The Lenovo Legion Tower 5i gaming desktop won our Editors’ Choice award last year and is a better value in the $949 Best Buy configuration we’re testing today. Instead of the quad-core CPU and 4GB graphics card typically found in towers under $1,000, it features a hexa-core Intel Core i5 “Rocket Lake” processor and 6GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Super for smooth 1080p gaming, and even Both include a hard drive and a hard disk. 8GB of memory is a bit scanty, but it can be easily upgraded later. Topped by the powerful, four-zone-lit case, the Legion Tower 5i is impressive for the price. The machine gets another Editors’ Choice award among entry-level game towers.
Pull all breakpoints
The Legion Tower 5i looks every inch a gaming tower despite missing the 2020 version’s funky carrying handle. Its exterior is all black in plastic but sturdy thanks to the base metal frame. At 16.5 x 8.1 x 16 inches (HWD), it’s within the expected dimensions of a desktop in the middle of the tower.
The transparent side is not the usual tempered glass, but it is large and provides good interior visibility, especially if you turn on the chassis lighting. There are no less than four lighting zones, all of which are configurable within the supplied Lenovo Vantage app.
120mm front and rear fans support RGB lighting with up to 16.7 million colors. The other two lighting areas – the Legion logo on the front panel and the interior light strip – are pale blue. You can turn off the lighting areas individually.
Three fans provide the most airflow from front to back for the legionnaire. The top panel, like the front, the top panel is grated for additional airflow. Fans sometimes spin to audible levels but usually remain quiet enough to blend into the background, even while gaming.
Connectivity along the top edge of the tower includes two USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A ports, a headphone jack, and a microphone. It was good to see the USB Type C port here.
On the back are four more USB-A ports (two 3.2 Gen 1 ports and two legacy 2.0), a USB-C 3.2 Gen 1 port, Gigabit Ethernet, and three audio jacks (in, out, and mic).
The GeForce GTX 1660 Super graphics card offers one HDMI port, one DisplayPort and, oddly enough, one DVI-D port; Dual monitor users will need to mix and match connections or purchase adapters. Wireless connectivity comes courtesy of Intel Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5. I like that the wireless antenna is built into the case rather than an external protrusion.
Ample end user upgrade potential
Removing two thumb screws takes you inside the Legion Tower 5i. The opaque interior and restrained black cables keep things professional.
The low profile CPU cooler is small, but powerful enough to handle heat from a Core i5-11400 CPU, which only has a 65W thermal design power (TDP) rating; Legion Tower 5i models with higher TDP ratings include a more powerful coolant. Below is a 256GB M.2 Type-2280 solid state drive covered with a Legion branded heatsink. To the right are four DDR4-2933 memory slots, with only one 8GB module. Adding more should only take 2 minutes due to the ease of access.
The dual-slot GeForce GTX 1660 Super card is small, not exceeding the PCI Express x16 slot. Only one 6-pin power connector is required. The second M.2 Type-2280 SSD slot for the system, which is empty on this model, is located directly below it.
Two 3.5″ tower bays, one containing a 1TB hard drive, can be accessed after the other side panel has been removed. No tools required to install the drive; The empty bay carefully provides for SATA cables and power cables.
The power supply supplies up to 400W, which isn’t a lot of room if you want to put a faster graphics card in but there’s plenty for this configuration.
Send out your four legions: Benchmarking 2021 Legion Tower 5i
Legion Tower 5i reviewed here, model 90RS000DUS, costing $949 at Best Buy. This price gives you a 2.6GHz Hexa-core Intel Core i5-11400 (4.4GHz Turbo), 6GB GeForce GTX 1660 Super GPU, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD loaded with Windows 10 Home, and a 1TB hard drive . Standard warranty is one year.
Best Buy also offers the HP Omen 25L mid-tower (model GT12-0024) for the same money; It handles a previous generation hexa-core Core i5-10400 chip and has a larger 512GB SSD but no hard drive. It also only has 8GB of memory, which is a good indication that doing desktop games under $1,000 requires a bit of hacking.
As it stands, the 8GB of RAM in our Legion caused the system to suffer in some benchmarks; I’ve particularly noticed a tendency to skip or drop frames in real-world gaming tests. Forget about doing any kind of multitasking while playing games. Fortunately, adding another 8GB DDR4-2933 UDIMM (for a healthy 16GB total) is not only easy to do, but shouldn’t cost you more than $50. You may also want to budget for a gaming keyboard and mouse, although the generic USB peripherals that come with the Tower 5i can help you.
Let’s start the test. We pit the Legion Tower 5i against two other gaming towers, the configurations of which are shown in the table below.
Price-wise, Lenovo is a lot less of the duo – the NZXT Tower is $1,799 and the Maingear Turbo is a whopping $6,438 – but we won’t have any other gaming desktops to compare until we get more systems with our new benchmarking system. At least that way, you’ll see the full scope of what you can get for a little or a lot of money. (Learn more about how we test desktop devices.)
Content creation and productivity tests
Our first test is UL’s PCMark 10, which simulates a variety of real-world productivity and content creation workflows to measure overall system performance. The Legion Tower 5i scored good points, especially against the more expensive NZXT. It also did well on the PCMark 10 sub-storage test despite having a small 256GB drive.
Three other benchmarks focus on the CPU, using all available cores and threads, to assess a computer’s suitability for processor-intensive workloads. Maxon Cinebench R23 uses the company’s Cinema 4D engine to render a complex scene, while Primate Labs’ Geekbench 5.4 Pro simulates popular applications ranging from PDF rendering and speech recognition to machine learning. Finally, we use the open source HandBrake 1.4 video encoder to convert a 12-minute video from 4K resolution to 1080p (low times are better).
The final productivity test is PugetBench for Photoshop from Puget Systems, which uses Creative Cloud version 22 of Adobe’s popular photo editor to evaluate computer performance for content creation and multimedia applications. It’s an automated extension that performs a variety of general, GPU-accelerated Photoshop tasks ranging from opening, rotating, resizing, and saving an image to applying masks, gradient fills, and filters.
The Legion Tower 5i’s hexa-core CPU kept it south of its more capable competitors, but its numbers indicate that it’s fully capable of handling tasks that require significant processing power. Of course, an eight-core chip would fare better, but having one of those in a game tower means spending significantly more.
Graphics and gaming tests
For Windows PC, we run synthetic and real world game tests. Among the former are two DirectX 12 game emulators from UL’s 3DMark, Night Raid (more modest, suitable for systems with integrated graphics) and Time Spy (more demanding, suitable for gaming platforms with discrete GPUs). Two other game emulations come from the multi-platform GPU standard GFXBench 5, which specializes in OpenGL performance. Although Legion’s GeForce GTX 1660 Super card was hopelessly outclassed by NZXT’s GeForce RTX 3060, its numbers are still solid.
From now on, our realistic game test comes from the standards of F1 2021, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla and Rainbow Six Siege – Simulation, Adventure, Open World Action and Competitive/Electronic Shooting Games respectively. On desktop computers, we run them at the highest quality presets (F1 2021 at Ultra High, Valhalla and Siege at Ultra) at 1080p, 1440p and 4K.
Legion’s numbers suggest 1080p gaming is its sweet spot, no wonder given its low price tag. Assassin’s Creed Valhalla has been a struggle, averaging under 60 frames per second (fps), but this game is very challenging even for high-end systems. It should be possible to explore 1440p games depending on the title, especially with the slightly requested visual quality settings. The GeForce GTX 1660 lacks the ray tracing capabilities of GeForce RTX cards, but you might not miss it; Watch our feature in ray tracing and computer games.
novice gaming star
The Lenovo Legion Tower 5i is a compelling, affordable gaming desktop, especially for first-time buyers. The $949 Best Buy model we tested delivers more stable 1080p gaming performance, thanks to a 6-core Core i5 CPU and 6GB GeForce GTX 1660 Super, than cheaper desktops with quad-core CPUs and 2GB graphics cards 4 GB. Its biggest drawback is the modest 8GB memory, but this is easy to fix with a DIY upgrade. Dual storage drives, clean design, and customizable lighting win Legion’s Editors’ Choice award as an entry-level gaming tower.
Lenovo Legion Tower 5i (2021)
The entry-level Lenovo Legion Tower 5i gaming desktop offers improved style and performance at a low price.
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