Lenovo Legion Y540
The Lenovo Legion
brand is one of the biggest when it comes to gaming laptops, and after having road-tested the affordable Legion Y540
over the holiday season it’s not hard to see why. Affordability aside, the excellent and sturdy build quality and great feeling trackpad and keyboard all add up to what you expect to find in a more premium offering. Like, say, the Legion Y7 series
. Leveraging the durability and reliability of the long-running ThinkPad line that dates back to earliest days of the laptop this rich history allows for a certain level of trust – or, piece of mind.
That said, one still wonders what sort of performance you might get from something that sits in the $1,500 - $2,000 AUD price range. For enthusiasts and casual fans looking for their first gaming laptop, students and budget conscious gamers considering an on-the-go piece of kit, the Lenovo Y540 fits the bill, so to speak, performance-wise. Thanks to the impressive NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660 Ti
- the entry level models offer the best value. But that doesn’t mean the same pertinent questions need to be answered. Were there sacrifices made in certain areas to ensure games run fast? Does the display quality suffer to meet the mid-range price-point? Is the battery-life decent enough to warrant true portable gaming? It is too noisy under load?
Look and Feel
No doubt the Legion Y540 looks slick; the angular design, the wood-grain meets rough matte finish on the top, the Legion logo that illuminates within the Legion logo, the fact that it looks like a couple of books stacked on top of each other when the lid is down. Weighing in at 2.3 kg and with a max height of 25.9 mm it’s a far cry from the thinnest and lightest gaming laptop on the market, but size-wise the 15-inch design keeps the form factor relatively light and sleek thanks to the minor bezel surrounding the display and a great sense of space. One that allows the minimal look to flourish.
“For enthusiasts and casual fans looking for their first gaming laptop, students and budget conscious gamers considering an on-the-go piece of kit, the Lenovo Y540 fits the bill performance-wise."
Little touches like the hinges featuring the Legion logo point to quite a bit of thought put into the design – and is the sort of thing you might not notice until weeks later. But, it’s with lid open where the Legion Y540 truly shines. And it’s here where the high-quality keyboard and trackpad put the Legion ahead of the curve. The ThinkPad durability of the keyboard has a great feel, with each keystroke being responsive and giving off the impression depth - covering both productivity and gaming. The trackpad is great too, but as we opt to always game with a dedicated mouse it’s something we didn’t really test outside of simple PC use. Without RGB lighting, everything is given a pale white glow, which feels right for the design – though fans of RGB all-day everyday might be disappointment with the Y540’s lack of colour.
Under the Lid
Processor: 9th Gen Intel Core i7-9750HF
Display: 15.6" FHD (1920x1080) IPS 300nits Anti-glare, 60Hz
Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660 Ti 6GB GDDR6
Memory: 16GB DDR4 2666MHz SDRAM
Storage: M.2 NVMe PCIE 512GB SSD
OS: Windows 10
Interfaces: 3 x USB3.1 Gen 1, 1 x USB-C, 1 x mDP 1.2, 1x HDMI 2.0b, 1 x RJ-45 Jack, 1x 3.5mm headphone and microphone combo jack, 1x Kensington Lock
With its 9th Gen Intel Core i7-9750, Lenovo manages to match the GPU offering of the Legion Y540 range with a high-performance CPU. Paired with a decent M.2 NVMe SSD and DDR4 memory, there aren’t too many surprises under the hood. Other than to say that specs-wise the Y540 doesn’t cut any corners. In fact, the inclusion of USB-C Thunderbolt support meant we were able to connect an external M.2 SSD we have full of games for easy and fast access to a full library of titles. In single 512GB form, there’s not a lot of room for hefty game installs – a fact the USB-C port helps to mitigate.
On the GPU front the model we tested included the GTX 1660 Ti (as detailed in the specs above), which is essentially an RTX 2060 without all the RTX stuff like support for ray-tracing. Paired with the vibrant and impressively detailed 60Hz IPS display our only complaint on this front would be that we’d love to see 144 Hz become the new standard for gaming laptops and gaming displays in general. Lenovo do offer a Legion Y540 with GeForce RTX 2060 graphics and a 144 Hz display (that also has increased brightness) which is good for those looking for a bit of extra performance for a bit of extra upfront money.
One area where the Y540 does surprise comes with the sound quality and the decent on-board Harman stereo speakers that offer up much more than the usual tinny laptop sound. Coupled with Dolby Atmos for headphones available as standard, the Legion Y540 has audio to match.
Paired with the 1080p display the GeForce GTX 1660 Ti in the Y540 is impressive – with excellent results across both visual-fidelity-focused titles and those where performance comes first. Naturally, when firing up the various games and benchmarks the Y540 made its presence known with fans that kicked into gear – perceived loudness wasn’t ever an issue though. We've heard far worse. Interestingly, this is one area where we found the 60 Hz display to be an advantage over 144 Hz – capping frame-rates to 60 allows the GPU to run cooler, quieter, and more efficiently.
What’s most impressive with the above – apart from seeing triple digits with the likes of Forza Horizon 4 – is that performance for the mobile GeForce GTX 1660 Ti is comparable to the desktop version. Making it not only a great 1080p choice, but a great gaming laptop choice where 15-inch models and displays support this resolution. Of course, not every title consistently hits above 60 frame-per-second, the intensive combo of Total War: Three Kingdoms and Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey drop below this target at max settings. Two games that we’ve found push all hardware to its limits.
But as the UL Benchmark numbers show – the Legion Y540 scores highly across game performance (DirectX 11 and 12) and general PC usage.
Which brings us to one area where the Y540 falls short of the competition – out-of-the-box battery life isn’t great. Often only providing under three hours of use no matter the application. After looking into it though we discovered that Lenovo disables Intel Graphics in its Legion range, meaning all desktop and gaming utilises the NVIDIA GPU as opposed to the CPU. Enabling ‘Hybrid Mode’ in the Lenovo Vantage software suite – which then prompts you to reboot a couple of times and update Intel Graphics drivers – drastically improves battery life for the Legion Y540 in desktop or regular ol’ PC mode. So, when not gaming, battery life becomes more in-line with what you’d expect – nearly double in some cases.
“Performance for the mobile GeForce GTX 1660 Ti is comparable to the desktop version. Making it not only a great 1080p choice, but a great gaming laptop choice where 15-inch models and displays support this resolution."
Weirdly, none of this is communicated well in the Vantage software either – which offers great shortcuts and stats but seems to lack the finer detail you’d want for a gaming laptop. A minor speed bump in an otherwise excellent package.
Build quality, display, game performance, design, and features all add up in the end. The Lenovo Legion Y540 – no matter the configuration – is one of the best value-for-money gaming laptops available today.