Monday, November 10, 2014

Lenovo Y40 Gaming Laptop Review - The Little Laptop That Could

If you have been looking for what I like to call the PC gaming trinity - affordable, thin/light, and having gaming specs - then look no further than the Lenovo Y40. This review will be based on the cheapest model in their lineup, so its performance will only prime you for how much better the other models are because this one is pretty darn good. Find more pictures and the full review after the jump.


You will notice at first that Lenovo gave this laptop an understated, yet "hey, I am a badass laptop" kind of look. As is well known, gaming laptop aesthetics are a very acquired taste, but I believe that this laptop is largely unobtrusive in its design. The brushed and dark aluminum chassis gives it an elite and minimal look, while the red accents and minimal use of steel grate on the back and speakers establish its real allegiance to gamers. 

This laptop is no Lamborghini or Corvette, but think of it like a well-tuned Civic - respectably stylish with a noteworthy amount of performance. But, I digress...


The laptop feels quite sturdy when held. It could probably take a good fall and the aluminum helps it feel stiff and not flexible. The aluminum also helps it feel cool: prolonged usage often fatigues wrists and the slightly chilled chassis increases comfort. Unfortunately, the sleekness of the laptop makes it prone to visible smears and spills, which is a subjective issue. The peripherals are also nicely displayed on the Y40. The ports on the side are rimmed with sharp contour that completely covers the more unsightly ports themselves. However, I take issue with the track pad as it is inset and therefore collects dust and grime. Moving it .5mm upward would almost bring it flush with the chassis surface.


Well...there are enough of them, which is not a glowing remark. However, even expensive laptops often do not include many USB ports and etc. The placing of most of the side ports on the left side is nice for right-handed mouse users, but there is a lot of space to include more ports. You have a basic HDMI, 3 USB ports (2 are USB3), mic/headphone, card reader, and LAN layout. eSATA and more USB3 would have been nice - potentially VGA, but then the laptop might not be so thick. An extra perk is the reversible power cord.

The screen is debatable. On one hand I find it to be quite accurate, but it seems a bit washed. The colors are not so vivid, though such a cheap laptop with a 1080p screen must have compromises somewhere. All in all, the brightness and contrast setting are more than adequate and the viewing angle is fairly wide.

The speakers (as far as laptops go) are a dream. Lenovo claims it is a 2.1 system, but the real magic happens with Dolby Digital Plus Home Theater. Do not remove this "bloatware," it will make the speakers shine with a dynamically controlled equalizer, volume leveler, dialogue enhancer, and surround visualizer. The volume will fill a small to medium-sized room and most frequencies are audible when listening up close. The mids and highs are clean and sharp and while bass loss is obvious, you can still pick up acapella bass singers and bass guitars with better depth than most speakers. 

The keyboard and track pad are equally great. The keyboard is the same Lenovo AccuType keyboard that is infamous (at least in my part of the world) with many of their laptops. Unfortunately, the Y40 is not backlit like its big brother the Y50, though you get nice red accents under the keys. The track pad is multitouch, which is a boon for Windows 8 and makes it more usable. Some may dislike the unified track pad - no separate physical right and left click buttons, just zones on one pad.

I almost forgot...wireless. Well, I haven't got AC, but it has the capability. When connecting to a few different routers I found that it connects very quickly. In fact, it seamlessly switches between networks very fast if one signal drops and another appears on its list of registered networks. I am very impressed.


The performance you say? We're getting there. The Y40 is very repairable in my opinion. Lets take a look at this picture of the innards: 

As you can see, most parts that you want to replace are readily accessible. There is even room for more RAM, though the lack of extra mSATA is disappointing. The battery is built in, but close inspection indicated that it is not hard to remove. Even the heat sinks are easy to find (and potentially modable *evil grin*).

 Performance we are. The most important part - does the walk match the talk? In short, yes. Here is a quick run down of this model's specs:
  • Core-i5 4210u (dual core with Hyper Threading)
  • 8GB DDR3 RAM
  • 500GB hard drive +8GB SSD for caching
  • Radeon R9 M275 with 2GB discrete memory
  • Wireless AC
  • 14" 1080p Screen
First off, I would have bought the second model from the top had the deal been as good then as it is now. i7 must be better than i5, right? Anyways, I should also mention that specs will change slightly with region, as will price. In Canada my baseline Y40 was $840 shipping included.  There is not much difference between remain the same with CPU and hard drive differences being the only significant differences. 

Multitasking is decent...I come from the land of desktop Intel quad cores where 30 tabs in Chrome, videos, and who knows what else at the same time is a breeze. That being said, you will have no problems doing any major tasks, except for maybe hardcore video encoding or 3D modelling - if you are doing those, you probably should stop reading this article. 

Gaming performance was more than expected. Civ 5 showed no stuttering late-game and Lord of the Rings Online is comfortable on high quality DX11 settings. What? You aren't satisfied with my lack of benchmarking? Okay, here is a bit more... LOTRO yielded a constant 50fps with rare drops into the 30s in high population zones. 60fps and higher was not uncommon with few players present. LOTRO is a demanding title, so you can expect great performance on most games as long as they aren't labelled "system crushers," such as Crysis 3, Metro Redux, and Far Cry 3. They may run on lower settings, but be warned. Serious games demand serious horsepower, though Battlefield 4 has proven to run well on midrange machines.

Issues and Conclusion

This laptop is not without problems, though all are minimal except the heating issues. Many gaming laptops suffer from inadequate cooling, but Lenovo cheaped out in my opinion. Gaming lasts smoothly for all of 30 minutes before throttling occurs. It does not help that throttling occurs inherently when plugged in with a battery charging - you cannot remove the Y40's battery. Fan control is also not available without 3rd party tools, but yep, 3rd party tools can eliminate throttling and unlock fan control (rejoice). If I prop up my laptop on books, then the increased airflow underneath the chassis gives me more headroom, but I suspect that a cooling pad would help immensely. I plan to buy the Cooler Master NotePal U3, which has 3 custom-position fans - that's right, put them where you want!

In conclusion, this laptop is as expected. For $700 to $850, you cannot complain about its close-to-high-end performance  and it includes a battery of respectable specs. Speaking of batteries, did I mention that you can easily get 5 to 7 hours out of this thing? That's right, the Y40's 4-cell battery is all it needs with the very efficient Haswell CPUs. I cannot say whether the Radeon R9 is efficient, especially compared to nVidia's Maxwell architecture. If you want a bit more horsepower with guaranteed efficiency, I suggest upgrading to the Lenovo Y50.

When compared to the likes of the $2300 EVO-15S, this laptop is a steal and few if any laptops beat the Y40's price/performance ratio. Consider this laptop approved. Good job Lenovo.


  1. Did you get a cooling pad and if so did it help reduce throttling?

  2. I actually just picked one up! I bought the Coolermaster Notepal U3 and it fixed the throttling issues completely. I also tried out a friend's Thermaltake Massive 23LX, which has a single 230mm fan and that worked too.

    I find that if a room is cold enough (18C or 64F) then it cools well without a cooling pad, when gaming. I use this laptop in a house with a wood stove so the air can get a little warm.

    1. What is the temp difference with and without the cooling pad also in your opinion which cooling pad is superior among the two? Can you also if its not too much bother, check what max temp is when gaming with the cooling pad. Thanks

    2. I do believe that the U3 is superior, due to the fact that you can position fans where you want. The Massive 23LX might have better airflow overall, but what is the point if it blows most of the air in places that do not need cooling? You will have to identify your laptop's hot spots. For the Y40, I believe that the U3 works best.

      In regard to temps:
      Idle: 44C avg
      w/ cooling pad: 41C avg

      Gaming: 75C max
      w/ cooling pad: 67C max

      I found that when my laptop stayed at 70C for too long then throttling would occur. This must be the threshold. As long as it stays below I can game without much stuttering. If you disable antialiasing in games and limit FPS to 35 or less, then that will help too.

  3. what programs did you find to allow fan control?

  4. Hey, what were the 3rd party tools you used to control the fans? I can't find any that work with this machine. Thanks!

    1. I successfully used the Ideafan mod by allstone. It was made for the y510p, but it still works.

      However, it is not all that fine-tuned in my opinion. You could also try and find the fans with speedfan.

      It just occured to me that you might be able to enable manual fan control in the BIOS. It wouldn't be easily changeable, but it is a place to start. I haven't tried enabling this.

    2. I already checked the BIOS, but I'll try the program you listed. Thanks a ton!