Ok - took the plunge and got a Lenovo Legion Y530, here's a mini-review. Although it took a lot of self-restraint to not spring for the i7 Y730 (aluminum chassis + RGB backlit keyboard + better GPU + better screen) I think I made a wiser choice with the Y530. After some fairly exhaustive research, the issues that most reviewers have with this computer are the weak display panel, the (ostensibly) too spongy keyboard, and the somewhat odd configuration of the keyboard and touchpad layout (will not discuss processor here, as you can get either model with essentially the same configs). Having the aluminum chassis would be nice from a stability/quality standpoint, but the plastic used for most of the components here does not seem like pieces of crap. With a Holiday discount of 25%, I was able to get this for under ~$840 after tax. Specific specs under spoiler if folks are interested.
What's a Legion and does Lucifer know you have one? Also, why you might want to get a gaming laptop (might)
For those who don't know, the "Legion" series is Lenovo's gaming focused set. Because of this, the configuration (I believe) has some aspects that recommend it for a music production workstation. E.g., the way the laptop is set up includes two large fans, fans on the GPU, and what appears like a fairly well thought out venting system. In doing general research on music making laptops, it seems like gaming laptops often cross the divide, being designed as little workhorses to run programs that are consistently running/giving the processor a workout. Which (I think) means that even the base configurations for these devices are geared more to the type of stuffs that a music maker might throw at a machine vs. say, an office product. Take that all with massive doses of NaCl as I'm just a dude who googles shit. And confirmation bias is a real and true aspect of life.
Concerns (or lack thereof):
My main concern for this thing will be: does this hold up to long-term use. My sense is that laptops by their very nature are going to crap out w/in a certain timeframe. You are showing a lot of stuff into a small compartment, and there will never be the same sort of ability to replace/upgrade as with a desktop. You're paying for the convenience of portability, which includes a certain amount of inherent planned obsolescence. The numpad location is not significantly problematic for me, I will get used to it. Additionally, since I'm NOT gaming the slightly spongy (but still very responsive keyboard) and the slightly dull display means nothing to me. Also, the GTX 1050 (no TI) is also not something that I find to be problematic in the least. This comp is purely for schoolwork and music making. All the negative hits that probably pushed this down in price to a sweet spot for me aren't negatives for me at all
The one thing I'd put in the "legitimate concern" category (for what I do) is the limited # of USB ports. It's not bad for a laptop. There are 3 (one on each side, one on the back, which I think is the only USB 3.0 interface). One used for wireless keyboard/mouse, one for Focusrite Scarlett Solo and one for Midi Keyboard = no more for anything else. Just not enough (again, for me) so will be investing in a USB hub sometime soon.
Joys (or how I learned to stop worrying and love the comp)
It's been ~5 years since I built my PC and the one I configured at that time was built specifically to run VR applications. i4770-k, GTX 1080 TI, 256gb SSD + 1 Terabyte hard drive, can't remember how much RAM (think 32 gigs), etc. etc. For it's time, it was pretty much a beast. The thing also weighed metric ass-ton. Used to lug it around to schools to do VR demonstrations for education and. . . well, let's just say I got my steps in those days.
Given all that, I'm sort of gobsmacked that I seem to be getting a similar performance out of this thing that weighs 5 pounds and takes up 13% of the real-estate. The SSD that came with thing thing was actually rated as somewhat slower compared to other NVME SSD's but it still boots in about 3 seconds. Programs are likewise snappy, w/ M$ word launching in what seems like a millisecond and Renoise (though w/ no real VST's to speak of) in about 2 seconds. Not surprising coming from 5 year -old tech to 2019 but still. I know this will all change as time goes on and I add more shit, I know, but I'm still impressed.
The computer itself is pretty fucking sexy, in an understated way. You basically would have no idea this was a gaming machine (it's missing most of those gaudy red touches or multi-colored lights blasting out of it's ass like a unicorn shitting rainbows). The exceptions would be the back "ledge" of the Laptop and the word "LEGION" with a "Y" inside the "O" that light up. Again, subtle - just enough to make it interesting, but not garish or offensive. Stealth badassery. The look is utilitarian, polished, formal with aforementioned hints of intrigue.
Performance: This gets a highlight, as this what (for me) is the most important. I did a light stress test last night using a breakbeat XRNI in Renoise, about 4 instances of Serum and one instance of Reaktor. The processor hit about 54% at it's most active. Keep in mind, this is with 0 tweaking of the OS, no changes to the power plan (it was still set on "balanced,") on 8GB of RAM, with an i5 processor. I was kind of floored. While this is not necessarily indicative of a completed project file, and although I did not choose presets that tend to max out either VST, I specifically chose VST's I know tend to put pressure on the system and I really expected things to slow to a crawl. 0 signs of slowdown, no audio dropouts, etc. etc. Performance was on par with what I used to see with my desktop under these conditions (though I suspect given the relatively small amount of RAM - which can be upgraded to 32gb incidentally - I would like start running into mem problems fairly soon).
I will continue to test and report back here. I suspect that I'll hit a ceiling in performance relatively soon, but what I've seen so far is totally workable for a sub $900 machine with a good pedigree and a nice balance to form and function. I've already accepted there will likely be instances where I need to bounce down audio - but given the fact that it looks like I could likely run at least a few instances of my favorite VST's + additional, minimal footprint progs leaves me ecstatic.
Big thanks to everyone here (WATMM massif) - particularly to those who put me on the Lenovo path, as well as Osc who brought up what I actually consider to be a fairly important metric to consider after reading more about it (thermal throttling). I found a lot of laptops with some great looking specs but stress tests showed a serious dip against advertised clock speeds. This makes total sense, since most people using a laptop are NOT hammering it with programs that demand a lot out of the processor consistently. Eventually lead me down the path of seriously considering a gaming laptop and feel like a got a really good deal on a machine which is designed (albeit not intentionally) to do what I want it to. fanks all!
Edited by T3551ER, 07 January 2019 - 12:57 PM.