(Pocket-lint) - Let's make this one simple: when someone next asks what gaming laptop they should buy, we're probably going to tell them it to consider the Lenovo Legion 5 Pro.
Its build quality is great, there's a terrific screen too - one not just good for gaming but productivity work too - and it's much cheaper than a Razer Blade 15 or Alienware 15 R5 at much the same spec and price.
We are not huge fans of the Lenovo Legion 5 Pro's touchpad, though, but that's a small issue when just about everyone should use a mouse with this laptop anyway.
- Dimensions: 356 x 264.2 x 26.85mm
- 2.54kg (2.537kg according to our scales)
- Finishes: Storm Grey/Stingray White colours
Several of the most high-profile gaming laptop lines have tried to borrow a few slim-and-light laptop techniques to seem more attractive. You see more thin, sub-2kg gaming machines than you did a couple of years ago.
Lenovo does not take that road with the Legion 5 Pro. This is a sturdy, moderately heavy gaming laptop. We have carried it around in a rucksack a few times. That went just fine, but if we were to buy a laptop to haul around every single day, it probably wouldn't be this one.
Chunky gaming laptops make sense as it leaves more room for a cooling system that doesn't rely on extremely fast-spinning fans. And the Lenovo Legion 5 Pro still manages to look like a made-for-2021 machine.
It has thin screen borders on three sides, a slightly thicker one at the bottom. There's no sense Lenovo could have crammed in a bigger screen if it tried that bit harder.
Build quality is excellent too, not dissimilar to some of the most expensive models we've tried. The lid is aluminium, the underside aluminium too, and the keyboard surround's plastic has a pleasant soft-touch finish. It feels sturdy, and while there's some micro-flexing of the keyboard surround, it seems to be the simply result of the plastic top layer moving down to meet a tougher sub-frame. In practical terms it's more-or-less flex-free.
The Lenovo Legion 5 Pro is also a mature-looking gaming laptop, aside from the huge light-up logo on the back anyway. From the inside this could be a workstation, lacking any other eye-catching RGB light-up elements. This is Lenovo cutting out the superfluous parts to bring you one of the best gaming laptops you can get for the money.
- 500-nit brightness (522 nits measured)
- 99.8% sRGB / 77.2% Adobe RGB / 82.7% DCI P3 colour coverage
- 16-inch, 2560 x 1600 resolution, IPS LCD matte panel, 3ms claimed response time
The laptop's hinge is also great. It doesn't bend back far, but almost completely eradicates any sort of wobble when using the Lenovo Legion 5 Pro on a less-than-solid surface.
And the screen itself is kind-of beautiful. It's a 16-inch 3:2 aspect display with a matte finish IPS LCD panel. What's unusual here? The screen shape: a 16:9 widescreen is the standard for gaming laptops, but a 3:2 aspect does maximise display area relative to the width of the base. It's an aspect ratio usually picked for productivity machines, but we don't mind this aspect ratio for playing games either.
This isn't what we really like, though. Resolution, refresh rate and brightness are the winners. The Lenovo Legion 5 Pro's screen has a 2560 x 1600 pixel panel, higher resolution than the Full HD (1080p) of the Alienware m15 R5.
In the past we used to say 1080p was still probably the right choice for all but the most powerful gaming laptops, but Nvidia DLSS has changed that. This is an Nvidia technology that lets the graphics card render at a lower resolution and make up the difference with the best AI upscaling in the business. It works wonders, and lets you play recent games at 2560 x 1600 resolution, even when you turn on power-sucking ray-tracing. More on that later.
A relatively high pixel count is also wonderful for normal work. That 1600p panel makes text look so much smoother than it would appear on a 15.6-inch 1080p display. It's a performance laptop with some of that immediate eye-pleasing gloss of a style laptop screen. And this thing doesn't even have a glossy finish. The matte panel still pops, and makes reflections largely a non-issue.
Maximum brightness of over 500 nits is excellent for a laptop of this price regardless of category too. We even tried working outdoors on the Legion 5 Pro. It nailed the job, although the thick rubber foot at the back of the underside isn't exactly comfortable on the legs. This lifts the back up slightly to allow for greater airflow.
The Legion 5 Pro also has a 165Hz refresh rate panel. There's no sign of obvious motion trails even with fast action, and this fast refresh allows for proper display of frame rates up to 165fps.
This is a display that impresses instantly, blending parts of the character of traditional gaming displays and those of thin-and-light laptops or tablets. It's the model all-rounder.
That is not to say it's perfect in all areas, though. Contrast is pretty standard IPS LCD fare, not even close to that of an OLED display. Play in a dark room at high brightness and you will see raised blacks. And the Legion 5 Pro is not a wide colour gamut laptop. While its colour calibration seems to be excellent, it doesn't have the colour depth you would see on a QLED or OLED TV.
It's not really an HDR screen either, despite support fort VesaHDR and Dolby Vision high dynamic range formats. The contrast and colour depth just aren't there. However, you could argue HDR gaming on any IPS LCD laptop screen is a bit of a joke anyway. These displays don't have the contrast for HDR, for which you really want an OLED or Mini LED panel, the latter of which won't be common for some time.
Keyboard and touchpad
- Plastic touchpad
- NUM pad
The Legion 5 Pro's keyboard also makes us think of some of Lenovo's non-gaming laptops. Its fairly deep chiclet keys have a lovely well-defined action not too dissimilar to that of one of its famous ThinkPad laptops. These keys are a little less meaty, but not much.
We've spent a few days typing on the Legion 5 Pro, and the experience is far better than that of most thin-and-light work machines we review week to week. It's fast, responsive and comfortable.
The Legion 5 Pro does have a four-zone RGB backlight in some countries, apparently, but our review unit just has a basic white LED two-level lighting system. It's another example of Lenovo catering to, perhaps, the mature gamer who wants the substance without the potentially embarrassing fluff attached.
The touchpad is not in the same league as the keyboard though. It's of a good size but this is a basic plastic panel, not the textured glass that reduces friction for a smoother finger glide.
This is one of the few parts of the Legion 5 Pro we don't like much. It occasionally suffers from phantom taps (likely a driver issue), and there's a big dead zone at the top. But most of all it's just the one part of the laptop that does not seem made to uncompromising standards.
It is something to consider seriously if you plan to use the Legion 5 Pro as your everyday work PC, or actually play often using a touchpad rather than a mouse.
- AMD Ryzen 7 5800H, 16GB RAM
- 1TB M.2 NVMe PCIe SSD
For all that we've raved about certain parts of the Lenovo Legion 5 Pro, its performance per pound is the real attraction here. Its asking price is obviously more than the step-down 1080p Legion 5, but it is significantly cheaper than the 1080p Alienware R5 with a graphics card from the league below (an Nvidia RTX 3060).
The Legion 5 Pro laptop has the AMD Ryzen 7 5800H CPU, 16GB RAM, a 1TB SSD drive, and the Nvidia RTX 3070 graphics card.
Here's where we see the benefit of the Lenovo Legion 5 Pro's chunkier design. Where some lighter high-end gaming laptops have a lower-clocked Max-Q version of the RTX 3070, this one seems to get close to the peak performance of this card. It can feed it up to 140W of power according to the Nvidia Control Panel, letting it push the hardware more than, for example, the thinner Razer Blade 15.
Match that power with the 1600p resolution screen plus Nvidia's AI upscaling DLSS feature and you can run titles such as Control with everything maxed, including ray-tracing, and still see frame rates near enough nailed to 60fps much of the time. Turn off ray-tracing and you can easily get above 100fps with a few settings tweaks.
This sort of power means the Lenovo Legion 5 Pro will obviously make some noise under pressure. Its cooling system takes in air from the laptop's underside and blasts it out through heat vents on the sides and back. These move a fair amount of air and are quite noticeable at max exertion, particularly if you are relying on the internal speakers for game audio. There's a sort of stereophonic character to the fan noise too, thanks to those two side vents.
However, the Lenovo Legion 5 Pro does have a keyboard shortcut to toggle between performance, auto and quiet modes (the last of these throttles performance so less heat is generated). Even when working their hardest, the fans do not tend to vary their spin rate (rpm) on a whim. It's often not fan noise in itself that is most distracting, but changes in its tone caused by variations in fan speed.
The speakers can't really keep up because what limited mid-range power and loudness exists in their sound is generated by Nahimic audio processing, an alternative to the Dolby we see in a lot of laptops. Actually listen to music through the Lenovo Legion 5 Pro and you'll hear there isn't any real bass at all, as in almost all gaming laptops.
Still, they do the job for the odd casual game session or video, and Nahimic does successfully beef up the audio to generate some bass-adjacent sound. Switch Nahimic off and the speakers sound quiet and weak.
The real compromise you have to put up with performance isn't in fan noise. It's the size of this thing's power brick. As it needs to be able to feed the Nvidia RTX 1070 up to 140W of power the supply is huge, with maximum output of 300W. If you're a student who wants a gaming laptop that will also work as a machine to carry around, bear the size and weight of this brick in mind.
- 300W power adapter
- 80Wh battery capacity
- Up to 8 hour claimed battery life
The Lenovo Legion 5 Pro may also not last as long as you need off a charge either. It largely comes with the territory for a laptop like this, despite the use of a large 80Wh battery.
An hour of light work took 24 per cent off the charge level. An hour of video streaming in the power saving mode took 27 per cent off. It looks like around four hours, max, is what you should expect from non-gaming use.
Can the Lenovo Legion 5 Pro do any better? We set the screen refresh to 60Hz, the resolution to 1080p, turned on the quiet mode and reduced the screen brightness to near-minimum. An hour of streaming video took off 20 per cent, suggesting the absolute maximum battery life to expect is five hours.
We couldn't find an easy way to 'switch off' the RTX 3070 graphics and revert to the CPU's Radeon graphics either, which may have further helped matters.
The charging port sits around the back, which is where most of the other ports live. There are three USB-A ports, one USB-C with power delivery and DisplayPort support, an Ethernet socket, and a full-size HDMI.
Rear connectors like this let you perform proper cable management in a more-or-less fixed setup. The sides offer just one extra USB-C, one USB-A and a headphone jack. These are here for the bits and bobs you're likely to plug in and unplug on a regular basis.
We see only one potential issue here: there's no Thunderbolt support. However, with such a wide array of connectors you probably won't need to use a dock, which is one of the key jobs for such a high bandwidth socket.
The Lenovo Legion 5 Pro is an excellent gaming laptop, a match for something like the Alienware m15 R6 in most respects, but it costs less. Its screen is excellent and, largely thanks to Nvidia DLSS, higher-resolution displays in laptops like this no longer seem frivolous luxuries.
There are just two potential problems: you may find the Lenovo Legion 5 Pro a bit dull if you'd choose to put RGB lighting into your toaster; the touchpad is a weak point too - it's a plastic pad that doesn't match up to the quality of the other parts.
This one feels like it wants to spend most of its time rooted to a desk with a separate mouse plugged in, though, so that second point may not matter too much. Because, without doubt, the Lenovo Legion 5 Pro is one of the best gaming laptops to arrive in 2021.
Available for a little less cash than the Legion, this gaming laptop uses 10th Gen Intel CPUs rather than AMD Ryzen ones. However, the 1080p screen is less advanced and in this case we think the Lenovo's 1600p screen might be worth paying that extra to get.