We see a lot of laptops at jkOnTheRun, but most are of the smaller variety so it’s a nice change of pace when one of the larger ones comes to play. The Lenovo IdeaPad Y650 has a nice 16-inch screen yet is as thin and light as notebooks much smaller. I am offering up my first impressions of the Y650 as I usually do, but bear in mind I’ve only been using it for a day. This is not a review, but a quick take on my highlights/lowlights so far.
The Y650 is no question one of the sexiest large notebooks around. It is as thin as the unibody MacBooks but, given the plastic chassis, is very light. The Y650 with the 16-inch screen is only slightly heavier than my 13-inch MacBook, making it very easy to handle and carry around. Those looking for a thin and light larger notebook should not overlook the IdeaPads.
It’s only been a short while that I’ve been using the Y650 but here are the things I like about it so far:
Design – It is very attractive and sensibly designed from a usability standpoint. Easy to handle, as I mentioned, and comfortable to use for extended periods.
Audio quality – The Y650 is designed as a multimedia machine and serves this role well. Along these lines Lenovo has included Windows Media Center and their own multimedia suite for working with audio and video. The stereo JBL speakers are only 2 W but sound very nice playing audio and the notebook handles video with aplomb.
Performance – The notebook rates a 4.2 in the Windows Experience Index, not a benchmark but an indication that the video supplied by the NVIDIA (s NVDA) discrete graphics handle 3D rendering nicely. I haven’t tried any games on the Y650 but I’ll bet it would do a decent job, although with only 256 MB of VRAM some current games can’t be played. The machine seems fast and snappy in everything I do and it’s a nice system overall.
Touchpad – Lenovo chose to put an oversized touchpad, so those like me who dislike tiny touchpads will like this one. It is a Synaptics (s SYNA) touchpad and while it supports multi-touch, it is very limited. I’ll talk more about this in a moment.
Price – The list price of $1,299 is not bad for the powerhouse you get. It’s well priced for a desktop replacement notebook, a category that it certainly fits.
Veriface recognition – Lenovo bypasses the more common fingerprint reader on the IdeaPad line and they have made great improvements in the Veriface recognition on the Y650. Once my face was enrolled, a simple process, the notebook takes no more than a second to recognize my face with the webcam when I fire it up or resume from sleep. It works in widespread lighting situations, something earlier versions had problems with, and is the easiest way to keep others out of my stuff.
Not everything is rosy with the Y650, however, and here’s my list of problems so far:
Video resolution – Lenovo chose to go with a 1366×768 resolution even though it has a nice, bright LED backlit 16-inch display. This is a lost opportunity, in my opinion, as the screen could display so much more at once. This resolution is only slightly more than that of my 13-inch MacBook in comparison. I’d like to see them go with a 1600×1050 resolution on these larger screens.
Keyboard – The keyboard is full-sized and comfortable to type on for extended periods, but given how large the 16-inch body is, some keyboard choices Lenovo made are unnecessary. The top function key row could be much larger with standard-sized keys instead of the little keys they used. The arrow keys could have been better laid out instead of crammed into the lower corner of the keyboard, and the super-thin vertical row of keys on the right should also be full-sized keys. There is a ton of wasted space on the Y650 that could have been better used.
Touchpad – While the large, multitouch touchpad made my list of things I like due to its big size, it’s also on the bad list. The touchpad takes up a big part of the wrist wrest area so it is impossible to type on the keyboard without touching the touchpad with my palms. I do the same with my MacBook with its large touchpad, but the Mac ignores my palms very well and it doesn’t trigger unwanted events. Not so with the Lenovo; in fact it’s almost impossible to type for any length of time at all without my palms triggering actions. This is incredibly frustrating and I have spent a lot of time playing with the configuration of the Synaptics touchpad to try and minimize this effect. There is palm rejection supposedly built into the pad by Synaptics but even with the setting at Maximum I cannot prevent these actions. I am still trying to figure this out but for now the Y650 is not usable for me.
I always write these “first impressions” posts on the device I am evaluating but I gave up this time due to the touchpad issue. I am actually writing this on the Mac, which is very telling. I intend to keep trying to get the Y650 to work, and if I can’t I’ll let Lenovo know I think I have a defective unit. At least I would think its defective if I can’t get past this. More as it develops.