Portable PCs have the widest range of purposes, and one particular subcategory of theirs has fleshed out in the past period due to advancements made in hardware production. We’re talking about gaming notebooks, of course, which do an increasingly good job at balancing portability, autonomy, but also gaming capabilities. Razer was among the first to try and create a product of this kind, and we believe that other manufacturers will start to enter the field too. Simply enough, the vision of a gaming notebook usually comprises a bulky, heavy notebook, such as those offered by Alienware, Dell (XPS) or ASUS (G). Still, CPUs made in 22 nm coupled with GPUs made in 28 nm lithography made the ideal balance possible. Lenovo has spotted another excellent opportunity in the fact that very few people have the need for an optical device nowadays. How is this sentence congruent with our story?
Y400 Hero 04 cover

Lenovo IdeaPad Y400

IdeaPad models have always been characterised by their versatility. These multimedia notebooks have always contained excellent hardware that has provided the best in flexibility. The series has kept going on in the right direction ever since Y560, which combined Intel’s Core i7 with Radeon HD 5730. The latest such model, carrying the name Y400, was around for a very short while in our office. It’s a 14” notebook that seems to have been optimally utilised in every way. Let’s start from the production quality, which is marvellous. The ground dark aluminium, almost black in appearance, looks stunning. The sharp edges and peculiar angles suggest a sporty look. Lifting the lid continues the pleasant impression, spoiled only by the plastic frame around the display that just doesn’t belong there. The keyboard is of standard quality for Lenovo, which means very good. The backlight itself is white, but the edges appear red. The touchpad’s surface is very smooth and pleasant to touch, while being highly responsive. Combined with the rest of the black-red image, we can’t understate how astonishing this notebook looks!

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The display has a rather low resolution of 1366x768, which may seem like a drawback, but think about the usage scenarios this notebook is bound to see. The 16:9 aspect ratio makes it very pleasant for viewing films, and the difference in this regard compared to 1600x900 is negligible. A higher resolution does mean more desktop space, but few people rely on 14” notebooks to be their workhorse anyway. Games will particularly appreciate the lower native resolution, as it leaves more room for level details and effects, since the graphics card doesn’t have to cope that much with the size of the display itself. Finally, HD Ready panels are cheaper than higher-resolution ones, so all in all, Lenovo seems to have made all the right choices. As for display quality, it’s pretty common for its class, and the only thing to reproach could potentially be the modest viewing angles. Speakers are signed by the famous JBL, a long-time partner of Lenovo’s. Their quality is worthy of every praise, as all spectrums have been covered excellently. Even bass is prominent enough to enable you to watch a film or play a game without that feeling of the sound being flat.

Impeccable hardware

If you thought Y400 was only interesting on the outside, you were wrong. Its main selling point is precisely what’s on the inside. First and foremost, there’s the 3rd-gen Core i7 CPU, or more precisely, Ivy Bridge model named Core i7 3630QM. This CPU is a full-blown quad-core CPU with eight threads. Owing to the modern production process, with a consumption of only 45 W, this CPU works at a nominal clock of 2.4 GHz. If you’re running applications ill-optimised for multiple cores, the clock will jump to 3.4 GHz. Simply enough, the CPU section is great, and the same goes for the 8 GB of supplied RAM. These DDR3 modules work at a default clock of 1600 MHz. IdeaPad Y400 has two devices for data storage. The first is a minimum-capacity SSD of 16 GB, while the other is a typical 2.5” HDD of 1 TB. Owing to Intel’s RST technology, the SSD is used for data caching, shortening the system’s boot sequence considerably, as well as the boot-up time for the most commonly used apps. Of course, the range of sped-up programs is relatively narrow, but in practical terms, the concept earns its wage.

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And now onto the most important section, which is the graphics subsystem. We’ve already mentioned the decreasing need for optical devices in today’s PCs. Lenovo has used this to replace the optical device with another graphics card. Therefore, instead of having an integrated GPU and a single GeForce GT 650, there’s also a second one, connected via SLI. That’s right, this tiny fellow has a total of three graphics cards. In ideal conditions, when working with less demanding apps, the integrated GPU will do all the work, saving energy and providing longer battery autonomy. When you decide it’s gaming time, simply connect your charger, and the two GeForce GT 650s will take over. This gives you a gaming system roughly comparable to a desktop PC running on a GeForce GTX 660. If you’ve been following our website closely, you probably know that this card is sufficient for Full HD gaming with AA and AF technologies off. Take into account the relatively low-resolution display in this notebook, and it’s clear that Y400 will have no problems working even with the most demanding titles.

Lenovo IdeaPad Y400 
CPU Core i7-3630QM 2.4GHz (3.4GHz Turbo)
Chipset Intel HM77 Express
Memory 8 GB DDR3 1600 MHz
HDD [GB] Seagate 1 TB 5400RPM + 16 GB SSD
Optical drive no
Graphics NVIDIA Optimus: Intel HD 4000 Graphics + 2x GeForce GT650M 2GB
Display 14", 1366x768 pix
Interfaces 1x USB 3.0, 2xUSB 2.0, HDMI, VGA, Audio in/out, LAN, card reader
Additional WiFi, BT 4.0
Dimension and weight 35 x 24,5 x 1.5 to 3.3cm; 2.5 kg
Price sample

Cinebench R11.5 OpenGL / CPU 61.22 / 6.47
7-Zip 7.20 x64 comp./decomp. [kB/s] 17.147 / 206.005
AIDA 64 2.0 memory read / write / copy [MB/s] 17325 / 18543 / 19139
AIDA 64 2.0 memory latency [ns] 51.3
1366x768 0xAA 0xAF
Crysis Warhead (DX10, gamer) [fps] 45.6
Crysis Warhead (DX10, enthusiast) [fps] 35.1
Dirt Showdown (DX11, high) [fps] 67.2
Sniper Elite V2 (DX11, medium) [fps] 36.4
Sniper Elite V2 (DX11, high) [fps] 18.9
Sleeping Dogs (DX11, high) [fps] 33.5

Too early for awards

Y400-2 sEven though this notebook earns all the medals in theory, our testing sample arrived ill-prepared for battle. More specifically, since it’s not yet officially available in retail, this notebook doesn’t have certified drivers for Windows 8 that comes preinstalled on it. This prevented Optimus technology from working properly and caused very bad battery autonomy regardless of settings used. Furthermore, benchmark results with no official drivers are a bit bizarre, so take them with a handful of salt. The improvement compared to a single-GPU system is visible, but the impression remains that optimisation isn’t near the maximum level of these GPUs’ usability. All in all, Lenovo is poised to create a new standard in the 14” gaming notebook niche. Let’s hope they use the opportunity well, as they’re practically in front of the goal. All they need is a final push.