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You can view Part 2 of the review here.
Today we’re taking a look at Lenovo’s IdeaPad Y650 multimedia laptop. As Lenovo’s first major attempt at a consumer friendly multimedia machine, the Y650 represents a lot of firsts for the company. If this review moves you to purchase a Y650, support your kind friends at LogicThinkPads and shop for a good deal here.
We’ll be tackling this review in two parts. Today we’ll be looking at the design, keyboard/touchpad, display, and multimedia capabilities of the Y650. The rest will of the review will be posted on Monday. If there is anything in particular you would like to know about this laptop, please leave questions and comments in the…comments!
You’re either going to love or hate the Y650′s design. The top cover is made of carbon-fiber reinforced plastic that has a rubberized coating with a very subtle pattern textured into it. The bottom cover is a magnesium-aluminum alloy. This reminds me of the T Series of yore, whereas the current T400 uses “Super-Elastic PolyCarbonate,” aka plastic. More than just a black rectangle, you’ll also find a metallic orange strip that runs around the inner edges of the top and bottom sections.
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Open the extra-wide 16:9 LCD and you’ll find a stark white interior, composed of glossy plastic and orange accents. I especially like the status lights added to the power, mute, and Caps Lock keys. The power button actually has a very fine series of individual dots with a white LED shining through them, a nice touch of detail. You’ll also notice the glowing IdeaPad logo, which I find rather stylish, and an LED light between the touchpad buttons that lets you know when it is disabled via the Fn+F6 combo.
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The LCD has a glossy black frame, which provides a nice contrast to the all-white lower section. The JBL speakers also have a stylish pattern to the metal grills covering them. Even the air vents on the bottom are cut in a distinct pattern for added style. One aspect I do take as a bit overkill is the gaudy, chrome Lenovo logo on the outside top cover, but you do have to do branding somewhere.
I personally love the Y650′s design as a home machine, but wouldn’t much care for it in a professional setting. It is attention getting, but in a bit of a “toy” way.
Keyboard & Touchpad
Lenovo has a reputation for having some excellent keyboards, at least on ThinkPads. I’m happy to report that the Y650′s keyboard is comfortable and efficient to use. The tactile feedback is good and with a little adjustment to the 6-row layout, I’m typing away accurately. You’ll also find the all important Home/End/PgUp/PgDn keys are stacked on the right side of the keyboard and are dedicated keys, rather than some keyboard designs which put these critical keys behind the Fn key.
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The “touch sensitive” buttons above the keyboard are more of a pain than a help. The one that looks like a slider control for the volume actually brings up a menu with fourt shortcuts to Lenovo utilities, but it is not intuitive to use. The display adjustment button switches the LCD between normal and “movie” optimized modes, which improves brightness and black saturation. The Dolby function brings up the Dolby audio utility, but you shouldn’t need to run this more than once. You will definitely appreciate the stylish hard-wired volume and mute buttons, a must on a multimedia notebook.
Next to the touch sensitive buttons, you’ll notice some important LED indicators like WiFi and HDD activity. Unfortunately these LED’s are very difficult to see unless you are sitting directly over them in low light. Placement on the front of the system like the other main LED’s would have made them much more usable.
Unfortunately with the touchpad we have a bit of a mixed bag here. As you can tell from the photos, the Y650 has a very large touchpad and ample wrist rest space. This is great for mousing around and the Y650′s touchpad is multi-touch capable, so you can zoom in/out with the pinch method and use other specific gestures. However due to the large size of the touchpad, it is very easy to activate the touchpad while typing. I have rather large hands and had to adjust my typing position, but did eventually work around it. A quick Fn+F6 disables the touchpad and also lights up a little LED between the touchpad buttons, which is handy for long periods of typing.
One final note on the touchpad: the texture is something unlike any other system I’ve used. It almost has a slick, textured finish to it. I don’t think it really effects usage, but some have reported they don’t really care for it. The touchpad buttons are sufficient, but the clicking action is a bit shallow and stiff for my tastes.
Displays have never been Lenovo’s strong point on the ThinkPad line, with only a few exceptions. However it’s clear that they knew a decent LCD was necessary to really make the Y650 shine as a multimedia machine, and shine it does. The horizontal viewing angles are particularly great and while the vertical angles are a bit less satisfactory, the Apple-esque hinge design prevents the LCD from opening so far that you start to lose image quality.
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Colors are bright and appear rather accurate. The LCD is plenty bright under most any usage circumstance, although I haven’t tested it outdoors. Reflections aren’t much of an issue with this glossy display, although outdoor usage or under fluorescent lights would produce questionable results.
Regarding that hinge, you’ll see that it slides open rather than rotating around a metal hinge as on most systems. Apple and a number of other consumer laptops use this design. Reliability certainly is a greater concern with this design and I’ve heard about Mac owners who might leave an errant pencil between the display and system frame, destroying the hinge when you absent mindedly close the LCD.
This section is dedicated to the multimedia capabilities of this machine, an increasingly valid usage scenario for many laptops. With the shift from traditional media like CD’s, stereo systems, and cable TV, a laptop’s ability to output video and audio becomes crucially important.
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Lenovo of course positions the entire IdeaPad line as having various multimedia capabilities, but none so great as the Y650. The first IdeaPad available with a 16:9 LCD, the Y650 also sports “Dolby Home Theater” audio with two JBL speakers, HDMI output, VGA output, ExpressCard/34 slot, DVD burner, and 6-in-1 card reader. If telephony is your thing, the Y650 even has a dual array microphone, placed just above the keyboard.
The Dolby speaker system may not sound like your home theater with the same name, but the volume and quality are a step above the average notebook. If this is serving as your primary media system and you don’t have any external speakers, you might wish for slightly louder speakers, otherwise they are superb.
Part 2 coming Monday! You can view Part 2 of the review here.