9.0
final rating

reviewed on
purchased on
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Criteria Comments Rating
  • Speed and features A 4th Generation i7, and dual GT755M graphics cards (in my configuration) make this an extremely powerful laptop. great!
  • Design and form factor Solid features, and a design that's good looking to boot. Simple, and even the Lenovo logo on the outside doesn't scream product branding. great!
  • Battery life The SLI configurations CHEW through battery life, and without the option for an extended battery, I get about 3 hours of conservative use out of the laptop. so-so
  • Display While the 1080p display is nice, and puts it ahead of many of its peers in its class, the good stops there. TN display with a piss poor viewing angle. so-so
  • Durability This laptop feels completely solid. That said, it's not as durable as a ThinkPad, as I've already had to call in a service request, but Lenovo fixed the issue. good
  • Expandability You can purchase other Ultrabay drives, as I plan to do for different or replacement optical drives. Memory and battery are also user-replaceable. great!
  • Noise Not too loud, until you start doing the really intensive stuff, like gaming or computationally intensive tasks. good
  • Portability (size / weight) While it's a 15" screen, it will not, or will only just barely fit into most laptop bags designed for a 15" screen, owing to the large bezel around the screen. so-so
Detailed review
I've owned this laptop for about 2 months at this point, and I have to say, I don't regret the purchase. I was impressed by the laptop the minute it came out of the box. It was only about 15 seconds to first boot, and takes about 6 seconds from completely off to desktop, ready to work. The graphics are impressive, and I would call it a gaming laptop, although I'm fairly sure that current generation games won't be able to run at maximum settings on this computer. Games like Civilization 5, Portal 2, Fear 2, Crysis 2 all run at maximum settings with an acceptable frame rate, never dropping below 30 FPS.

As I purchased this for school, I was more concerned with how it performs tasks such as MATLAB and Mathematica, as well as the advantage of having CUDA 3.0 capable graphics cards. MATLAB scores it quite highly, above a quad-core Xeon running Windows 7, and below only a 8 core Xeon running Linux. The solid-state drive, albeit small, is great for this purpose, as I was able to install MATLAB and Mathematica to it, which helps improve load times.

The good:

This is a performance laptop, and it is quite good at that. I bought it for Mathematica, MATLAB, and other engineering programs, and it runs all of them well. The downsides are somewhat to be expected, since the laptop is a $1200 laptop, with these specs.

Originally I forgot to mention this, but the sound quality that comes out of the speakers is actually quite exceptional, especially when the laptop is sitting on a hard, flat surface, like a table or desk. It's not a HiFi system, but it's great for a laptop; don't expect it to fill a whole room with sound. It's a bit directional though, so you have to be sitting right in front of the screen to get a good experience, but that's typically not a problem.

There's not much else to be said, other than look at the specs; this is a ridiculous laptop for the price. It runs great, and I've had no speed or driver issues whatsoever.

The bad:
The solid-state drive isn't a separate drive, it's part of the one HD in the computer, which is one of the "hybrid" drives. This means that file transfers from the traditional HD to the SSD are not exactly quick, and if anything is accessing the normal HD, the SSD performance is degraded. That said, you can still get transfer rates of 100 MB/s+ on or off the SSD.

The laptop didn't come with too much bloatware, but it did come with an infuriating app called "Pokki" which is a Start menu replacement. Buying this laptop, and being unfamiliar with Windows 8, Pokki being preinstalled confused me, and it took me a good week to figure out that it was added by Lenovo. Removing it makes the Windows 8 experience much more fluid, and I like it much better now that that is gone. While I appreciate that some people might like it, for it to be preinstalled with no documentation suggesting what it is just confuses the end user; fortunately I consider myself quite tech-savvy, and was able to get rid of it, but to the layman, they might not realize that the Pokki app store is not the Windows App store.

The screen is okay. It has the resolution I was looking for, or was at least a high enough resolution for me to tolerate. Unfortunately, it's a TN display, which means that color get shifted if you are off center at all. It also means that if you're watching a movie, or anything with dark spots, you'll see some color inversion happening in the corners of the screen, which can be both annoying and distracting. It is also LED back-lit, which while good for battery life, means that most color calibration sensors can't work with it. It never gets terribly bright, which is a problem for a glossy screen (although I must say that I almost always prefer a glossy screen, even with the glare), and some users may take issue with the glare.

Another issue I had with the screen was partly my own fault, but I blame Lenovo to a certain extent. Having only ever dealt with ThinkPads before this, I expected the build quality to be similar, but it wasn't. Don't get me wrong, the laptop feels solid, but there are some obvious plastic-y parts to it. And my issue was with the outer case. While made of metal, it provides no real protection, and something pressed against the metal case protecting the screen caused light spots to appear on the screen. This was fortunately resolved by my accidental damage warranty, but without that, I would have been SOL.

Energy management settings are somewhat useless. The only thing that does work exactly as advertised is the "power save" mode, which will run all the graphics cards and processors in low power mode, even when plugged in. When not plugged in, there is a noticeable drop in performance, and even selecting the "High Performance" energy management setting does not bring the system up to its full speed. The graphics cards are run at less than 1/10th their capacity when plugged in, with no possibility of overriding this option. Despite this forced power savings, I can't really manage to get more than 3 hours of battery life.

A really minor thing is the absence of a mute button, even with the function buttons, there is no mute, although there is volume up/down.

The worst:
The trackpad. I wish this came with a TrackPoint nub, because I love those, but it's an IdeaPad, not a ThinkPad, so no TrackPoint. But even then, the trackpad is absolutely terrible, it is the only thing that I do not understand why they cut corners on. The mouse will drift, even without touching the pad, and the gestures are a joke; scrolling only works because I have ALL of the other gestures turned off. If you leave it on the default, it will ALWAYS zoom when you want to scroll, and scroll when you want to zoom; they would literally be better off reversing their algorithms. Every now and then it seems that the palmrest pops out of place, and the mouse will start to react to the plamrest as well as the trackpad. A firm press on the palmrest fixes this, but it's an odd issue nevertheless.

Overall:
The laptop does exactly what I need it to, it's a performace laptop on a budget; there aren't many sub $2000 laptops that can do half of what this one can, even with the problems I've had. I would buy this one again in a heartbeat.

When I have the money, as in when I get a real job, I plan to replace this with a ThinkPad, as the build quality is just that little bit better. But for now, and for the next few years, this laptop will be adequate, even overkill for just about all of the tasks I'll need it to handle.

My system specifications:
Core i7, 4th Generation
16 GB RAM, user replaceable (16 GB Maximum)
2x GT755M graphics (1 in Ultrabay, so no optical drive)

Edited:
3/27/2014: Discussed sound quality
review history
2014-03-27
Updated detailed review
2014-03-20
Updated detailed review