
|Dell XPS 17 (Core i5-2410m 2.30GHz, Nvidia 550m, 6GB RAM, HD 7200RPM)||4,747|
|HP Pavilion dv6t Select Edition – Intel Core i5-2410m, Intel HD 3000 Graphics, 6GB RAM||1,845|
3DMark 11 – Measures 3D graphics performance
|Lenovo IdeaPad Y480 (Intel Core i7-3610QM, NVIDIA 640M LE, 8GB RAM, 5400RPM HD)||1,333|
|Lenovo IdeaPad Y470p (Intel Core i5-2450m, AMD 7690M, 6GB RAM, 5400RPM HD)||1,339|
|Dell XPS 17 (Core i5-2410m 2.30GHz, Nvidia 550m, 6GB RAM, HD 7200RPM)||1,041|
Such findings indicate that the Intel Core i7-3610QM is a performance screamer, with the Y480’s 8,634 PCMark Vantage score nearly 2,000 points higher than the Y470p with a Core i5 Sandy Bridge class processor. Then if you include an SSD such as the Intel 330, the score completely rockets to 18,170, this indicates the Y480’s weak point is the hard drive and you have a serious performance computer if you upgrade to an SSD.
While the Ivy Bridge processor is undeniably amazing, the NVIDIA GT 640M LE turns out to be a graphics card in the middle range, unable to outdo the graphics of the last generation Nvidia 555m or AMD 7690M. Indeed the score of 1,333 3DMark 11 is almost exactly the same as the Y470p scored with its AMD 7690M, but we have to take into account the fact that the processor helped bump this score a bit, so the AMD 7690M graphics are probably better than the NVIDIA GT 640M LE in effect.
Input and Output Ports
The Y480 has a generous selection of ports for a 14-inch laptop. On the left side of the Y480 are a VGA monitor out port, Ethernet RJ-45 LAN port, HDMI, and 2 USB 3.0 ports. On the right side, you get a headphone jack, microphone jack, and 2 USB 2.0 ports. n the front side is located the 6-in-1 media card reader for SD cards and the likes.
For the Y480, fitted with a 6-cell 48Wh battery, Lenovo claims 4 hours of battery life. Typically manufacturers over quote the battery life, but under a light use scenario, we actually achieved better than the 4 hours in our testing. With the screen dimmed to 1/3 brightness, the Y480 was capable of reaching 5 hours of battery life with Windows power set to “power saver,” wireless on, and the laptop idling. Here, that’s a very positive scenario for use. You should expect closer to the 4-hour battery mark under more normal circumstances of making the screen brighter, streaming video, and doing a lot of web browsing. If you just want to stretch the battery out, however, dimming the screen will prolong life by using the power saver mode and switching to integrated graphics.
For a 14-inch laptop, the speakers on the Y480 are definitely above average. The sound from these JBL branded speakers can fill a room, with booming lows and consistent highs provided by the audio. Like in many laptop speakers, there is no irritating tinny noise that is present in this case. The surround sound function is activated if you press the OneKey Theatre button and turn to movie mode.
Dolby Home Theatre v4 audio is also included, which helps to provide more of a surround sound effect, as the built-in speakers clearly can not be placed behind you. The claims of 5.1 surround sound are somewhat deceptive, but it is still a good added feature and allows you to power a 5.1 surround sound home theatre if you connect to a receiver via HDMI.
Heat and Noise
How well they do in terms of keeping cool and minimizing fan noise is one significant feature of laptops that is often ignored. This is particularly a concern for smaller laptops with powerful components packed inside. The worry is that due to its small size and inability to dissipate heat well the laptop could overheat. We are pleased to report that the Y480 has no signs of overheating or irritating fan noise of any sort.
In fact, for its ability to stay cool and keep fans running to a minimum level, the Y480 should be applauded. The Y480 has a very large cooling system, and when it comes to cooling, larger vents and heat syncs are certainly better. The warmest Y480 got was 96F around the heat vent area and in the middle of the keyboard (somewhat, unfortunately).
96F is not bad, however as that’s still below the temperature of the human body. For long periods of time, it took running challenging 3D benchmarks to warm the Y480 up and push the fan to spin up to a higher speed, something you won’t be doing all the time. The fan will be all but inaudible under regular use and temperatures will remain far below the 96F peak we met. Under any usage scenario we threw at the Y480, the palm rest remained cool, and because your hands sit on the palm rest most of the time, you will be free of sweaty palms.
The Y480 is similar to the Y470 in that it provides quick access for updates to components. All you have to do is remove the bottom panel to get access to the mSATA port if you would like to bring in an mSATA SSD. By removing this pad, you also get access to a hard drive, wireless card, and RAM slots. All it takes to gain entry is the removal of a few screws.
Lenovo also makes it easy to find Y480 teardown guides so that you know exactly what is inside your laptop and if you wish, make repairs on your own.
A worthy successor to the acclaimed Y70 and Y470p is the IdeaPad Y480. For the most part, Lenovo has stuck with the Y470’s winning formula, creating a 14-inch mobile laptop that has all the output of larger 15-17-inch laptops while holding the price below $1,000. A nice upgrade is the latest Intel Core i7 Ivy Bridge chip, offering about a 20 percent performance increase from equivalent Intel processors of the previous generation.
The Nvidia 640M LE graphics card is comparable in performance to the AMD 7690M, but more powerful options should be available once Lenovo starts rolling over more Y480 configurations, such as the Nvidia 650M. Although the heat and noise were a non-issue with all that power packed into a small 14′ chassis, Lenovo engineers should be commended for creating a well-functioning cooling system.
As with anything, not everything is perfect about the Y480. Some people would be disappointed not to have an option for a higher resolution screen, for now, Lenovo sticks to only a screen option of 1366 x 768. Some more conservative purchasers would be deterred by the glossy screen and bezel. In general, the battery life of the Y480 has decreased compared to the Y470, which was able to achieve six hours, not what we anticipated with Intel highlighting the Ivy Bridge’s power-saving capabilities.
However, for the most part, the Y480 is an advancement. To make this reviewer prefer the Y480 over the Y470, the backlit keyboard alone is enough reason. In particular, the Y480 can cater to students who want something both solid and mobile. Ultrabooks are all the rage now, but with the Y480 for the same price, they can’t touch the power and performance you get.
- Powerful performance for a 14” laptop, add an SSD and you’re off to the races
- Easy to upgrade internal components or battery
- Great audio from speakers
- Backlit keyboard!
- Stays cool and minimal fan noise
- Odd position for Home, End, PgUp, and PgDn keys
- Glossy bezel around screen picks up fingerprints
- Max resolution for screen is 1366 x 768