So I got a new laptop to replace my aging and abused Vaio VPCEA36FG that has served me admirably for almost four years. There are several reasons to that. First, due to my new position at the company I work for, I no longer have access to vast amount of idle CPU from the data center, so I decided that I need a beefier CPU, as the old i5 560 can’t cope several instance of HDP VMs. Second, SteamOS. Things about to pickup in linux gaming universe, and I want to be ready. Or if that proves to be a false, I can always play Borderlands 2 in full HD resolution. On the other hand,
I had a budget that can get me cheapest retina display macbook Pro, or a svelte Vaio Pro 13, but of course, based on my requirements those two laptopss are not what I’m looking for, so i need to look for either a mobile workstation, or a gaming laptop. The crazy expensive options such as Alienware and high end Asus ROGs are certainly out of question. There are several models from various makers that made my shortlist: Asus has the N550JV and and some of its’ older model, Ivy Bridge equipped ROGs, I like the MSI’s GE40 2OC, a slim gaming notebook with excellent battery life, and also, Xenom, one of Clevo builder and rebrander from Indonesia also has several model that suits my needs and budget.
Then, I stumbled upon Lenovo Idepad Y510p.
The 36FG is the result of careful planning and meticulous component selection process. The Intel WLAN adapter, the Radeon Graphic chip, and everything else worked great under linux. Yes there are several hiccup, but most if not all of the them can be worked out.
The Lenovo Idepad Y510p, on the other hand, sits at the other end of the spectrum. Instead of intel stack of network chipset, the Y510p is equipped with an atheros LAN adapter, and BCM43142 broadcom wireless and bluetooth combo chip. On graphic department, the roomy 15.6′ Full HD screen is powered by 2GB GDDR5 Nvidia GT750 (there’s also a model with GT755) graphic adapter, with the i7 embedded Intel HD4000 graphic adapter lurking in the background as the GT’s optimus tandem. A second GT750 can be attached to the unit via an UltraBay port, located on the left side of the unit for SLI graphic setup. alternatively, you can take out the second GT750, and plug the included DVD burner instead. There are several other choices of accessories that are available for the Ultrabay, such as cooling fans, or HDD cradle, but sadly no one sell it in Indonesia. Finally, a 6 cells battery provides a meager 3 hours uptime with SLI config, and respectable 5 hours with the Intel HD, at least under Windows 8, more on that later.
Compared to its’ competitor, such as the N550, The Qosmio from toshiba, and MSI’s GE40, The Y510p has a considerably cheaper price tag. I think this is due to Lenovo’s selection of components, such as single band wireless adapter instead of dual band N or AC adapter, standard soundchip instead the likes of Sound Blaster Cinema that you can find on most of MSI gaming laptops, or a branded keyboards such as steelseries equipped MSIs. It’s like they stripped all the fancy parts
All in all, Atheros LAN, Broadcom wireless and bluetooth, and SLI. Putting Ubuntu inside this laptop should be ..err well, fun.
- SLI. The dual GT750 is actually comparable, or even surpass a single GTX770, I can’t find a notebook with GTX770 that goes as cheap as the Y510p
- Excellent screen. It’s not a retina display, or the crazy amount of pixel as the Chromebook Pixel, but it is bright and rarely suffer from glare
- The BCM43142 sucks in windows as it randomly drop packets, and even suckier in linux, since the bluetooth module simply doesn’t work. It’s also a single band adapter, so I can’t connect it through my 5GHz capable LinkSys EA2700
- Battery life is barely acceptable. I’m planning to leave the laptop at home most of the time, and depend on my Galaxy Note 8.0 for on the go computing, so it’s quite okay.
Build and look
Obviously, with its’ SLI configuration, the Y510p is aimed at gaming audiences, and will compete with the likes of Asus’ ROGs, or MSI’s GE, GX, and GT series of laptop. On the other hand, instead of adopting the flashy looks such as the boxy, stealth looking body of Asus G series and AlienWare, or fancy LED plays like you can find on Apple’s Macbook or MSI’s dragon eye, Lenovo went with an understated looks and style. The lid has a subtle curve that will go unnoticed until you look at it from certain angle. All brandings except those that come as removable stickers are either engraved or printed in such way that it’s only visible in certain lighting, or if you are really searching for them. I like it very much, as this look tries to minimize obstructions, as if it’s trying to say “Move along there’s nothing to see here, look at that massive, gorgeous screen instead” and doesn’t scream “NERD” when I bring it out of my mom basement.
The Y510p gaming creed is still evident as the lenovo sports a red backlited keyboard that is comfy, spacious, and provides respectable resistance when pressed.
Did I mention that it’s a full sized keyboard? Complete with a numeric keypad? This keyboard is lovely.
The 15.6″ Y510p is huge, dwarving my 14″ 36FG
and comes with massive power brick. Here’s a comparison between Y51op’s charger with the 36FG, and a Samsung phone charger
Lenovo is known for manufacturing extensive range of laptops, from the flimsy looking Ideapad Flex, to the tank-like ThinkPads. The Y510p sits somewhere in between. It has excellent hinge that reminds me to the one they made for the Thinkpads, and almost nothing flex.
And yet, on my unit, some areas are imprecisely built. For example, the corners of lid have small opening that I don’t know whether these were there by design, or just sheer incompetency.
There’s also this small crevices where the metal part and the plastic part met at the body, which will potentially host dust, dirt, and probably food crumbles.
- Subtle and understated look
- Comfortable full size keyboard
- The brushed aluminum part looks and feels great
- Lousy finish tarnished the Y510p otherwise excellent build quality
- Cheap looking plastic components
- Heavy, massive power brick. Well, it’s necessary for SLI to work.
But does it run Linux?
Well, it kinda does. I spent almost a full day to get a usable system with this laptop and Ubuntu 13.10 (hence the tittle) and Gnome Shell 3.10. In summary:
- Dual graphic setup is the only combination that is working right now. I haven’t tried SLI, but Strike Suit Zero looks great on this laptop. Unfortunately with this setup, the battery only pathetically lasted a wee bit more than 3 hours. I can’t get the desktop showing with a single GT750, even after installing Nvidia binary blob. and I still need to try to set it with only the intel HD chip.
- UEFI works. Make sure you disable secure boot. In my case, UEFI partition is located at /dev/sda2
- It will easily get warm, but never scorchingly hot.
- Sound works
- HDMI works out of the box with Nvidia binary blob
- The wireless adapter sucks. I have ordered an intel wireless adapter from DX.com, to replace the included broadcom module. Just need to find the right BIOS, since Lenovo decided to put a component whitelist on their BIOS. Fsck you Lenovo.
- The bluetooth chip on the BCM43142 is detected, but not working. I can use bluetooth dongle as a temporary workaround. Replacing the bluetooth (and wireless) adapter with a linux supported chip should fix this
- Brightness control keys are not working. As a workaround, I installed xbacklight, and setup keyboard shortcuts
Complete tutorial should be up later. I think. Hehe
So, not a tutorial, more of a note or pointer? Here’s the follow up post
Do I like it? Yes, no, …well maybe. The Y510p is powerful, and considerably cheaper than its’ contemporaries. Look at it this way. If you want a gaming platform, buy a console. You can get two for the price of a single Y510p, or even a desktop with twice the power. If you want to run VMs, and play games, build a powerful desktop. Or if you like me, run several VMs, play games on the side, be mobile once in a while, and have a crazy addiction on trying to shove linux at various combination of hardware, then the Y510p is for you.