|Lenovo's IdeaPad Y560D is an interesting system that initially caught our eye thanks to its 3D-capable display. 3D films and TVs have been declared hot ticket capabilities by the film industry and TV manufacturers, but this is the first 3D-capable notebook we've had in house. The Y560D isn't the only 3D laptop on the market, but it's priced with more of an eye towards mainstream consumers; most 3D notebooks to date have been aimed at the high-end/enthusiast market. At $1399 on sale the 560D isn't cheap, but it's a more affordable than most of the competition.
We've put the Y560D through our standard benchmarks as well as a suite of 2D/3D tests designed to measure relative image quality. Three-dimensional projection may be one of the laptop's main selling points, but users will still spend the overwhelming majority of the time staring at a 2D screen. If you're shopping around on Lenovo's site, make sure you pick the Y560D instead of the Y560—the additional letter denotes 3D capability.
We always request review hardware that's physically identical to actual shipping hardware, that consumers can actually by.
|Design and Build Quality|
From this angle it's possible to see the webcam, trackpad, and button layout. The button on the far left controls system power, the three buttons to the right turn audio up, down, or mute it altogether. This angle makes the Y560D's lid seem out-of-proportion to its bottom, but that's not something we observed when using the laptop.
The Lenovo Y560D from both angles, with the shipping 3D glasses ever-so-artfully placed in front. The tribal design sets the Y560D apart from the Y560 standard decoration. Lenovo thoughtfully includes a set of clip-on 3D lenses for those of us who wear glasses. While they don't exactly do anything for one's coolness factor, using them beats trying to squint through two separate pairs of lenses.
From the top down we've got the power button on the left, status bar across the top (flanked by two JBL speakers) and the audio control buttons on the far right. The two upper buttons control the laptop's power scheme and LCD settings. Lenovo's own power management utility doesn't seem to offer much in the way of additional features that Windows 7 doesn't include, but it does allow you to enable / disable an auto-brightness feature that the company claims improves battery life. In practice, however, we found the light meter overly sensitive and prone to lowering the screen brightness if the monitor was even slightly bent towards the closed position. We found it more effective to adjust the brightness level via keyboard.
The front and back of the system are nondescript, the only front-mounted port is the 6-in-1 card reader. There is a small switch on the front of the chassis, but its only purpose is to switch between hybrid graphics solutions on notebooks that support the feature. The Y560D doesn't use any form of hybrid GPU, so it's a useless toggle.
Here's the edge view from the left and right (top and bottom images respectively). On the left we've got 15-pin VGA out, HDMI out, the ethernet jack, two USB2 ports and a brace of audio jacks. On the right side there's the laptop's DVD drive, two additional USB ports, an Express Card slot, and the power connection. There's only one flaw in the Y560D's port design. The power jack is close enough to the DVD drive that it interferes with the drive's ability to open and close if the cord is even slightly curved toward the drive. This can be avoided by running the cord around the back of the unit, but you lose a few inches of cord length when doing so.
Those of you who are paying attention will note that the "DVD" drive in the image above is actually a Blu-ray drive; the Blu-ray logo is clearly visible at the far left. Please note, however, that none of the notebooks in the "Y" series offer Blu-ray standard, the Y560D is the only laptop to use this particular case design, and as we've discussed, Lenovo doesn't offer hardware upgrades to its IdeaPad series. In this case, we're downright surprised by the omission; it's logical to think there'd be some overlap between customers interested in Blu-ray and those interested in purchasing 3D movies down the road. Sony has made much of the PS3's ability to play 3D Blu-ray films and there are a number of Blu-ray / 3D titles for sale at Amazon as well.
Welcome to StickerWatch, our tongue-in-cheek evaluation of everyone's favorite laptop garnish—stickers. Here, we rate each laptop's array and configuration of stickers on a scale of 1-10. A 10, or perfect score, is represented by a MacBook Pro, while the Asus G50V from a few years back is a 1:
Witness the pristine beauty of the MacBook Pro...
And the horror that was the Asus G50V. Fabulous laptop in its day, but the worst set of stickers we ever saw.
Without further ado, we present the Lenovo Y560D:
The vertical "IdeaPad" is a backlit LED, not a sticker.
We give the Y560D a solid 7. None of the small badges on the right-hand side can be easily removed, but the large translucent sticker to the left of the trackpad could be peeled off with little difficulty. We applaud the use of small, individually discrete badges and their placement well away from the trackpad.
Audio and Input:
Laptop speakers are typically terrible to the point that they're often ignored; it's assumed that anyone who wants audio will buy a pair of headphones. The Y560D's JBL speakers aren't just good, they're fabulous when compared to most of the paper-cone schlock on the market. Bass response is negligible, but higher frequencies are clear, crisp, and distortion-free, even when the system's volume is turned all the way up.
We tested the speakers while gaming, watching movies, and listening to different types of music. We never encountered a scenario that forced us to switch to headphones due to inherently low volume, excessive distortion, or crackling.
The keyboard's tactile response is good and it's comfortable to use, even when typing for several hours at a time. The only maddening flaw is the layout of the lower-left corner. Standard operating procedure for a laptop is to arrange the lowest row of keys as "Ctrl-FN-Windows-Alt." Lenovo has swapped the positions of the FN and Ctrl keys.
This might seem a small change, but it creates a problem. If you game using WASD (EDSF is better -Ed), your left little finger will reach for LCTRL and hit FN instead. Depending on the keyboard you're used to using, there's a similar annoyance with alt-tabbing. All too often, when we reached for Alt-Tab, we found ourselves hitting Win-Tab instead. If you aren't running Aero, Win-Tab does nothing. If you are running Aero, Win-Tab scrolls through your open desktop windows ala Flip3D.
The Lenovo's trackpad is fairly good; the surface is slightly textured to differentiate it from the laptop body, but not to a degree that grows irritating or interferes with its primary function. Button response was fine, and the pad itself is well positioned. There's one caveat to that: if you're used to resting the heels of your hands on the keyboard's wrist rest as you type, you may have to adjust your position. Otherwise, the trackpad will occasionally pick up the movement of the ball of your thumb and adjust the cursor accordingly.
|2D Image Quality|
One of the limitations of image quality evaluation is that there's no way to capture the difference between two monitors via screenshot; you'll have to take our word on the observed results. We evaluated the Y560D's panel against an NEC MultiSync EA231WMi. This is an entry-level 24" S-IPS display with a 1920x1080 native resolution. We compared the two panels using PassMark's MonitorTest application and the various LCD tests available at Lagom.nl. The tests were run using Firefox 3.6.1 on both systems. The Lagom tests specifically advise that you avoid Internet Explorer, as some tests do not render properly or display accurate performance results. All of the results discussed below were measured after adjusting both displays for the best possible image.
We've chosen the Lagom Contrast Test as our primary point of comparison. On a properly calibrated LCD, the image below should display 32 distinct shades in each bar. On a properly calibrated LCD with good color reproduction it should be possible to discern the difference between 1-2 at the far left and 30-32 at the far right.
Click to enlarge.Our 8-bit S-IPS NEC panel has no problem rendering the color bars accurately, but the Y560D runs into trouble. The first 1-3 shades are indistinct in every bar save for yellow and white, while the far right values also blur together. The degree of inaccuracy depends on the color. Blue fares the worst (indistinguishable past 26), while the rest of the bars blur between shade 28-30.
The reason the Y560D can't properly render all 32 shades of any color is because it uses a TN (twisted nematic) panel with limited 6-bit color reproduction. The problem with 6-bit LCD panels is that they use just six bits to store shades of red, green, and blue. The maximum number of actual colors a 6-bit panel can display is 262,144.
An 8-bit panel like our NEC can display 16.77 million colors. Since the human eye can readily discern the difference between 6-bit and 8-bit screens, manufacturers boost the color reproduction capabilities of 6-bit panels through the use of dithering. Dithering takes advantage of the human eye's tendency to blend color, typically by switching rapidly between two shades that, when blended, produce a close approximation of the desired color.
Exactly how good the approximation is depends on the type of method of dithering the panel uses. This is completely beyond user control, but it makes a difference in the final product. The Y560D's color reproduction isn't bad—we've seen much worse—but it's not particularly great, either. We found ourselves constantly adjusting gamma and color levels from application to application, unable to locate a sweet spot at which all types of content looked fairly good.
The one strength of TN panels is their response time; the Y560D clearly beat our slower NEC in these tests. If you care more about brightness and sharp movement, you'll tend to like the Y560D--if you care more about accurate color reproduction you'll want something different.
We dislike the 1366x768 maximum resolution on a 15.6" screen though. To be fair to Lenovo, this resolution+panel size is now common across all of the major OEMs, but ubiquity and quality have nothing to do with each other. We'd feel differently if higher screen resolutions were available, or if this was a restriction caused by the unit's 3D screen, but the standard Y560 uses the same 1366x768 maximum resolution and Lenovo won't customize an IdeaPad. There are no Y-series IdeaPads with matte finishes instead of glossy.
|3D Image Quality|
While we were less-than-thrilled with some of the Y560D's 2D characteristics, we were fully prepared to wipe the slate clean if the 3D capabilities of said system delivered unto us previously undreamt vistas of movie and gaming delight.
The Y560D uses a program suite called TriDef. TriDef can play 3D content (the system contains a preloaded selection of 3D shorts) and can theoretically render 2D games in a 3D mode. We say theoretically because while we can confirm the program will *attempt* to perform this process, we never saw it do so successfully for any length of time. The games we tested (WoW and Half Life 2) would boot, briefly run in 3D mode, then crash. Frame rates were fine and the 3D effect was visible, but the TriDef converter mysteriously scrambled keyboard input in WoW while Half Life 2 Episode 2 wasn't stable.
Lenovo included a set of 3D movie previews, but we wanted to see the technology at work in a full-length feature film. There aren't many 3D movies for sale yet, so we tromped down to the local Blockbuster, certain that we'd find at least a small amount of shelf space dedicated to 3D. Unfortunately, we didn't find much, but snatched up a copy of Coraline in 3D, on DVD--remember, no Blu-ray drive in the Y560D.
This is the calibration image TriDef includes to help you find an optimal viewing angle.
Coraline in 3D looks a lot like Coraline in 2D—or at least it would if the latter had been filmed by a myopic cyclops with a fisheye lens. The center of the screen tends to look good in 3D mode, but the effect becomes irregular as the eye moves outwards towards the edges of the screen. One observer characterized the effect as "lumpy," which seems as good a word as any.
It's a pretty good movie, but DVD 3D isn't the best way to experience it.
This is one of the drawbacks to buying any 3D-capable display at this point. Just as the earliest DVD films occasionally looked like they'd been mastered off a VHS tape found moldering in someone's attic, the best 3D display can't spin straw into gold. Coraline's 3D, while uneven, is still better than the train wreck of Clash of The Titans. Unfortunately for would-be 3D aficionados, there's no guarantee of quality attached to the 3D moniker.
When we dug around for information on upcoming 3D releases (we'd have loved to have tested the 3D version of Avatar, were it available), we found some studios are considering confining their 3D releases to the Blu-ray version of a movie. Regardless of whether or not that's a smart move it again left us wondering why Lenovo doesn't sell some version of the Y560D with a Blu-ray player rather than a DVD drive.
|System Configuration, 3DMark and Vantage|
We've assembled a series of recently reviewed systems of varying configurations but approximately the same price point. The systems below, when reviewed, range from $100-$200 less than the Y560D to $100-$200 more.
The Futuremark 3DMark06 CPU benchmark consists of tests that use the CPU to render 3D scenes, rather than the GPU. It runs several threads simultaneously and is designed to utilize multiple processor cores.
It's not surprising that we'd see the Asus machine fall behind the Lenovo system here, and the Toshiba result is a good example of both the power and the limitations of multi-threading. While the slower Core i7 4C/8T chip does win past the A11's dual-core, the gap is quite small. Even good multi-threading doesn't automatically mean more threads will rocket past higher clockspeeds.
We ran the Lenovo Y560D through Futuremark’s latest system performance metric PCMark Vantage. This benchmark suite creates a host of different usage scenarios to simulate different types of workloads including High Definition video and movie playback and manipulation, gaming, image editing and manipulation, music compression, communications, and productivity. We like the fact that most of the tests are multi-threaded as well, in order to exploit the additional resources offered by multi-core processors.
We ran the Y560D through our standard tests of Half Life 2: Episode 2 and Enemy Territory: Quake Wars, but, given how well the laptop did in these benchmarks, we threw in some World of Warcraft benchmarks with varying detail levels. Also note, we've substituted a couple of test machines to offer an array of results at the same resolution.
The Y560D hammers the competition here thanks to the intersection of its low-resolution display and higher-end GPU. This is the one unintended benefit of a display with pixels the size of postage stamps—the graphics card has plenty of headroom left if you care to crank up the quality levels.
We experimented with Half Life 2: Episode 2 and found it was possible to run the game with 4x MSAA and all game details turned to full at 67 fps. If you prefer supersampling antialiasing, 2xSSAA brought the game to 55 fps while 4xSSAA was playable (if just barely) at 32.53 fps. That's with all detail levels at full—performance would improve if other graphical goodies were sacrificed for framerate.
In World of Warcraft we chose to benchmark both Dalaran and repeated runs through the 5-man instance The Halls of Reflection. While HoR is a small dungeon with relatively little scenery, it's an area where players tend to cast numerous spells with multiple, overlapping graphical effects.
Dalaran framerates are always terrible around 8 PM; 24.4 fps is near the best anyone can reasonably hope for on a midrange system. Without antialiasing enabled, Halls of Reflection was downright smooth; even enabling 2x supersampling left the framerate at a thoroughly playable 67 fps.
|SiSoft Sandra 2010 SP3|
We continued our testing with SiSoftware's SANDRA 2010, the System ANalyzer, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant. We ran four of the built-in subsystem tests (CPU Arithmetic,
The performance difference between the G73 and the Y560D in multimedia benchmarking is mostly likely caused by Turbo Mode--the results are close enough to be comparable if our Y560D's Core i7 was pushing a bit higher than the other system. Other than that, all our results are precisely what we'd expect.
|Battery Life, Battery Bug|
Lenovo claims the Y560D's battery is good for "up to 3.5 hours." That's a modest claim in the face of the 5+ hours we've seen other manufacturers advertising; we initially hoped Lenovo had chosen to trim the fat off false claims to provide a more realistic number.
We weren't expecting much—the quad-core, Hyper-Threaded 45nm Core i7 inside the Y560D guarantees its battery life won't be ideal—but we didn't anticipate results quite this low. The Y560D shut down at 56 minutes when tested in Balanced mode and just 81 minutes in Super Power Saver. Surprised by such low results, we experimented with various settings, only adjusted power through Lenovo's utility, and ran the battery through a full discharge/recharge cycle. We even did a playthrough test with Half Life 2, after first disabling the wireless and Bluetooth adapters.
This raises the question of how much battery life we should reasonably expect from a modern notebook. If the Y560D was positioned as a desktop replacement (DTR), we'd expect such a short battery life. Lenovo's advertising copy clearly emphasizes the notebook's multimedia capabilities, stating: "We raised the bar for multimedia laptops with this one. Bring your entertainment to life with a theatre-quality laptop with 3D technology and cool 3D glasses. Thanks to TriDef 3D technology, entertainment laptops are entering a whole new dimension."
The laptop's stated focus makes it fair, in our opinion, to expect 90-120 minutes of battery life while playing video, basically enough time to watch a single movie. We loaded and looped a 720P H.264-encoded file with the laptop set for Balanced Performance. Our results in this test (as well as in Battery Eater Pro and while playing Half Life 2) are graphed below.
The Y560D fared better here; its 1hr 40m run-time is barely within the margin of what we consider acceptable. Again, the non-upgradeable nature of the Y560D doesn't help. Even if a 9-cell battery wasn't viable, high-density 6-cell batteries are rated as high as 67Wh compared to the Y560D's 57Wh. Surprisingly, there are no third-party batteries available for this system—if you want another battery, Lenovo is the only place to buy one.
Plugged In, Not Charging:
We had one battery-related problem pop up on four separate occasions. Every so often, the laptop would report that the laptop was "Plugged in, not charging" when the battery level was below 100%. Using the system on AC power doesn't drain the battery, but neither rebooting nor simply removing/reinserting the battery solves anything.
We Googled the phrase and found reports of this problem going back to Windows Vista. The solution is to swap between battery and AC power in a specific sequence while also rebooting the laptop and deleting the battery from the Windows Device Manager. Microsoft, as far as we can tell, has never published an official fix.
This periodic malfunction is not unique to Lenovo and is apparently caused by an unknown low-level software conflict that's common enough to be notable but not frequent enough to spur anyone to find a permanent solution.
Also, unfortunately, the Y560D's lack of hardware configuration options doesn't help either.
Update, October 26, 2010: We were informed today that an error on the Lenovo website incorrectly listed the 5400RPM hard drive as the only option, when in fact the 0646-2NU model we tested does include a 7200RPM drive.
This leaves us in an odd position. We wouldn't recommend anyone but a 3D nut buy a Y560D, but there's a Y560-06465AU that swaps out the Core i7 for a modest Core i5-460M dual-core (thus addressing our battery life issue), uses a standard LCD panel, and comes with all the same specs, including the 5730 GPU, for $949 (a savings of $450). If you want a lower-power processor and a 7200 RPM drive, you'll have to buy a different laptop altogether—Lenovo doesn't offer a Y560 IdeaPad that marries those two options.
The problem we have with the Y560D is that it's a notebook with some unchangeable and unwisely chosen components inside a well-built shell. Thus, while we can't recommend this laptop, we would feel comfortable recommending other Lenovo Y560 products in general. We loved the Y560D's speakers, the keyboard is well-built and responsive and the trackpad was both sensitive and usefully textured without going overboard in either category.