Lenovo's IdeaPad Y560D 3D Laptop Reviewed

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.

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