New Windows 8 Laptop - Part II

In the previous post, I mentioned the shortcomings of the Lenovo Y580 Windows 8 laptop, but didn't go into detail. There were a few issues, almost exclusively software related. To start, I will talk about the hardware because finding something negative to say about the Y580 from a hardware perspective is difficult.

There are only two things that immediately come to mind. The first is that the Y580 does not have a Thunderbolt port. While this isn't an issue right now, it would be nice to have the port for potential expandability down the road. I have not yet found any Thunderbolt accessories that interest me in the least. Most Thunderbolt devices right now seem to be monitors or external storage. The Y580 has a really nice 1080p display and an HDMI port, so a Thunderbolt display is irrelevant. It also has three USB 3.0 ports, so fast external storage isn't a problem either.

The second issue with the hardware is the weight. The Y580 has impressive hardware, but weighs in around the 6 pound mark (about 2.8Kg). I am not a small person, nor did I buy this laptop to constantly carry around, so this is a non-issue for me, but could make a big difference for others.

The only other remotely negative thing I have to say at this point is that the brushed aluminum design is a fingerprint magnet. Everything else about it seems okay so far. It doesn't feel remotely fragile. The display is fantastic. It was unbelievably easy to get access to the RAM, hard drive, and mSATA port. The backlit keyboard is good. I wish the left Shift key was longer, and that the shape and placement of the Enter and backslash keys were slightly different, but I know that's more of a personal preference thing.

Overall, I am very happy with the hardware. The software, both from Lenovo and from Microsoft, is where the Y580 stumbles, and will require some patience.

I'll start with Lenovo's software decisions. First, there are no recovery disks included. You have to purchase them for $60. Apparently it used to be possible to burn your own recovery disks, but that feature isn't there anymore. The installed hard drive does have a separate 40GB partition with all of the device drivers, and a folder named "Applications", but in that folder you only find the highly undesirable McAfee anti-virus install. The one pre-installed application that would be very useful but isn't on that partition is PowerDVD BR. That is the software that enables playback of Blu-Ray disks.

Lenovo also includes a utility called OneKey Recovery (OKR). This tool can be used to make a backup of your system to restore later. This sounds useful, but is ultimately quite useless. You cannot use it to restore your system to a new drive (like an SSD). In fact, even if you decide to re-partition the installed drive to get rid of the previously mentioned 40GB drivers/applications partition, you will completely break OKR. There is a dedicated button next to the power button to get quick access to the system BIOS and to OKR, but even that functionality gets broken if you make any changes to the layout of the hard drive.

The best advice to using an SSD along with the installed hard drive is to install Windows fresh on the SSD, and simply reformat the 950GB system partition on the hard drive (reformat only, do not delete the partition). Unfortunately, re-installing Windows means losing PowerDVD BR and other pre-installed applications. There are a number of complaints about this on the Lenovo forums. It also means searching online for a Windows 8 ISO in order to install Windows on the SSD. The reason for keeping the partition layout on the hard drive is so that the OKR hardware button continues to work, giving you quick access to the system BIOS. If you have an external drive, you could use OKR to make a backup of the system before you format the 950GB partition, just in case you ever want to restore the laptop back to factory default.

I'm not sure why Lenovo felt the need for OKR when Windows has built-in functionality for making system backups, and I'm not sure why Lenovo doesn't put all of the application installs on that 40GB partition. Throw in a Windows 8 install disk, and I would have had just as much difficulty finding issues on the software side as I did with the hardware. A couple of very minor changes can significantly improve the user experience here, and reduce the number of complaints on the forums.

Finally, we get to the Microsoft side of the software issues. I think I'll save that for another post.

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