[Review] An Excellent Mid-Tier Gaming Machine: The Lenovo Legion 5
Announced earlier this year, the Lenovo Legion 5 is the only Ryzen-powered member in the brand's 2020 laptop lineup. These new machines boast a multitude of new features, including the Coldfront 2.0 cooling system, TrueStrike Keyboard, and Advanced Optimus Technology which allows seamless switching between the integrated and discrete GPU.
In terms of tiering, the 15-inch Lenovo Legion 5 sits right in the middle of the lineup as a mainstream mid-tier gaming keyboard. Our review unit is powered by a Ryzen 5 4600H processor paired with NVIDIA GeForce GTX1650 graphics, with a number of upgrades and customisable options available under their 'build-your-own' category.
Without further ado, let's dive into the review!
A distinctly non-gamerlike exterior
When it comes to gaming machines, we've become accustomed to having our retinas assaulted by a barrage of RGB lighting, so I was pleasantly surprised to find that Lenovo has decided to forgo the bling in favour of a more stylish aesthetic. You'll find the Lenovo tag on one corner, while 'Legion' is emblazoned in a subtle holographic texture on the opposite corner.
Size-wise, it's not as slim as the ultra-portables I tend to prefer, but of course the Legion 5 falls into a different category altogether. For a gaming laptop, it is decently-sized with a manageable weight of around 2.5kg (depending on your configuration).
Although the hinge does have some bounce to it, operation feels nice and smooth - coupled with the notched forehead of the lid, this makes opening up the laptop effortless even with one hand.
The entire body is made of plastic, but surprisingly it does not feel cheap at all. On the contrary, the mixture of smooth and soft-touch plastic gives it a simple yet elegant feel. My only concern about this is that the soft-touch texture of the palm and keyboard area may wear down over time, as such materials tend to do. Otherwise, it looks and feels great.
In terms of flex, the laptop does suffer from a substantial amount of it - both the monitor and keyboard base are pretty springy even when a small amount of pressure is applied. However, it does feel resilient and thick enough to withstand decent amount of abuse.
Upgrading the display is a must
The review unit provided was armed with a 15.6" 120Hz WVA panel with 250 nits of brightness. While the display was clear and smooth, the colours looked a bit washed out especially in games. If you value vibrant colours or require greater accuracy as a content creator, we highly recommend that you upgrade the display.
Apart from the default option, you can choose from a 60Hz IPS display or a 144Hz WVA display - both of these come with 300 nits of brightness and 100% sRGB coverage, which are significant upgrades to the default display. If you're a gamer, I highly recommend going for the latter cause 144Hz, yo.
As with most modern laptops, the bezels are nice and slim. On the forehead, you'll find a 720p webcam and microphone array for all your distance learning and work-from-home needs. Bonus: The webcam has a privacy shutter - take that, FBI (or PDRM!)
Also, the screen's ability to fold 180°flat is nice to have.
Back-facing I/O ports (yes!)
Ever since I laid eyes on back-facing I/O ports a few years ago, I've been a convert. The Lenovo Legion 5 keeps side ports to a minimum, with one USB port on each side and a 3.5mm audio jack on the left.
Everything else has been relegated to the back, safely out of the way of your flailing mouse-wielding hands.
In case you're worried about having to blindly stab holes in the back of your machine to connect your device, rest assured that fumbling will be kept to a minimum thanks to clear, upward-facing icons indicating the location of each port.
The ports located on the back consist of a proprietary power jack, an HDMI 2.0 port, two USB Type-A 3.1 (Gen. 1) ports, one USB-C 3.1 (Gen. 1) port with DisplayPort 1.2 functionality, and an Ethernet port. Aside from a micro-SD card reader, Lenovo has pretty much provided everything you'll need.
TrueStrike is...pretty underwhelming
During the launch earlier this year, Lenovo spoke of their TrueStrike technology, which boasted 'soft-landing' switches with 1.5mm travel distance. Unfortunately, the 'soft-landing' design translated into a pretty mushy typing experience with a higher-than-usual error rate, which is a pity because the keycaps are otherwise very nicely-curved to fit your fingertips.
On the bright side, Lenovo has managed to fit a numpad AND full-sized arrow keys into the layout, which I really appreciate. Of course, this means that the speakers have been relegated to the bottom of the laptop (the Harman-tuned audio is actually pretty darned decent for a laptop, by the way).
They have also included the function lock feature, which is always handy. Turning it on allows you to change your settings and control music playback with just a single press of a button, as opposed holding down the Function key while pressing the relevant key.
For RGB lovers, you'll have to tambah sikit to upgrade the Legion 5's default white backlit keyboard to 4-zone RGB lighting. Again, I highly recommend forking out that little bit extra to bling out your keyboard - after all, if you have to look at it every day, might as well make sure it's nice, right?
The built-in Lenovo Vantage software allows you to customise lighting presets, which can be cycled through by pressing Fn+Spacebar. The amount of customisation is decent, with multiple colour, speed, and pattern options to choose from.
The touchpad is decent - it certainly doesn't feel as luxe as a glass surface that's for sure, but it works decently. It's also aligned right in the middle of the typing area, if you're anal about that sort of thing (I am).
Decent performance, but limited hardware options
As expected with a Ryzen processor, the Legion 5 excelled at CPU-based tasks, but was pretty under-powered when it came to gaming.
The unit on hand came with a Ryzen 5 4600H, GTX 1650 graphics, 8GB of RAM, 512GB of SSD storage, and a 60Wh battery.
We tested out gaming performance via the built-in benchmarks of Far Cry 5 and Shadow of the Tomb Raider, and slashed a couple of monsters in Monster Hunter World to boot.
There are 3 default modes on the Legion 5, which are handily indicated by a coloured LED on the power button and toggle-able by pressing Fn+Q:
Quiet (blue): limits the CPU to 25W
Auto (white): limits the CPU to 45W
Performance (red): full power CPU running at 69W+
For the gaming benchmarks, the laptop was set to Performance mode for uncapped performance. We ran Far Cry 5 and Shadow of the Tomb Raider on Ultra and High settings respectively, and both served up an FPS average of less than 60, which honestly isn't surprising as it's only packing a GTX 1650. Monster Hunter on High settings yielded similarly mediocre results with an average of 55 FPS, dipping further to 40 FPS during intense battles.
Far Cry 5
Shadow of the Tomb Raider
Of course, you could always turn down the graphics settings for improved performance, but I do like my visuals crisp and clear. If you're more of a mainstream multiplayer type of gamer though, you'll probably fare well on titles like Dota and CS:GO on medium to high settings.
The GPU can also be upgraded, but only to a GTX 1650Ti. Honestly, that's rather disappointing for a gaming laptop - I'm sure consumers would be willing to fork out a little extra to upgrade the GPU to better match the CPU's capabilities.
I also found the 512GB SSD and 8GB of RAM insufficient for my needs, but luckily Lenovo offers you the option to upgrade both.
Battery-wise, it was pretty average, eking out a total of 3 hours of browsing and general productivity on maximum brightness. It's decent enough for short stints outside, but you'd better bring along the charger if you want some lasting power (also, please do not play games while running on battery :D)
No frontin' with Coldfront 2.0
Lenovo wasn't kidding when they said their new Coldfront 2.0 technology would keep your machines cool. This machine performed extremely well and only registered a comfortable warmth even while gaming on Performance mode. The palm areas remained completely cool, which is a blessing for those with a tendency to sweat.
Unscrewing a total of 11 Philips head screws from the bottom of the laptop revealed the Legion 5's cooling system, which was admittedly impressive.
With a total of 3 heatpipes, 2 fans, and 4 radiators, Lenovo did not cut corners even on this lower-end variant. The well-sized vents were also generously distributed on the bottom, sides, and back of the laptop, aiding better airflow.
Buy or no buy?
The Lenovo Legion 5 starts from RM3,699 for the base model. Of course, upgrades will cost you, but it's great that you can customise your machine according to your needs.
Overall, it is a well-built machine with excellent design choices and features. The back-facing I/O ports are a treat and cooling performance is excellent. If you like a complete keyboard with a numpad and full-sized arrows, then this is your baby.
On the other hand, the mushy texture of the keyboard was a bit disappointing, as is the max configuration of a GTX1650 Ti - hopefully Lenovo might add more graphics options in the future, so this can truly achieve its full potential as a gaming laptop.
Either, it offers decent performance for a laptop in its class, and while it does have its downsides, we're absolutely enamoured by the overall package.
If you wanna check it out and explore customisation options, you can head on over here.