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Lenovo Y545 Gaming Laptop Review – RTX 2060 Not Worth It?

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Lenovo Y545 Gaming Laptop Review – RTX 2060 Not Worth It?

The Lenovo Y545 is a mid range gaming laptop with a different design compared to the Y540 or Y7000 that I’ve previously reviewed, so let’s check it out in this detailed review and help you decide if it’s a laptop you should consider.

My Y545 has an Intel i7-9750H CPU, Nvidia RTX 2060 graphics, 16gb of memory in dual channel, a 15.6” 1080p 144Hz screen, and a 512gb NVMe M.2 SSD. For network connectivity it’s got gigabit ethernet, WiFi 5 and Bluetooth 5.

The Y545 is also available with different specs, like GTX 1660 Ti or i5 CPU, you can find examples and updated prices linked in the description. The aluminum lid has a dark sort of gun metal to black finish, while the interior is matte black and felt slightly rubberised, similar to other Lenovo laptops like the Y540.

There weren’t any sharp corners or edges, and overall the build quality felt pretty good. The design actually looks the same as the Y7000 from last generation, so that will probably cause some confusion.

The weight is listed as starting at 2.35kg, and I found the laptop alone with no HDD installed to come in a little below this. With the large 230w power brick and cables for charging included, the total weight rises to 3.

25kg. The dimensions are similar to other 15 inch laptops, it’s not exactly thin, but I wouldn’t say it’s thick either, just an all round fairly average size, and it’s got 9mm thin bezels on the sides of the screen.

The 15.6” 1080p 144Hz IPS screen has a matte finish, viewing angles looked fine, and there’s no G-Sync. It’s also available with a 60Hz screen, both claim to have the same colour gamut and brightness though, but expect different results to what I’m showing with that.

I’ve tested the screen with the Spyder 5, and got 96% of sRGB, 66% of NTSC, and 72% of AdobeRGB. At 100% brightness I measured the panel at 348 nits in the center with a 870:1 contrast ratio, so decent results with brightness a fair bit above what was expected from the 300 nit panel.

Backlight bleed wasn’t great, however I never actually noticed this when viewing darker content, but this will vary by laptop and panel. We’ve got the option of enabling or disabling hybrid mode through the Lenovo Vantage software, which is the control panel for the laptop.

Hybrid mode is basically Optimus, so the Intel graphics will be in use outside of gaming, giving better battery life. Disabling hybrid mode requires a reboot, and will disable the Intel GPU, so battery life will be worse as we’ll only be using the Nvidia graphics, but this will give us a boost in gaming performance.

The screen had some flex when intentionally trying to move it, probably as the hinge is in the middle, meaning there’s less support towards the edges. It was possible to open it up with one finger, demonstrating an even weight distribution, no problems using it on my lap.

As a result of the thinner bezels, the 720p camera is found underneath the display in the center. So first off, the microphone is pretty terrible, the nose cam doesn’t really show me unless I push the screen right to the back, that’s as far back as it goes, and here’s what typing sounds like on the keyboard.

The keyboard has white backlighting which lights up all keys and secondary key functions. There are no effects, and the white backlighting can be adjusted between two levels of brightness or turned off by holding the function key and pressing the spacebar.

The keyboard was similar to others from Lenovo, and I liked typing with it, here’s how it sounds to give you an idea of what to expect. It’s still got a numpad, but it’s a little smaller so that they could fit full sized arrow keys, which seems like a fair compromise given it’s a gaming laptop.

There was some keyboard flex when pushing down hard due to the plastic body, but I never had any problems with this during normal use. The precision touchpad physically clicks down anywhere, except the top corners, and has left and right click buttons down the bottom.

It’s smooth to the touch and I thought the size of it was good, I had no problems using it. Fingerprints and dirt show up on the matte black interior, but despite the textured finish it was still easy enough to clean.

On the left from the back there’s just a USB 3.1 Gen1 Type-A port and 3.5mm audio combo jack. On the right there’s another USB 3.1 Gen1 Type-A port, and it’s worth noting the lack of air exhausts on the sides.

The back has air exhaust vents towards the corners, then for I/O from left to right there’s a USB 3.1 Gen1 Type-C port, no Thunderbolt here, mini DisplayPort 1.4, third USB 3.1 Gen1 Type-A port, HDMI 2.

0 output, gigabit ethernet, the power input, and Kensington lock slot. Both the DisplayPort and HDMI outputs are wired directly to the Nvidia graphics. The Legion logo on the lid lights up white, and you’ve got the option of turning it on or off by pressing the function and L keys.

Underneath there are some air intake vents towards the back, otherwise it’s fairly clean. To get inside 13 Phillips head screws need to be moved from the plastic bottom panel, and the 7 towards the back half are longer than the others.

Once inside we’ve got the single 2.5” drive bay on the left front corner, single M.2 storage slot next to that, two memory slots in the middle, L shaped battery on the right front corner, and WiFi card just above that on the right side.

The two 2 watt speakers are located on the front left and right sides. They sounded a little muffled at max volume, but around average, the Y7000 I recently tested was better though. They got loud enough at maximum volume, and the latencymon results didn’t look good.

The Y545 is powered by a 3 cell 57wh battery. I’ve tested it with the screen brightness at 50%, background apps disabled, and keyboard lighting off. I’ve also tested it with and without hybrid mode enabled.

With hybrid mode enabled, it lasted for just under 5 hours, then with hybrid mode disabled, so with the more power hungry Nvidia graphics in use, it lasted for 3 hours and 8 minutes. While playing the Witcher 3 with medium settings and Nvidia’s battery boost set to 30 FPS the battery lasted for 45 minutes, it was running at 29 FPS, and with 25% charge left frame rate dipped to 5 FPS and was unusable.

It’s worth noting the Y545 is available with either i7-9750H or 9750HF CPU in some regions, and same deal for the i5 version. The HF chips have no Intel graphics included, so they cost less money, but in that case you would have no option of using hybrid mode.

You’d be stuck with the Nvidia graphics only. Here in Australia, Lenovo are asking for $50 AUD more for the version with Intel graphics, or about $30 USD minus our taxes, which I think is worth getting if you plan on using the laptop on battery.

Now let’s find out how hot the Y545 gets and see if this causes any issues to performance. The Lenovo vantage software lets us pick between three different performance modes, ranging from quiet, balanced, and performance.

These modes control power limits, as defined here, but didn’t do any overclocking or undervolting. Fan speed is also controlled automatically, and for cooling we’ve got two fans, and a heatpipe shared between the CPU and GPU.

Thermals were tested with a 21 degree Celsius ambient room temperature. Idle results down the bottom were ok. Worst case stress tests were done with the Aida64 CPU stress test with CPU only checked and the Heaven benchmark at max settings at the same time, and gaming was tested with Watch Dogs 2 as I find it to use a good combination of processor and graphics.

Temperatures were lowest in quiet mode due to the lower 25 watt CPU power limit. As soon as balanced mode is enabled thermal throttling is being hit on the CPU, both under stress test or with this game.

In performance mode the GPU temperature gets hotter as the power limit raises from 80 to 85 watts, no change to the CPU as 94 degrees Celsius appears to be the thermal throttle limit. Undervolting the CPU by -0.

15v wasn’t enough to remove the thermal throttling taking place on the CPU, and the addition of a cooling pad also wasn’t enough to avoid this under stress test, though it was able to lower temps with this game.

These are the clock speeds for the same tests, as expected lowest CPU performance in quiet mode due to the low power limit. This raises up a fair bit in balanced mode, and performance mode doesn’t change as the CPU is now thermal throttling at 94 degrees Celsius under both workloads.

The CPU undervolt helps address this, so there was more than a 400MHz improvement, then the cooling pad helped a bit more, as thermals were the key limitation here, however even best case we’re still not able to reach the full 4GHz all core turbo boost speed of the i7-9750H processor.

When looking at the power limits we can see the RTX 2060 was running at the 80 watt limit in quiet and balanced mode, and was able to rise up to 85 watts with performance mode active. Some laptops run the 2060 at 80 watts, and many others go to 90 watts, the Y545 is in between, and I’m guessing they weren’t able to go for the full 90 here as that would just dump more heat into the cooling system, which as we’ve seen is already having some trouble.

That said, when we are able to better improve thermals, such as with the cooling pad and undervolt in place, the CPU power limit is able to reach its 50 watt limit, and to be fair this is above most other laptops which cap this to a lower 45 watt limit.

More power equals more heat, so in theory we’re getting more performance here at the expense of hotter internals, although we only really get to take advantage of that in these workloads once we undervolt.

In CPU only workloads like Cinebench, the 9750H would briefly thermal throttle while running at around 80 watts until PL2 ends, then it would sit on the 70 watt PL1 for the remainder of the test, so higher CPU power limits are allowed when the GPU is idle.

The result in performance mode is a little under other laptops with the same CPU, but the undervolt is able to help out. Here’s how it looks in the areas where you’ll actually touch, at idle it was in the mid 30s in the center, a bit above the usual 30 or so I typically see with most other machines.

With the stress tests running in quiet mode it’s now in the higher 40s, balanced mode sees this raise to the low 50s, performance mode was much the same and it was now pretty warm to the touch, and undervolting the CPU didn’t change this.

Let’s have a listen to how loud the fans get. The fans were only just audible when idle, then when under load the total system noise raises about one decibel between each of the three different performance modes.

The difference was hardly noticeable, and when compared to most other gaming laptops I’ve tested the fan noise was a little lower, which could help explain some of the throttling. I’ve tested Far Cry 5 to see how the different modes actually affect game performance, and quiet mode isn’t really all that much lower than the others.

We expect lower performance from the lower CPU power limit, but it’s not that far behind others, granted as we just heard, we’re not really getting a much quieter system, so cooler internals are possible without too much performance loss.

Next let’s find out just how well the Y545 actually performs in games. I’ve tested with performance mode enabled and hybrid mode disabled for best results. Red Dead Redemption 2 was tested using the game’s built in benchmark tool.

High settings was still giving decent results, only just below 60 FPS in this resource heavy game. Battlefield 5 was tested in campaign mode, and I’ve tested it with RTX on, shown by the green bars, and RTX off, shown by the purple bars.

With RTX on, the frame rates were on the lower side at ultra and high settings, so there’s no real point using it at lower settings. In my opinion, it looked better using ultra with RTX off while also performing much better too.

Control was also tested with and without RTX, I used the highest RTX settings and the results weren’t great regardless of setting level, although it did look nice, I’d prefer the much higher frame rates with it off.

Apex Legends was tested with either all settings at maximum, or all settings on the lowest possible values, as it doesn’t have predefined setting presets. Even at max settings the average frame rates were quite good, while minimum hit the 144 FPS frame cap, and there wasn’t much of a difference with 1% low performance.

Call of Duty Modern Warfare was tested in campaign mode, and I’ve also tested it with the settings either maxed out or at minimum. Again I thought it was still playing fine even with max settings, still above 60 FPS, with only a 20 FPS improvement at minimum.

Fortnite was tested with the replay feature, and as a less demanding game epic settings was almost able to average 100 FPS, while high settings was closer to the refresh rate of the screen, with now 100 FPS for the 1% low.

If you’re after more gaming benchmarks check the card in the top right corner where I’ve tested 20 games in total on the Y545. Let’s also take a look at how this config of the Lenovo Y545 compares with other laptops, use these results as a rough guide only as they were tested at different times with different drivers.

In Battlefield 5 I’ve got the Y545 highlighted in red near similarly specced machines. It’s a little ahead of a couple of other RTX 2060 laptops I’ve previously tested, however the MSI GE65 was noticeably higher, however that one is overclocked by default and also has a higher GPU power limit of 90 watts.

These are the results from Far Cry 5 with ultra settings in the built in benchmark. The results were similar to the last game, where it was a little ahead of the Triton 500 and Scar II with same 2060 graphics below it, and again the GE65 was out in front, but still not quite as good as the Helios 300 with lower specs as that’s tuned very well out of the box.

These are the results from Shadow of the Tomb raider with the built in benchmark at highest settings. Similar to the other two games, it was a little ahead of the two 2060 machines below it, but not able to get close to the GE65 which was performing very well for a 2060 based laptop.

Overall the performance wasn’t that impressive considering the RTX 2060 graphics, I tested the Y7000 with GTX 1660 Ti just before this one, and in most games the difference in performance was only a couple of FPS.

This seems to be due to thermal limitations that exist with the Y545 that were previously discussed. I’ve compared the GTX 1660 Ti with the RTX 2060 in another video without the throttling limitation, and found that on average the 2060 was 14% faster, so it doesn’t seem like we’re getting the full use out of the 2060 here, granted at the same time this 2060 runs up to 85 watts, while many others go up to 90 watts.

I guess due to thermal constraints they weren’t able to push this one up to the typical 90 we usually see in many other 2060 based machines. I’ve used Adobe Premiere to export one of my laptop review videos at 4K, and this was with hybrid mode enabled to take advantage of quick sync with the Intel GPU, and the results were ok, though it was beaten by other lower specced 1660 Ti laptops, due to the thermal limitations discussed.

Now for the benchmarking tools, I’ve tested Heaven, Valley, and Superposition from Unigine, as well as Firestrike, Timespy and Port Royal from 3DMark, just pause the video if you want a detailed look at these results.

I’ve used Crystal Disk Mark to test the storage, and the 512GB NVMe M.2 SSD was performing well for both reads and writes, but results will vary based on your selected storage option when ordering. For updated pricing check the links in the description, as prices will change over time.

At the time of recording, in the US on the Lenovo website the base model with i5 and 1660 Ti starts at $935, though there is currently a sale, however those seem to be pretty regular. By the time we spec it up to the same i7 CPU, dual channel memory, 144Hz screen, and RTX 2060 graphics like I’ve got here, we’re looking at closer to the $1500 USD price point.

Over on Amazon, the same specs I’ve tested here are cheaper at $1300 USD at the moment, so that looks like a better deal, while the 1660 Ti option is about $125 less. With all of that in mind let’s conclude by looking at the good and bad aspects of the Y545 gaming laptop.

The biggest problem with the Y545 that I found was the thermals, under heavy load it ran hot and thermal throttled, resulting in lost performance. Despite this model having the higher powered RTX 2060 graphics, I found the performance extremely close to the Y7000 with GTX 1660 Ti that I recently tested.

The designs of the two are similar and they even have similar CPU power limits, the main difference I noted was that the Y7000 and Y540 have air exhaust vents on the sides of the machine, however on the Y545 this space wasn’t utilized, so we’ve got less area to exhaust heat only out of the back.

As so much else looks similar between these models, like the fans and heatpipes, this could be where the thermal throttling in the Y545 stems from. Apart from that, like other Lenovo gaming laptops it was great to see the user given the option of disabling Optimus through the Vantage software, allowing the user to choose if they want to preference battery life or gaming performance.

Otherwise the Y545 shares many similarities to the Y540 and Y7000, same keyboards, same battery size, nosecam placement, and port selection. The Y545 has a larger touchpad though, screen hinge is in the center meaning it flexes more, and there are no icons placed above the rear I/O like the other models for you to easily determine where you’re plugging cables into when standing in front of it.

Along with the thermal issues identified here in the Y545, it’s difficult to recommend over the Y540, which in my opinion for the most part has a better design and runs cooler, though to be fair I haven’t tested that one with a 2060.

With the same specs though, the Y540 is cheaper than the Y545, appears to have better cooling with air exhaust vents on the side and sturdier screen with hinges towards the corners rather than in the center.

The only obvious downside seems to be a smaller touchpad in the Y540, so with all of that taken into consideration I’d suggest going for the Y540 in most cases for less money and a mostly better design.

Let me know what you thought about the Lenovo Y545 gaming laptop down in the comments, and if you’re new to the channel consider getting subscribed for future laptop reviews and tech videos like this one.

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