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Lenovo Legion 5: A masterclass mid-range gaming laptop

Lenovo Legion 5

Lenovo Legion 5 review: What you need to know

The Legion 5 replaces the Legion 5P in Lenovo’s lineup and comes with an Intel Core i7-10750H, Windows 10, and a 6GB Nvidia 1660Ti. It’s available in the 17in display and comes with 16GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD.

The Legion 5 is an affordable gaming laptop with the looks and performance to impress.

Pros 

Great keyboard
Good upgrade options
Excellent gaming performance

Cons 

Poor battery life
Loudspeakers lack bass

See Price for Lenovo Legion 5

Lenovo Legion 5 review: Design and build quality

The design of the newest Legion breaks no new ground: it looks and feels much like previous models. But that’s no bad thing, really, since yet again it benefits from a handful of Legion-specific attributes, such as the thoughtful grouping of most of the laptop’s ports at the rear, and a lid-hinge set 30mm forward.

Two colours are available: Phantom Blue with a 4-zone RGB keyboard backlight and Diamond White with blue backlighting. Our review model is the former, but if I was asked to describe the colour I’d say it was closer to dark grey than blue.

The Legion series has always looked a little less juvenile than some of the competition, and the new model is no different. There’s nothing about it that obnoxiously shouts “gaming machine”, apart from the keyboard’s RGB lighting and the sticker that points out that Fn+Q is a shortcut to change the cooling profile in the Lenovo Vantage app. We’re all in favour of a bit of aesthetic restraint.

The aluminium body feels reassuringly solid and the laptop’s lid has very little flex to it. I like the way the hinge has been calibrated so that you can open it with just one hand, too.

When it comes to size and weight, the Legion 5 is nothing out of the ordinary. Measuring 363 x 259 x 26mm and tipping the scales at 2.35kg, it’s definitely sitting at the upper edge of the class, especially when it comes to depth, thanks to the ledge that sticks out beyond the hinge assembly.

The Legion 5’s Lenovo TrueStrike keyboard is hard to find fault with, too. It’s a spacious, full-width affair with a numeric keypad and a set of full-size cursor keys that are set slightly apart from the main keyboard. Physically it feels rock-solid, and the key travel is perfectly judged at 1.8mm. The 105 x 70mm trackpad is offset to the left by quite some way but is otherwise equally perfect.

Most of the Legion 5’s ports are lined up along the back. From here, you’ll find an RJ45 1Gbit/sec LAN connector, two USB Type-A 3.2 Gen 1 ports, a Type-C port that supports DisplayPort 1.4, an HDMI 2.1 connector and a bespoke DC-in jack.

On the right side sits an equivalent Type-C port and a 3.5mm audio jack, while on the left is a third Type-A port and a shutter button to isolate the 720p webcam, which is built into the top of the display. Overall, this is an impressively comprehensive and well-laid-out selection that only lacks Thunderbolt support, although since this is an AMD system its absence doesn’t come as a shock.

Gaining access to the internal hardware of the Legion 5 takes a little more time and effort than you might expect. To start with, unclipping the bottom of the case for the first time is a bit nerve-wracking. You’ll need a very thin tool to pry the case apart, and it’s much easier to peel it open if you start at one of the front corners.

Lenovo Legion 5 review: Display and audio

Technically speaking, the 15.6in 1,920 x 1,080 IPS panel is well up to the mark. The maximum brightness of 345cd/m² and the contrast ratio of 1,313:9 are both solid, while the Delta E (colour accuracy) of 0.63 is pretty outstanding for a gaming laptop. The Legion 5’s sRGB gamut coverage of 94% and volume of 98.8% don’t let the side down, either.

As you would expect of a gaming laptop, the screen isn’t touch-enabled and it has a matte coating. If you want a display with a QHD resolution or support for Nvidia’s G-Sync technology, then you’ll need to look at the more expensive Legion 5 Pro or Legion 7 models.

The speaker system in the Legion 5 is good enough but hardly exceptional. It can’t compare with the Asus TUF Dash F15, since it has smaller drivers, but there’s a reasonable amount of volume and the sound is tight and punchy. The absence of any form of bass is the biggest issue, though, which is something the pre-installed Nahimic control panel can only do so much to ameliorate.

Lenovo Legion 5 review: Performance and battery life

The Legion 5 performs well, but then I expected nothing less from a laptop with a large screen.

It chewed through the Expert Reviews 4K media benchmark in short order and produced a score of 284. That’s better than the Core i7-based TUF Dash F15 (194) but not quite as good as the AMD 5800H/RTX3060-equipped Acer Nitro 5 (323).

Turning to game tests, the Legion 5 averaged 61fps in the Hitman 2 test and 68fps in Shadow of the Tomb Raider. The latter was performed with ray tracing enabled, DLSS off and all other graphics settings set at the highest level.

Finally, we ran Wolfenstein: Youngblood under a variety of conditions: the first with ray tracing off, then with ray tracing switched on and DLSS off and again with both ray tracing and DLSS on. The results were mightily impressive, returning average frame rates of 160fps, 126fps and 143fps respectively.

All of those scores are higher than those recorded by either the Acer Nitro or the Asus TUF Dash. It’s also on a par with those from the Asus ROG Zephyrus G15, a gaming notebook with the same GPU but a Ryzen 9 5900HS processor instead. As little as 18 months ago such performance from a £1,300 notebook would have been unthinkable.

The Legion 5’s surprisingly high frame rates could be down to a pair of Lenovo-specific factors. First, there’s the Lenovo Legion AI Engine, which, according to Lenovo, is “a system of AI solutions which dynamically shifts power between the CPU and GPU for more FPS”. Yes, it’s a frustratingly vague description, but whatever it is, it seems to make a difference.

The second string to the Legion 5’s bow is a highly efficient cooling system. Despite the fans being quieter than most gaming laptops even when running at full speed, they do a very good job of expelling hot air. Place your hand next to either of the side vents just forward of the hinge and you can really feel a strong current of hot air being pushed out.

The SK Hynix SSD recorded consecutive read and write scores of 3,137MB/s and 2,712MB/s respectively, which again is better than anything the direct competition can manage and very respectable for a PCI-E Gen3 x4 drive.

According to the spec sheet, the Legion 5 should have a 60Wh battery but the battery in my review unit was most definitely an 80Wh (5,210mAh) unit. Had it been the former, that would more easily explain the rather poor performance in our video rundown test.

Running for just 7hrs 32mins, the Legion 5 is well below average for a laptop in this category. The Asus TUF Dash F15 managed close to twice that with its 90Wh battery. Although the 300W power module that comes with the Legion 5 is a 600g brick of a thing, you can also charge with a Type-C charger with a 65W or higher output or with a 45W Type-C charger when the unit is turned off or in standby.

Lenovo Legion 5 review: Verdict

The new Legion 5 is yet another great option in this increasingly contested section of the laptop market. It’s capable of better gaming performance than both the Acer Nitro 5 and the  Asus ROG Zephyrus G15 as well.

It’s not just about gaming, though: the Legion 5 both looks and feels like a more upmarket device than the Nitro or the Dash, although granted the former is cheaper and the Asus has a better sound system and longer-lasting battery life.

If it was my money, however, then I’d say the Lenovo just about edges it. I mostly use headphones while gaming anyway and usually have my laptop plugged into the wall no matter what I’m doing. And besides, the Legion 5’s unmatched gaming credentials massively outweigh any of its minor drawbacks.

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