I have been reviewing notebooks for many years from the early days of IBM bricks to the early Compaq notebooks to the award winning Toshiba’s with their great screens. So it’s not easy for me to get excited by a notebook. That was until I came across a new model from, of all companies, BenQ.
BenQ is a company which manufactures products for the likes of Dell, HP and several other leading notebook brands.
After several days of putting this notebook through its paces it is in my opinion that this is the best value for money notebook I have ever reviewed. It is rich in functionality with HDMI input capability and a stunningly bright screen. But above all it is the design of the notebook that stands out.
BenQ is a company which is a bit like Asus. They built their early brand reputation on great design and functionality. But unfortunately the early success of BenQ went to the heads of the directors and they decided to take on the likes of Nokia and Sony Ericsson in the European phone market. The end result was that the company nearly went broke.
Rich in capital from their OEM manufacturing operations BenQ have now gone back to the drawing board and their design studios and if their new BenQ Joybook S41 notebook is any indication of what is to come we are in for some great products.
The S41 arrived in my office late one afternoon so I took it home and loaded it with several applications including the new Microsoft Office and the Adobe CS3 suite of applications.
The notebook comes pre loaded with Windows Vista however before one has even opened the lid you notice that there is something different about this notebook. The lid is a smooth grey speckled black panel that blends with the matt silver edges and does not leave finger marks behind. It is a perfect blend of style and technology and a million years away from the ugly black or grey look rolled out by the likes of Lenovo, Toshiba and a host of other notebook manufacturers.
To really assess this notebook let’s look at some core basics. The price is less than $1,900 depending on where you buy it. The system is powered by the Santa Rosa chipset and is one of the smallest notebooks to come with the Nvidia 8600M GS card.
The notebook weighs 2.05kg and is 337mm by 248mm by 38.7mm in size. Operationally it is easy to handle in and out of a briefcase or bag as well as light in the hand when being carried around at a conference.
A big standout is the work area. The keys are big and set into an aluminium surround that blends into the rest of the notebook. A big advantage is the mouse pad which is built in flush to the fascia of the keyboard. A black rough textured surface to the mouse pad makes it much easier to use than any other keypads I have encountered.
There is a single button bar below, similar to those found on Mac notebooks but slimmer. However, unlike Macs, the button allows for both right and left-click functionality.
If you want to grab a quick movie or watch a corporate video this device has a stunning high quality screen which can be contributed to BenQ’s heritage in manufacturing flat screens and monitors for a multiple of manufacturers. , The 14.1-inch LCD has the world’s fastest response time (for a notebook display) of 16ms. One can also hook up the JoyBook to external displays via the VGA or HDMI output. The widescreen uses transflective technology with a maximum resolution of 1,280×800 pixels.
The notebook also has a blazingly fast Gigabit Ethernet port and Draft-N Wi-Fi radio built into the JoyBook. A modem is present as well as Bluetooth.
It also has four USB 2.0 ports, mini-FireWire or Express Card/54 slot. A five-in-one memory card reader is compatible with SD/MMC, Memory Stick, and Memory Stick Pro and xD-Picture cards. There is a 1.3-megapixel Webcam sitting above the display for video conferencing.
BenQ has built in SRS TruSurround XT audio which is best listened to via a pair of headphones. You can also link to an external audio set up via an lS/PDIF jack. The Super Multi DVD writer drive can handle almost all flavours of CD, CDRW, DVD and DVD-RW in existence. The drive is integrated into the unit so you can’t upgrade to a HD-DVD or Blu-ray format in the future.
The review unit came with Vista Business and Intel Core 2 Duo T7100, 1.8GHz processor with 1GB of system RAM and 100GB hard disk. I would prefer 2GB of RAM due to the strong multimedia capabilities of this notebook.
This is a notebook that one wants to hold on to. Its pedigree is strong as BenQ is a company that has an excellent reputation from its OEM operations for building excellent high quality notebooks, monitors and LCD TVs.
After hammering this notebook for several weeks including two interstate trips, a trip to the snow and using it for a week around the office I am impressed not only with the design and functionality of this notebook but the quality of the components. Also contributing to its high score is the layout for attached cables and devices.