Lenovo’s IdeaPad line of consumer-targeted laptops is a far cry from the traditional dry ThinkPad business systems the company is known for. We’d go so far as to call the IdeaPad brand highly underrated, as the designs are among the snappier we’ve seen from any major PC maker, even if they tend be a bit on the pricey side.

The 14-inch Lenovo IdeaPad Y460 is a typically sharp-looking multimedia laptop, with a powerful Intel Core i5 processor and discrete graphics. At $1,049 (you can get it with a Core i3 CPU and basic integrated graphics for $899), it crosses that deadly thousand-dollar mark, where comparisons to the 13-inch MacBook Pro, 14-inch HP Envy 14, or others are inevitable.

The IdeaPad Y460 offers very good gaming performance, but lacks high-end features such as Blu-ray, and some of the included creative extras, such as a touch-control strip that literally zippers across the screen, are more flash than useful.

The system is also hurt by weak battery life, which is a shame, as it’s fairly portable for a slick 14-inch multimedia rig, and one of the cooler nondesktop-replacement gaming machines we’ve seen in a while. If you plan on leaving it plugged in most of the time, and don’t mind breaking the $1K psychological barrier, it’s an impressive overall package.

Lenovo continues to crank out very nice-looking laptops with its IdeaPad line. The Y460 isn’t as svelte as some 14-inch systems we’ve seen, but it combines hints of color and patterns with a basic black design that still doesn’t break the Lenovo suitable-for-the-office look and feel.

The matte-black back cover has a subtle geometric pattern stenciled on top of it in glossy black, and there’s a copper accent strip around the outer edge of the lid. The interior is a mix of not-too-glossy black plastic and matte-black keys. The most interesting visual notes on the interior are a set of backlit touch-sensitive buttons above the keyboard and a small backlit IdeaPad logo on the lower right side of the wrist rest.

Those backlit touch-sensitive control buttons are the most unique feature of the Lenovo Y460; unfortunately, they’re also annoying frustrating to use. Basic volume, battery, and Wi-Fi buttons work fine; they’re very responsively, actually, but the lighted control strip is something else entirely.

A long strip of tiny touch-sensitive buttons light up as you run your finger across them. Stop at one of several specific points along the way, and you can launch a preselected app, like a typical quick-launch button. But, run your finger quickly from left to right across the whole strip, and an animation flies across the screen of a zipper literally zipping across. In this mode, the keyboard and touch pad are deactivated, but we’re not sure when you’d use this (maybe when playing music in a party mode). Running your finger from right to left unzips the screen, and running your finger from right to left in a slightly different way actually changes the desktop background image.

The problem is that none of these gesture controls works reliably, and we had a hard time replicating them with any consistency. We’d try to zip up the screen and accidentally launch an app. Or we’d try to change the desktop background and end up running our finger across the control strip over and over again with no result.

It’s a bit of overly clever design that should have stayed as a cocktail napkin sketch; it’s surprising because the regular single-function touch control buttons work so well, they might be the best we’ve ever used. The keyboard and touch pad are similarly excellent, even though the Y460 uses a tapered-key keyboard (more like the traditional ThinkPad design), rather than the flat-topped island-style one seen on most other IdeaPad models.

The 14-inch wide-screen display offers a 1,366×768-pixel native resolution, which is standard for a 16:9 midsize laptop screen. It’s great for 720p HD video content, but can’t display 1080p content at full resolution. That said, images are bright and clear, with deep contrast and excellent color. The overly glossy screen, however, is prone to glare and reflections.

For such a multimedia-friendly machine, it’s disappointing that there’s no Blu-ray option for the Y460, especially as our configuration topped $1,000. In fact, aside from three preconfigured builds (the main differences being Core i3 and Core i5 processors and discrete graphics), there are no other customization options.

The 2.4GHz Intel Core i5 M520 CPU in our IdeaPad Y460 performed on par with the recent mainstream Core i5 systems we’ve seen, which is to say it’s satisfyingly fast. We ran into no lag or stuttering, even when running multiple apps or games. Apple’s current 13-inch MacBook Pro, which has an older Intel Core 2 Duo chip, was slightly faster at multitasking, but the Lenovo (along with similarly configured systems from Sony and Dell) was a bit faster when running individual apps.

Equally impressive is the 1GB ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5650 GPU. We ran Unreal Tournament III at 1,366×768 pixels and got 73.6 frames per second. More-recent games, such as Just Cause 2, also played smoothly. The Lenovo Y460 isn’t pitched as a hard-core gaming machine, but it performed well nonetheless.

The Y460 ran for 2 hours and 12 minutes on our video playback battery drain test, which is disappointing considering it has a six-cell battery. That previously mentioned MacBook Pro ran for nearly 4 more hours on the same test, and even a basic 15-inch Dell Inspiron 1564 ran an hour more. For a semiportable 14-inch laptop, barely breaking the 2-hour mark is unacceptable.

Lenovo includes an industry-standard one-year parts and labor warranty with the system. Upgrading to a three-year plan will cost an extra $107, or $149 if you include onsite service. Support is accessible through a 24-7 toll-free phone line, an online knowledge base, and driver downloads.

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