Sometimes an excellent operating system can be made even better
BenQ Australia Joybook S32 (BV13)
- Interesting design, impressive battery life, decent specs for the price
- Integrated graphics chip, restrictive viewing angle
The BenQ Joybook S32 (BV13) offers a slight improvement over the previous S32 iteration. Its overall performance was predictably solid for a notebook in this price range. It will neither wow, nor disappoint.
Price$ 1,899.00 (AUD)
Finding a notebook that stands out from the crowd is like searching for a needle in the proverbial haystack. While there are always slight variables to speed, portability, battery life and style, the majority of competitively priced models possess few distinguishing characteristics between them. It's for this reason that so many of our notebook reviews end up with the dreaded three-and-a-half stars - neither exceptionally good, nor exceptionally bad.
So how does BenQ's latest Joybook, the S32 (BV13), fair against its vanilla rivals? The more eagle-eyed among you will have already spotted the score at the top of the page. Yep, it's time to usher in another jack-of-all-trades; albeit of a slightly more robust quality. Of course, there's nothing wrong with being 'merely good' in all areas - just don't expect to have your socks (or any other related footwear) rocked off by its mostly average performance.
Upon first glance, the Joybook S32 (BV13) does manage to grab your attention thanks to its unusually attractive lid design. The metallic blue shading is a definite head-turner, with a translucent 3D pattern that shifts and ripples with your perspective. However, after an hour of hands-on experience, the effect was somewhat diminished by a horrific patchwork of visible fingerprints. Fashion-lovers will need to keep a cloth handy when on the road, or at the very least limit their caresses to the outer edges of the unit.
The sense of style continues inside the notebook, with a classy interior finished in basic black and framed by an elegant silver rim. The keyboard is nicely sized for a model with these dimensions (334x227x30mm), though the location of the Fn key may cause initial frustration due to its close proximity to the Ctrl key. One small caveat: we found the default sensitivity of the touchpad to be almost unbearably sluggish, requiring us to make adjustments in the control panel.
The 13.3in widescreen display strikes a nice balance between size and portability. Image quality was above average, with reasonable levels of brightness and contrast. However, reflections became an issue under fluorescent lighting, as did attempting to view the screen from extreme angles. As such, the screen is really only suited to one viewer at a time.
Beneath its fancy hood, the S32 (BV13) sports a Core 2 Duo T7100 2GHz processor running on Centrino's Santa Rosa platform. Once again, BenQ has opted to eschew a dedicated GPU in favour of a shared graphics chip; in this case an Intel GMA X3100. This pretty much puts the S32 (BV13) out of contention as a gaming notebook, a fact made clear by its score of 4465 in 3D Mark 2001. Nevertheless, the unit will handle Vista's Aero interface and play movies without a hitch.
In our benchmark tests, the BenQ Joybook S32 (BV13) received an overall score of 68 in WorldBench 6. This indicates that the notebook is aimed at business users with a penchant for occasional entertainment. Day-to-day tasks such as Web surfing and word processing will pose no problems, while more graphics intensive applications (think multitasking in Photoshop) may slow down the machine.
For a budget notebook which is also comparatively lightweight, the Joybook S32 (BV13) has its fair share of components and features. Notable standouts include no less than four USB 2.0 ports, an ExpressCard slot, mini-FireWire port, and a built-in 1.3-megapixel webcam.
In our DVD rundown test, the S32 (BV13) lasted an impressive 126 minutes. This is more than enough time to get you through the majority of feature length movies; making this notebook a boon for travellers who frequently engage in long commutes.
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