I’ve been a console gamer for as long as I can remember, and while I did have a few PCs growing up, they were never powerful enough to run anything well, let alone at the peak settings liable to make children’s eyes bleed. When Black & White came out in 2001, I can remember trying in vain to get Peter Molyneux’s god simulator to run on a crusty old Dell desktop. To my credit, I did manage to actually launch the software, and there was a title screen with moving pictures, but boy did it chug. Like dirty molasses. I’m pretty sure the visuals maxed out at an impressive 2fps, so it was like playing a 3D slideshow in horrible slow motion. But I had my trusty Dreamcast and a new PS2 to fall back on, so even though I’d tried and failed, I could still game (though to this day, I’m irrationally salty about the DC port of Black & White getting cancelled).
Over the past decade, and mostly through Steam’s ridiculous Summer and Winter sales, I’ve amassed quite a collection of modern PC titles. The less graphically demanding ones I’ve been able to somewhat enjoy, but a large portion of them, AAA titles specifically, simply can’t run on my current setup. Ever tried to load Overwatch on a moldy potato? It’s, uh, rather difficult. So in the name of getting with the times, I’ve recently been eyeing the gaming PC market. Because sure, I’d like to play new releases at max graphical settings, but also because the PC indie scene is filled with interesting gems that are ever-so-slightly out of my reach. I wanted to get a proper lay of the land, so the good folks over at Lenovo were kind enough to loan me two of their recently unleashed and quite powerful gaming laptops. You know, so I could see exactly what I’ve been missing and then weep hysterically as I hand the return shipping boxes over to the nice lady at the UPS Store.
Credit: Mitch Wallace
The Y720 and Y920 stacked for size comparison.
Though before we begin, please know that this isn’t a comprehensive review of either the Y720 (high-end) or the Y920 (even higher-end, pro-level), but rather a casual overview. I’m far (like, really far) from being a PC expert of any kind, so what follows is more or less an honest diary of a PC gaming newbie’s raw experience with these formidable pieces of hardware. I’m simply describing what I see as I see it and how the developments make me feel. A noob journal, if you will. You won’t get endless technical analysis or genius circuitry insight, but what you will receive is a healthy dose of self-deprecation peppered with bad jokes and front row seats to a grown adult trying his absolute best. I don’t know about you, but I’d almost rather have the latter. Nothing funnier than a man-child pressing buttons just to see what happens.
How about we start with general aesthetics? From a visual standpoint, these two laptops are similarly striking. The color theming is a mix of badass black for most of the casing and angry-frag reds for the speakers, fan vents and the simmering Legion logos. Both laptops feature RGB-illuminated, fully customizable keys, which function much like Razer’s Chroma technology, so you can choose what colors you want displayed underneath every single button. On that note, the Y920 goes all out and features a mechanical clicky keyboard, something I’d never tried on a laptop before and ended up really liking. This model also sports a comfortable rubberized wrist rest that fully encompasses the touch pad and the entire front of the computer. Both these features are lacking from the more budget-friendly Y720, if you can even call something that retails for around $1,100 budget-friendly, that is.
Credit: Mitch Wallace
The Y920 (left) and Y720 (right) opened up and ready to pwn noobs.
Looks aside, everyone wants to know: How well do these laptops run games? I’m glad you asked. To test them out, I grabbed a handful of titles that I thought might push each device’s graphical capabilities to the relative limit. So with this software arsenal, I attempted to put the two Lenovos through their paces. You know, max settings. Highest possible framerates. Hopefully enough to possibly catch the motherboards on fire. Or at least worry my extremely self-aware dog.
First up was Forza Horizon 3. The Y720 struggled to run the game at 60fps on the ‘high’ setting, but once I bumped it down to 30fps, it felt perfectly playable. The Y920, on the other hand, ran Forza on the ‘ultra’ setting and at 60fps with only the occasional blip in performance. Gears of War 4 was a similar situation—the Y720 actually ran this one fairly well on the ‘ultra’ setting, though the framerate seemed to take a slight hit. Never quite reached 60fps, but detailed and enjoyable, nonetheless. The Y920 ran Gears with flying colors at what appeared to be a full 60fps and really brought out the game’s busy environments. The last heavy-hitter I tested was a hauntingly beautiful game I reviewed recently called Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice. This one ran just fine on both laptops, though the Y720 seemed to max out at 30fps while the Y920 ran the game in 60fps like it was nothing. Other, less taxing titles like Voodoo Vince Remastered ran at the highest setting on both laptops with zero problems, as did a lot of indie games sitting in my Steam library.
As a final graphical note, the Y920 has a dedicated button you can push to launch the laptop’s instant ‘turbo’ overclock function, which in PC gaming talk must translate to ‘mega magic mode’. Or something. I didn’t see a huge difference when I used it, but then again I don’t have the keenest eye for this sort of thing. Both laptops have excellent cooling systems and contain a built-in feature that Lenovo calls ‘Extreme Cooling’. If you turn this on, the fans go into overdrive and cool off the hardware in a matter of seconds. Several times I activated it after leaving the laptops on carpet or a couch, and the temperature reduction efficiency really surprised me.
Credit: Mitch Wallace
The Y720’s keyboard and touchpad.
I’d also like to say that, after messing around with these two Lenovo laptops, I’ve realized that PC gaming has never been easier. Take the Xbox Play Anywhere program for example—if you own any of the included games, they’re playable on both Xbox One and Windows 10. And pairing an Xbox controller with this hardware was a total breeze. Not only that, but universal save data automatically syncs between the two platforms when you boot up a game, so it’s stupidly easy to hop back and forth between console and computer. Steam is similarly simple and convenient; it’s really as simple as clicking ‘download’ in your Library, and once a game is on your computer, you’re playing within seconds. What I used to absolutely loath about PC gaming—the tedium, the endless tweaking of drivers, files and settings to get anything working—seems to have gone by the wayside. I’m sure it exists in some capacity if you’re technically-minded and like to go deep with your configurations, but from what I’ve experienced these past few weeks, a good majority of this stuff is now plug-and-play. Oh happy day.
So what’s good about the Y720? Weighing it at around 7 pounds, it’s not the lightest laptop ever, but it has the portability advantage over its more sophisticated sibling. The battery lasts for up to five hours, which isn’t spectacular by any means, but it is slightly more time than the Y920. It’s also much less bulky than the aforementioned model and lends itself better to moving around, even if it’s just between the kitchen and the bathroom (just please wash your hands, you filthy animal).
Credit: Mitch Wallace
The Y920’s keyboard and touchpad.
While the Y920 is obviously the more graphically impressive machine, I was bothered by a few specific things. First up is the weight. Make no joke, at just over 10 pounds, this thing is heavy. Not necessarily surprising given all the fancy tech crammed inside, but having this device on your lap for any extended period of time isn’t exactly the most comfortable. I suppose it would be a decent choice for a college student who is only lugging the laptop between their dorm and then back home for the occasional holiday visit, though dragging it to class would be a total pain. Might break a desk, actually. I guess it could also be a solid choice for the perpetual traveler who spends a ton of time in hotel rooms and wants that top-tier gaming experience on the go. As long as it stays plugged in, of course, because the 3.5 hour battery life is downright ridiculous. So yes, it’s massive, and needs to stay near an outlet, but it runs demanding software beautifully. Like a champ, even. And with an MSRP of around $2,700, it absolutely should.
I could go on for another 2,000 words about all the ins and outs, the pros the cons. And as it is, I’m sure I left something out that will have people smarter than me up in arms and shaking indignant fists. But like I said earlier, this isn’t a comprehensive review, and if you need more detailed information on either model, please head to Lenovo’s website (Y720 or Y920) and dig in. In the end and for what it’s worth, I really enjoyed my time with both of these laptops, and it’s going to be tough sending them back to the great big PC factory in the sky. Really, my prosaic HP desktop does what I need it to, namely playing super weird ASMR YouTube videos and allowing me to write copious pages of Twilight/Game of Thrones crossover fan fiction. Yet sadly, it doesn’t hold a candle to what this powerhouse pair of portable gaming rigs are capable of. But hey, it can run Minesweeper like nobody’s business. And it sometimes freezes when I try to open Microsoft Paint, so there’s that.
What can I say? I’m a lucky boy who had a temporary glimpse of manhood. Maybe someday I’ll return. For now, I’ll go back to playing with my TMNT action figures.