Lenovo’s gaming desktops have undergone a rename and a revamp. The Legion T730 Tower (starts at $ 1,429; $ 1,529 as tested) under review is the company’s fastest gaming tower, sporting top-of-the-line components like six- and eight-core Intel CPUs and the latest Nvidia graphics. The Legion T730 ticks key boxes on the gamer-essentials list, including an edgy design with RGB lighting, easy expandability, and automatic processor overclocking, the last courtesy of the unlocked Intel Core i7-8700K processor in our review unit. If your wallet stretches north of two grand, Lenovo offers the Legion T730 with up to the elite Core i9-9900K eight-core processor and a GeForce RTX 2080 graphics card. But the price of our review unit is just right for what it offers, topping off its value equation with friendly features like tool-less entry and an integrated carry handle.
It’s an Evolution
The Legion T-series towers have completely replaced the old IdeaCentre Y-series towers in Lenovo’s lineup. The presence of a Legion Y-series tower is mildly confusing, but it’s a budget model this time around.
The Legion T730’s built-in carry handle is an eye-catcher. It’s like an umbrella: You don’t value it until you need it. The handle makes moving the Legion T730 a lot easier than most PCs this size. The tower weighs 26 pounds in this review configuration.
The 28-liter case design means the Legion T730 is slightly smaller than the average mid-tower. It measures 14.3 inches tall, 7.3 inches wide, and 16.1 inches long, its short height being the most notable dimension.
Some of Lenovo’s past desktops included case lighting, but they were never this bright. The Legion T730 has two LED strips mounted inside the case, one running along the top edge and the other down the front panel. Each is its own lighting zone in the pre-installed Lenovo Vantage app…
You can switch around the 16.7 million colors of the RGB spectrum, adjust the brightness and patterns, or turn the lighting off across three profiles.
The front panel is perforated for airflow. The Y logo inside the “O” in Lenovo’s prominently placed Legion branding is backlit in white. (It can’t be disabled through the Lenovo Vantage software.) The slide-up top reveals the optical drive, a laptop-style DVD burner in our tester.
The connectivity along the top edge of the front panel includes two USB Type-A 3.0 ports, an audio combo jack, and a dedicated microphone jack.
The power button sits on the far right. A media card reader is, unfortunately, absent. The ports’ location up here means cables from connected devices will dangle down if the Legion T730 is sitting on top of your desk. Conversely, the location is convenient if you place the tower on the floor.
The backside of the Legion T730 is blacked-out, a thoughtful detail. Less expensive desktops tend to leave unsightly bare metal back here. Lenovo put a seamless cover over the motherboard’s backplate, as well. The streamlined port selection includes six USB Type-A ports (four version 3.0 and two version 2.0), an Ethernet jack, and a headphone jack. The GeForce GTX 1060 graphics card has three DisplayPort video-out connectors, an HDMI video-out connector, and a legacy DVI-D port.
There are no visible antennae or protrusions for the Legion T730’s internal 802.11ac wireless card and Bluetooth connectivity. To keep things looking neat, though, there’s a rubber restraining strip near the power supply for cable management.
The left side case panel comes free with the removal of two thumb screws.
The interior isn’t blacked out, but the mesh insert in the side window makes it hard to tell. You can pop out the insert for a cleaner view, a clever feature.
The internal wiring is managed just well enough not to be called sloppy. The power supply isn’t modular, but at least its cables are all black. The 80 Plus Bronze-rated model in our test unit is rated for 450 watts. Its bottom mounting location means the power cable doesn’t have to hang from the top.
The large processor air cooler and its 120mm fan dominate the case interior. The GTX 1060 graphics card just beneath it has a plastic front support bracket to prevent it from flexing the motherboard. For eventual graphics card upgrades, the power supply has one six-pin and one eight-pin power connector.
The motherboard, at 7.5 by 9 inches, is slightly smaller than MicroATX’s maximum size and has an uninteresting look, although I did note a passive heatsink mounted on the 128GB M.2-style SSD in our tester. Cooling is important on M.2 drives, since they can heat up and throttle performance under load. There are only two DIMM slots on the motherboard, limiting the Legion T730 to 32GB RAM in a two-16GB DIMM configuration. In some cases, there would be four DIMM slots on a motherboard like this, for a 64GB ceiling. Our test configuration has a single 16GB stick and one free slot for easy upgrades. The single stick means the memory runs in single-channel mode, but it didn’t seem to affect our benchmark scores to any degree that mattered, and certainly not one that I noticed in everyday usage.
The two 3.5-inch bays in the bottom of the desktop have slide-out caddies. No tools are required: Just pinch the bracket and pull. No screws are required to keep drives in the caddies, either. SATA and power connectors are conveniently in place, so all you need to do is slide in the drive. A 1TB hard drive is installed in the lower bay of our review unit.
A Mid-Priced Mid-Tower
The Intel Core i7-8700K and GeForce GTX 1060 graphics card in our Legion T730 are a recipe for seamless 1080p gaming. Gaming at a 1440p resolution is possible, although you’ll likely have to reduce the visual quality settings in the more demanding AAA titles. This setup isn’t suited to 4K gaming; for that, you can get the Legion T730 configured with a GeForce RTX 2080, as I mentioned in the intro. Only the GeForce GTX 1060 graphics card holds back our Legion T730 review configuration. (That said, it holds back its price, too.)
For comparison’s sake, I configured an Alienware Aurora mid-tower for $ 1,659, outfitted like our Legion T730. While more expensive, it included a faster GeForce GTX 1070 8GB graphics card, liquid cooling for its CPU, and a larger 2TB hard drive. On the flip side, I found the Acer Predator Orion 5000 mid-tower in its “PO5-610-UR11” guise for $ 1,349 on Newegg. It matched the GTX 1060 6GB graphics of our Legion T730, but it had a lesser Core i5-8600K processor, and it lacked a hard drive to accompany its 256GB SSD.
The pricing for our Legion T730 review configuration seems to be right where it should be. The better value in Legion T730 lineup, however, is probably the base model. It’s $ 100 less ($ 1,429), for which the only concession you’ll make is stepping down the Core i7-8700K to the non-overclockable Core i7-8700. The real-world difference between the two processors is negligible for most usage, especially gaming, where the graphics card will be the bottleneck. It would be money well saved for most buyers. Spend the extra for the Core i7-8700K only if you need (or want) the overclocking and bragging rights that you’re entitled to with an unlocked Intel processor. Also watch Lenovo’s pricing, which is always in flux. (Case in point: I saw the base Legion T730 discounted to $ 1,229 for a couple of days as I was tapping out this article.)
Testing: Top-Shelf CPU, Meet Mid-Grade GPU
And so, on to the benchmarks. I compared the Lenovo Legion T730 to a host of competing machines, most of which handily outclassed it. Their core components are outlined below…
The MSI Trident X will dominate the CPU-driven benchmarks with its all-powerful Core i9-9900K, whereas it should be a tight race for the other systems. Note that I left the Legion T730’s processor overclocking at its default setting of “off” for the performance tests, although it may have kicked in for the gaming-related benchmarks because of the auto-overclock setting in the Lenovo Vantage app.
Graphics-wise, the mid-level GeForce GTX 1060 in the Legion T730 stands no chance against the flagship GPUs in the other units, but that’s not a fault. It performs as expected for it’s level, as you’ll see, and it’s certainly a lot less money.
PCMark 10 (Productivity Test) and PCMark 8 (Storage Test)
PCMark 10 and 8 are holistic performance suites developed by the PC benchmark specialists at UL (formerly Futuremark). The PCMark 10 test we run simulates different real-world productivity and content-creation workflows. We use it to assess overall system performance for office-centric tasks such as word processing, spreadsheeting, Web browsing, and videoconferencing. The test generates a proprietary numeric score; higher numbers are better.
PCMark 8, meanwhile, has a Storage subtest that we use to assess the speed of the system’s storage subsystem. This score is also a proprietary numeric score; again, higher numbers are better.
Given the closeness of the PCMark 8 Storage Test results, it’s unlikely that storage drive performance factored much into the differences in the PCMark 10 Productivity Test scores. The Legion T730 took a back seat there, but its score is still respectable and indicates a very fast PC indeed.
Next is Maxon’s CPU-crunching Cinebench R15 test, which is fully threaded to make use of all available processor cores and threads. Cinebench stresses the CPU rather than the GPU to render a complex image. The result is a proprietary score indicating a PC’s suitability for processor-intensive workloads.
The Legion T730 put up a score that does the Core i7-8700K justice. The Acer Predator Orion 5000 did better with the same chip; its unlocked multipliers may have been pushed higher from the factory, as the Core i7-8700K normally doesn’t score that high. There was no catching the Core i9-9900K in the MSI Trident X, though. Piling on more cores and threads will do it every time.
We also run a custom Adobe Photoshop image-editing benchmark. Using an early 2018 release of the Creative Cloud version of Photoshop, we apply a series of 10 complex filters and effects to a standard JPEG test image. We time each operation and, at the end, add up the total execution time. As with Handbrake, lower times are better here. The Photoshop test stresses CPU, storage subsystem, and RAM, but it can also take advantage of most GPUs to speed up the process of applying filters, so systems with powerful graphics chips or cards may see a boost.
Now, here the Legion T730 is back on track. Its good storage performance helped it keep the pace as did, of course, its Core i7-8700K.
3DMark Sky Diver and Fire Strike
3DMark measures relative graphics muscle by rendering sequences of highly detailed, gaming-style 3D graphics that emphasize particles and lighting. We run two different 3DMark subtests, Sky Diver and Fire Strike, which are suited to different types of systems. Both are DirectX 11 benchmarks, but Sky Diver is more suited to laptops and midrange PCs, while Fire Strike is more demanding and made for high-end PCs to strut their stuff. The results are proprietary scores.
The GeForce GTX 1060 in the Legion T730 is out of its league among this crowd, but that’s not a complaint. It performs as expected for what it is: a great pixel-pusher for 1080p gaming. It’s the 6GB version of the card, too, and not the hobbled 3GB version. The extra video memory is important for high-resolution gaming.
Next up is another synthetic graphics test, this time from Unigine Corp. Like 3DMark, the Superposition test renders and pans through a detailed 3D scene and measures how the system copes. In this case, it’s rendered in the company’s eponymous Unigine engine, offering a different 3D workload scenario than 3DMark, for a second opinion on the machine’s graphical prowess. These scores are reported in frames per second (fps).
The numbers from the Legion T730 are on par for a GeForce GTX 1060 in the 1080p High Preset. It doesn’t come close to the magic 60fps number, but this benchmark is abnormally demanding.
Real-World Gaming Tests
The synthetic tests above are helpful for measuring general 3D aptitude, but it’s hard to beat full retail video games for judging gaming performance. Far Cry 5 and Rise of the Tomb Raider are both modern, high-fidelity titles with built-in benchmarks that illustrate how a system handles real-world video games at various settings. These are run on the maximum graphics quality presets (Ultra for Far Cry 5, Very High for Rise of the Tomb Raider) at 1080p, 1440p, and 4K resolutions to determine the sweet spot of visuals and smooth performance for a given system. The results are also provided in frames per second. Far Cry 5 is DirectX 11-based, while Rise of the Tomb Raider can be flipped to DX12, which we do for this test set.
The Legion T730 with the GeForce GTX 1060 makes an excellent 1080p gaming platform, scoring 61fps and 70fps on Far Cry 5 and Rise of the Tomb Raider, respectively, at those top detail presets. The 1440p numbers are playable (43fps and 47fps), although you’ll need to compromise on visual quality to get closer to 60fps. The 4K numbers were both in the frame-rate mid-20s.
For some perspective, the frame rates we saw from the GeForce RTX 2080-powered MSI Trident X (54fps and 59fps, respectively) shows you what you can get if you spend a lot more. (Remember, the Legion T730 also offers the RTX 2080 in its top configuration.)
The Core i7-8700K processor in our review unit demands a hefty premium. It’s clocked higher than the non-K Core i7-8700 to begin with, but its real value lies in its unlocked multipliers that allow the chip to run above its rated frequencies.
The Lenovo Vantage software has one-click processor overclocking. Vantage reported the Core i7-8700K in our Legion T730 hitting 5GHz in its overclocked state, a marked bump from the chip’s normal Turbo Boost frequency of 4.7GHz, and about as high as you’d want to push this CPU on air cooling. However, Vantage didn’t specify whether the overclock applied to all processor cores. (The multipliers in Intel K-series CPUs can be set differently for one or multiple cores.). I downloaded Intel’s XTU software, which reported a 50x multiplier (equivalent to a 5GHz clock) across all six cores. That’s aggressive.
Here’s how the CPU overclocking affected the Legion T730’s performance in 3DMark Fire Strike. (For the pre-overclock tests, I disabled the “Enable CPU auto-turbo in games” setting in Vantage).
3DMark Fire Strike
CPU Overclocking Disabled
CPU Overclocking Enabled (Via Lenovo Vantage)
Percent Improvement With CPU Overclocking
Those gains are reasonable for the overclock. The CPU-based Physics Score increased by a double-digit percentage, although the Overall Score was just 3 percent higher. The GeForce GTX 1060 in our review unit is the bottleneck in this benchmark, not the CPU. Overclocking the CPU certainly won’t hurt gaming performance, but it’s unlikely to make a playable difference. But for literally one click of the mouse, I’ll take my cake and eat it.
Thermals? When Overclocking, Not So Cool
The Legion T730 has two case fans: A 120mm fan draws cool air through the perforated front panel, while a smaller 80mm one sends air out the back. The power supply fan also shares exhaust duty. The airflow didn’t feel particularly breezy from any of the fans, but they moved enough air to keep the Legion T730 cool while gaming.
During a half-hour gaming session in Shadow of the Tomb Raider, I saw the CPU reach just 64 degrees C, and that was with the overclocking enabled. The GeForce GTX 1060 graphics card saw 83 degrees C, a normal temperature for an Nvidia “Pascal”-generation card with a blower-style cooler. The Legion T730’s collective fan noise sounded the same to me as when it was idling. It creates enough sound pressure that you can hear it in a quiet room, but its low hum easily melds with background noise.
I only noticed more fan noise while running CPU-specific benchmarks with the overclocking enabled for several minutes or more. A quick look at the CPU temperature revealed why: It was spiking to 91 degrees C, which is too hot. The CPU will likely throttle its performance at that temperature, negating the performance benefits of overclocking. The air cooler just isn’t up to the challenge. To give an idea of how much extra heat the overclocking creates, I saw the CPU temperature level off in the mid-70-degree C range without overclocking during similar tests. A liquid-cooling solution would have provided more thermal headroom, but Lenovo offers one only with the Core i9-9900K in the top-tier Legion T730 configuration.
As I noted, I had no CPU temperature-related problems while running games with the Core i7-8700K overclocked. This is explainable by the fact that games typically don’t monopolize the CPU.
A Solid Pick for Gamers
The Lenovo Legion T730 Tower brings the essentials that gamers are looking for: Eye-catching looks, solid 1080p gaming performance, quiet fans, and tool-less upgrades. It’s priced right, too; the model we reviewed matched its competitors in price-to-performance. Lenovo added further value with user-customizable RGB lighting, something we usually see only from aftermarket specialists.
The processor air cooling was a weak point in our review unit, as it couldn’t handle the heat from the Core i7-8700K when overclocked. While we only had thermal concerns when fully stressing the CPU, there was no concealing the fact that this overclockable K-series CPU should have been chaperoned by a liquid-cooling rig. The base Legion T730 configuration with the non-overclocked Core i7-8700 should run much cooler and will be a better value for most users. Its gaming performance will be nearly the same as that of the Core i7-8700K, as it’s already powerful enough to not be a bottleneck for the GeForce GTX 1060 graphics card.
Otherwise, the Legion T730’s attention to detail, like a removable side window mesh, is easy to appreciate. It’s a shame that this tower isn’t factory-customizable, but Lenovo is known to introduce new configurations, so keep an eye out. All said and done, we can safely say the Legion T730 didn’t need an integrated carry handle to…wait for it…”pick up” our recommendation. (That’s not to say it didn’t help, though.)