BenQ Australia Joybook S42-PE01

A well-balanced mid-range choice.

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BenQ Australia Joybook S42-PE01
  • BenQ Australia Joybook S42-PE01
  • BenQ Australia Joybook S42-PE01
  • BenQ Australia Joybook S42-PE01
  • Expert Rating

    3.75 / 5

Pros

  • Wide variety of ports, good value, nice design

Cons

  • No e-SATA, low battery life, function key is where control key should be, left- and right-click button not separate.

Bottom Line

If you can't fork out the extra $500 for the fully featured ASUS F8Va and still want decent performance in an attractive design then the BenQ Joybook S42-PE01 is worth looking at. It might not have all the bells and whistles, but for this price point it certainly has a lot.

Would you buy this?

BenQ notebooks have usually been quite attractive to look at. From the Joybook S32B (BV14) to the Joybook R45 (PV-04), its laptops may have occasionally lacked substance but they do maintain a strong sense of style. However, as other notebook vendors step up their game in the design stakes, BenQ has had to notch up its performance to stay competitive — something it has largely achieved with the Joybook S42-PE01.

When first checking out the device, we quickly noticed the pleasant floral pattern that adorns the cover. It's a design that stands out without being loud. Happily, the BenQ comes with the hardware goods needed to complete the package. Lifting the lid reveals a 14.1in screen with a native resolution of 1280x800. Although it suffers from some reflectivity and viewing angle issues, colours are reproduced brilliantly and movies are displayed with good contrast levels.

Below the display is a full-sized keyboard that is almost perfect — the exception is an especially annoying function key in the lower-left corner. With an ever-decreasing number of notebooks choosing to put a key where the key should be, BenQ stands out as one of the few vendors that forces this inconvenience upon users. Although it sounds like a minor issue, it affects so many actions in so many programs that the decision to continue the current format is inexplicable.

Fortunately the ease of typing with the keyboard largely appeased us; we were also pleased with the traction of the touchpad. However, the single piece of metal that acts as both the left- and right-click buttons was problematic. The result is a higher-than-usual rate of mistaken clicking that would be easy to avoid by properly marking the two buttons out.

Under the bonnet is one of Intel’s latest processors: the 2.26GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P8400. This, along with the 2GB of DDR2 RAM and a 320GB hard drive that spins at 5400rpm, provides the core of the system. Despite being optimised for a Centrino 2 setup, the P8400 is slightly disappointing in terms of performance.

In our iTunes testing, where we convert 53min of WAV files into 192Kbps MP3s to test the speed of the CPU, the Joybook returned a time of 1min 19sec. This isn’t a terrible time in its own right, but it is slow when compared to other laptops with a similar price tag, such as the ASUS F8Va.

The hardware’s generally good performance was shown by our WorldBench 6 test result of 90, which translates into an ability to perform all office tasks and most hardware-intensive tasks without too many problems.

More impressive, however, was the 3DMark 06 score of 5618. Although we’ve always known that the NVIDIA GeForce 9600M GT is a good GPU, this score is better than the ones we’ve seen in other devices with the same card, such as the Toshiba Qosmio F50 (PQF55A-01L021).

A useful feature provided by the S42-PE01 is the energy saving function key that actually disables the graphics card and uses the integrated graphics provided by the motherboard instead. The need for this ability was shown by the results of our DVD rundown test. The BenQ only managed a fairly disappointing time of 1hr 18min, but using more efficient power profiles and power saving functions should see the unit last longer.

The S42-PE01’s weight of 2.85kg means that it is a little bit heavier than we’d like for a device of this size. Most users will still be able to cart the Joybook around without attending extra gym sessions first, however.

BenQ’s characteristic connectivity is present, with four USB 2.0 ports and FireWire S400, D-sub and HDMI ports. A dual-layer DVD-RW is built-in, and the ExpressCard/54 slot and the 4-in-1 card reader (SD, MMC, MS, MSPro) are welcome features. We’d like to see BenQ jump on board the e-SATA port bandwagon (most mid-range notebooks come bundled with this fast connection), but sadly it’s not the case here.

When it comes to networking, the S42-PE01 offers Gigabit Ethernet and 802.11n wireless connectivity, as well as a dial-up modem.

Struggling for Christmas presents this year? Check out our Christmas Gift Guide for some top tech suggestions and more.

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