It would seem almost blasphemous, given the current trends, for BenQ to release its new Joybook S32W (PV14) without first re-inventing the Joybook image from scratch. While it may not be a hotrod of the notebook scene, the S32W makes up in style what it lacks in power, and this 13.3in-screen form factor is slowly becoming the new black of portable notebook design.
- SRS audio, Design
- Screen's viewing angle, Internal speakers
We like the new look and it's a reasonable performer, but we were disappointed by the speakers and the poor viewing angle on the screen. Ultimately this notebook is pleasant to use, but leaves you wondering what more it could have offered.
Price$ 1,899.00 (AUD)
That said there's nothing black about the Joybook S32W itself. The white theme of the lid and bottom is carried through to the keyboard, which is composed of white, semi-transparent keys and the surrounding area is also a clean white. Its white touchpad even sports a funky wave pattern.
The S32W uses a new Core 2 Duo T7250 2.0GHz mid-range CPU with an 800MHz front side bus and a 2MB L2 cache from Intel's latest Centrino platform, but was let down in our benchmarks by only 1GB of DDR2 RAM. BenQ has opted to use the onboard Intel graphics chip instead of installing a dedicated graphics card from NVIDIA or ATI. Gamers won't get much use out of the S32W, but the Intel X3100 graphics processor is fine for watching movies and handles the Windows Vista Aero interface well. Windows Vista Home Premium edition has been installed in this model.
Also on offer is a 1.3 megapixel Webcam, SRS virtual surround sound and a screen capture button above the keyboard. A 120GB hard drive is included along with a DVD re-writer for additional storage. The speakers offer a limited volume range, but the SRS feature gives them a little boost. The audio is far from crisp but will suffice for the basics. We did note that using SRS when the S32W was connected to a home theatre gave a much bigger and fuller sound. This makes a large difference when you want to use the notebook as a media player in conjunction with your TV or sound system.
The screen has a maximum resolution of 1280 x 800 and offers reasonable brightness and contrast, but we were a little disappointed by the poor viewing angle. Viewing the screen from sharp vertical angles or from the side becomes difficult. In particular, watching movies with more than one viewer isn't a comfortable experience. It's a common problem with budget and mid-range notebooks, so it was to be expected, however, that doesn't make it any less irritating.
In our benchmarks it didn't stand out of the crowd, but still showed promise, scoring 65 in WorldBench 6. With this result we'd expect it to work comfortably for most day-to-day tasks like emailing and word processing, Web surfing and a bunch of media related tasks, but applications like Adobe Photoshop may not run as smoothly. However, the 2.0GHz processor is a reasonable piece of hardware and we feel that a 1GB RAM upgrade would improve the unit's performance - should you need it in the future.
This was made clearer by our MP3 encoding tests, in which the CPU performed reasonably well. The S32W took just 87 seconds to convert 53 minutes of WAV files to 192Kbps MP3 files in iTunes and 130 seconds in Cdex; both scores are a step above the last generation of CPUs.
In our DVD rundown test the S32W lasted a solid 117 minutes. This test involves draining the battery by looping a DVD and we consider it a worst case scenario because the optical drive and speakers are also draining power. As such the system should last considerably longer under normal circumstances.
Although a lot of notebooks below the 14in mark now have only three USB ports, the BenQ Joybook S32W offers a full set of four USB 2.0 ports, as well as a mini FireWire port and an Express Card slot. Video output can be done via a VGA port, or if you're outputting to a TV there's an S-Video port. A 56k modem is installed as is Bluetooth 2.0, a gigabit Ethernet port and Wi-Fi 802.11 a/g/e and draft-n. A media card reader is installed, supporting SD, MMC,MS, MS-Pro and xD cards.
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