It was a little over a year ago that Lenovo and Razer announced a co-branding partnership that saw Razer essentially acting as an ambassador for introducing Lenovo PCs to the discerning consumer of gaming gear. Today, that collaboration seems to have quietened down, and in its place Lenovo is introducing an all-new brand of its own called Legion. Like Acer’s Predator and Asus’ Republic of Gamers, Lenovo Legion will be the name attached to the gaming hardware that’s obviously, demonstratively intended for gamers. Though the Lenovo difference might be that it does something very similar on a smaller budget.
The first members of the Lenovo Legion lineup are two 15.6-inch laptops, the Y720 and Y520, which have just been announced here at CES 2017 in Las Vegas. Both are powered by Intel 7th-gen Core processors (aka Kaby Lake), topping out at a quad-core Core i7-7700HQ on the higher-end Y720. That model also has a matte 4K display option (3840 x 2160) and a multicolored keyboard backlight, whereas the cheaper Y520 can only stretch up to 1080p resolution and a simpler red backlight. The Y720 also has a larger battery at 60WHr, better speakers, a better maximum graphics spec — Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 versus the GTX 1050 on offer with the Y520 — and a Thunderbolt 3 port.
Lenovo hopes the Y720 will stand out by being the first laptop to support Dolby Atmos. This is primarily intended for enhancing the surround sound effect of content played through headphones — I listened to some demo videos loaded on the laptop (with a pair of Sennheiser HD 280 cans) and it did indeed convey the position and direction of sound much better than you’d usually get from a laptop’s built-in sound card. But the catch with Dolby Atmos is that it can’t just be applied to any audio recording: the original content has to have been recorded to make use of Atmos. Overwatch is the only big-ticket game supporting Atmos at the moment, so if you like it, great, but for everyone else, this isn’t going to be a must-have feature until enough game developers embrace and exploit the opportunity.
But the thing I can’t really get over is the look and construction of these new laptops from Lenovo. The company says it’s gone out and done a lot of market research to determine what’s important to gamers, but its findings seem to have mostly produced a hybrid clone of Alienware and Asus laptops. The red frilly bits above the keyboard are only there for decoration. The RGB keyboard backlight is trite extroversion for its own sake and not a meaningful advantage. And, setting aside Dolby Atmos, it’s not like Lenovo is advancing any technical frontiers here: it accommodates quite conventional specs and its own battery rating puts the Y720 at 5 hours of battery life and the Y520 at 4 hours. Which would suggest that in the real world you might count yourself lucky if you get more than a couple of hours.
Cool name, questionable hardware
I found significant flex in the top lid of the Lenovo Y720, and the glossy plastic sitting under the screen is, in a word, ugly. The hinge doesn’t feel particularly strong and its motion isn’t perfectly fluid — the whole laptop feels like it’s been made out of lightweight plastic. Whereas gaming machines like the EVGA SC17 and Alienware’s 13, 15, and 17 feel rugged and durable, Lenovo’s new Legion PCs are unconvincing and nowhere near as reassuring.
Lenovo’s best attraction might be the price of its new laptops. The Y520 starts at $899.99 in February, and the Y720 will be available for $1,399.99 and upwards from April. Neither seems like it’ll be a leader in its class, which is rather a shame for the debut of a new brand.