Lenovo Legion Y740 review

Lenovo Legion Y740 review
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Last Updated on by Daniel Lawrence

Lenovo’s Y740 laptop isn’t bad, but its expensive RTX 2070 Max-Q and poor battery life make it hard to recommend over comparable GTX 1070 alternatives.

It is the first gaming laptop we have tested with an Nvidia RTX 2070 Max-Q GPU, one of the families of ray-tracing-capable mobile GPUs introduced by Nvidia at CES.

Changing generations is always an interesting experience. Every laptop feels like an heir to the throne, as if it could succeed anyone. We also put the RTX 2070 through its paces in this review, to see how the price-to-performance ratio compares against previous-gen and current-gen alternatives.

Lenovo Legion Y740: Basic specs

Lenovo, for once, is keeping things simple by offering just a few Legion Y740 models. At the time this review was conducted, a discount of $1,540 was available on Lenovo.com, though the model we reviewed officially costs $1,920. Features include:

  • CPU: Intel Core i7-8750H
  • Graphics: Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 Max-Q
  • Memory: 16 GB of DDR4/2667
  • Display: 15.6-inch 144Hz G-Sync display at 1920×1080
  • Storage: 256GB SSD, 1TB HDD

The specs of the other models are mostly the same. For instance, the display and processor are always the same. However, the model we reviewed is the only one with a Max-Q RTX 2070 graphics card. The other three feature RTX 2060 graphics cards. As for storage, the cheapest model comes with a 256GB SSD (a pittance for a modern gaming laptop), and another with a 512GB SSD.

Lenovo Legion Y740 Design

lenpvo legion

Lenovo just refreshed its aesthetic with the Legion Y730, so it comes as no surprise the Legion Y740 keeps the same look as its predecessor. It has a flat-gray lid and is sleek. Only the lights behind the ‘Y’ shape in the Legion logo and the rear vents give it away as a gaming machine. The default clean, blue light may seem silly to some people, but it is less aggressive than the red-and-black color scheme found on most gaming laptops.

As a whole, the Legion Y740 is neither particularly attractive nor particularly offensive. With the same aesthetic, we called the Legion Y530, which has the same logotype on the lid, a generic business laptop. To me, it still makes sense. The design language isn’t as defined here as it is with, say, Razer or Alienware-unless absently, as if the lack of eye-catching elements were a statement in itself.

Lenovo Legion Y7000 gaming laptop

With dimensions of 14.2 x 10.5 x 0.88 inches and a weight of almost exactly 5 pounds, it is nice and portable. Although it’s not Razer Blade-thin, it’s still pretty compact for a gaming laptop. Similar to the Legion Y7000, the Legion Y740 hides its bulk well with sharply tapered sides and an offset hinge that makes it seem smaller.

I’m not a fan of the hinge placement, mind you. In cramped conditions, the Legion Y740 is difficult to use because an inch of plastic protrudes from the back. In this case, that’s doubly true, as Lenovo has chosen to place nearly all the ports on the rear. On the left side of the laptop, there is a 3.5mm jack and one USB-C port, and on the right side, there is one USB-A port. In addition to the power, Ethernet, HDMI-out, and Mini DisplayPort, there are two more USB-A ports on the back.

As a desktop replacement, the Legion Y740 would be ideal. By having rear ports, you can hide wires and run them behind your desk, reducing clutter. How about as a laptop, though? They’re hard to access. Lenovo simplified the process by adding light-up icons on each port on the hinge, facing upward, so you can theoretically insert cables blindly. Personally, I still prefer inputs arranged down the sides.

In any case, the hinge lifts to reveal the 15.6-inch display. The 144Hz refresh rate and G-Sync support make this monitor stand out. I am intrigued by the idea of 144Hz monitors making their way into laptops-even though they have some drawbacks. I will elaborate later.

On Lenovo’s website, it boasts “software-enabled Dolby Vision HDR” but the screen itself is nothing special. Despite its HDR-capable display, the Legion Y740 does not support HDR in any way. A 300-nit screen won’t meet HDR’s 1,000-nit standard, while color reproduction is mediocre. Lenovo says you can attach an external monitor and play HDR content, but that’s not how the Lenovo website appears.

The keyboard on the Legion Y740 is pleasant, if somewhat stiff. During the course of this review, I typed quite a few articles on it and found the travel to be a bit shallow, which led to more typos than usual. I prefer the ten-keyless layout over the cramped Legion Y7000, but it’s fast. Also included is full RGB backlighting provided by Corsair’s ICUE software.

On the left is a row of utility keys. There are two macro keys, two that control the keyboard’s brightness, one for recording gameplay footage, and the last half-sized key that launches Lenovo’s Vantage settings program. They are either useless or problematic. I reached for the Ctrl or Esc key too often, only to go one column too far and turn the keyboard brightness down or open Vantage.

There are physical buttons for left- and right-clicking on the trackpad. Considering they were absent from the Legion Y7000, their presence here was by no means guaranteed, but I am happy to have them here. Tap-to-click drives me bonkers when I play games on a trackpad.

According to Lenovo’s website, the laptop comes with Dolby Atmos speakers, which include a Soundbar and a subwoofer. How does it perform in practice? It’s definitely loud, though there is still a lack of bass, even with the integrated subwoofer. I think they’re some of the best laptop speakers I’ve tried, but calling them Dolby Atmos is a stretch. Unless you are in a bind, a gaming headset is still the way to go.

As a final note, the webcam is an unremarkable 720p afterthought placed below the Legion logo on the bottom bezel, ensuring it will always have a gorgeous view of your chin and not much else. In these situations, the webcam always loses out to the thin and crisp sides and top bezels of the display. Dell’s XPS, the product that started this terrible trend, fixed the problem for 2019. Hopefully, Lenovo will follow suit.

Legion Y740 Performance

Lenovo legion gaming laptop

Here’s our review of the Legion Y740, which we haven’t seen on a laptop before with an RTX 2070 Max-Q, so it’s a bit of a curiosity. On the GPU side, there’s plenty to test.

The Intel Core i7-8750H is a familiar CPU to us, and our Cinebench R15 test confirms that fact. Legion Y740 put up a score of 1,216, well within the margin of error for basically every Core i7-8750H laptop we’ve tested.

In our more intensive HandBrake test, we re-encode a 30GB MKV file using the Android Tablet preset and measure how long it takes. As a result of its lengthy runtime, this test is perfect for detecting thermal throttling. Once again, the Legion Y740 finishes the task in just under 30 minutes, matching the performance of its peers.

That’s enough about the CPU, huh? On the one hand, there is the RTX 2070 Max-Q, and on the other, the RTX 2080, as well as the previous-gen GTX 1070 and 1070 Max-Q.

3DMark’s FireStrike Extreme is our preferred artificial benchmark. Legion Y740 topped GTX 1060, 1070 Max-Q, and RTX 2060 with a score of 7,710. It’s worth noting that performance is about the same as the full-sized GTX 1070s, illustrating yet again what Max-Q gains in portability, it loses in performance.

RTX 2070 Max-Q and RTX 2080 are worlds apart. The GTX 1060, GTX 1070, and RTX 2060 Max-Q are all within the same performance range, but the Alienware Area-51m and its desktop-grade RTX 2080 blows them all away-even with a $4,000 price tag.

Similarly, the Area-51m scored nearly twice as well as the Legion Y740 in Rising of the Tomb Raider. That’s pretty incredible for Alienware. The RTX 2070 Max-Q once again beats the RTX 2060, but with a much narrower gap-and, the full-size GTX 1070 outperforms the RTX 2070 Max-Q by 15 to 20 frames per second.

With Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor, the RTX 2070 Max-Q is even less impressive. In comparison to our Legion Y740, the RTX 2060-equipped Acer Predator Triton 500 offers two frames per second more, and the GTX 1070 of the full-sized model leads by 10 to 15 frames per second.

What does that mean for the 2070 Max-Q? In ultrathin laptops like the Razer Blade, where Max-Q is an engineering necessity, it makes sense. However, I am not so sure about the Legion Y740. My colleague Gordon Mah Ung outlines who should and shouldn’t buy an RTX laptop in his breakdown of ray tracing in theory. However, GTX 1070-equipped laptops are essentially the same price as RTX 2070 Max-Q laptops right now. As a result of the difference in performance between the RTX 2070 Max-Q and the GTX 1070, I believe the latter is definitely the best bang-for-your-buck card, despite being a hardware generation older.

RTX 2060 may also be a more cost-effective option than the RTX 2070 Max-Q if you don’t mind years-old hardware. With 2060, benchmarks are a little worse, but with 2070, you are paying more for the model number than the performance increase. The average increase is two frames per second.

The Y740’s battery life is terrible, so we will conclude on a down note. The Legion Y740 is a dismal performer even by the standards of gaming laptops, which are notoriously poor performers. It lasted just two hours in our test, where we plugged in headphones at medium volume and played a video with the screen set to 250 nits’ brightness. We turned off the keyboard backlight as well.

The deck isn’t stacked against us either. Other laptops in this chart have 80Whr to 90Whr batteries, but the Legion Y740 has the same 57Whr battery as its cousin, the Legion Y7000, which lasts four hours longer. The 144Hz display is probably to blame-remember when I mentioned there were some drawbacks? Even simple tasks like watching a video drain battery life since the screen refresh more than twice as often as a normal 60Hz display. It might be best to find a laptop with a larger battery if you want a 144Hz display in a gaming laptop.

Pros Cons
Snappy keyboard and trackpad (with real buttons!) Poor battery life even for a gaming laptop
Minimalist design RTX 2070 Max-Q underdelivers, given its price
144Hz display is neat in theory Rear-facing ports

Conclusion

As an emblem of this GPU generation changeover, the Lenovo Legion Y740 stands out. RTX cards like the RTX 2070 Max-Q are in a strange position since GPU makers are pushing ray tracing, but the content isn’t really there yet. There is no doubt that the RTX generation is theoretically better, but only in certain instances. It will take years before Ray Tracing matters much to the average user. If you compare the RTX 2070’s Max-Q version to a full-size GTX 1070, it is about on par with its predecessor.

Apart from the battery life, it’s an okay laptop-though you’ll probably keep it plugged in most of the time. Depending on your tastes, the keyboard and trackpad are standout features, and the overall design is either unassuming or at least inoffensive.

Nvidia’s performance is mostly disappointing. Although it is obvious that manufacturers (and thus consumers) will move on to new hardware, there is little reason for them to do so when GTX 1070-equipped laptops continue to exist and cost about the same as RTX 2070 Max-Q models.

Compare the price of an RTX 2070 Max-Q laptop with the GTX 1070 supply at the very least. Before you buy, make sure you’re getting a good deal and don’t be fooled by a higher model number. There’s more to it than that.