So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
BenQ Australia Joybook S32B (BV14)
- Attractive design, solid battery life, improved touchpad, good specifications for the price
- Integrated graphics chip, restrictive viewing angle
Apart from its redesigned lid, the BenQ Joybook S32B (BV14) is virtually indistinguishable from the the previous S32 iteration. It will suit both business and casual users looking for an affordable notebook for undemanding applications.
Price$ 1,499.00 (AUD)
At the end of last year, we reviewed BenQ's Joybook S32 (BV13), an all-purpose notebook that offered an adequate performance across the board. It neither wowed nor disappointed us during the testing process, but remained a reasonably balanced computer for the asking price. As you've probably guessed from its identikit name, the Joybook S32B (BV14) is a nominal upgrade cut from the same vanilla cloth. If you're after an affordable notebook that can handle a few business applications, as well as your basic entertainment needs, the (BV14) is unlikely to disappoint – just don't expect to have your socks blown off by what it offers.
The S32B (BV14) sports a Core 2 Duo T7250 2GHz processor running on Centrino's Santa Rosa platform (up from the (BV14)'s T7100 CPU). While the inclusion of 1GB of DDR2 RAM may seem a bit on the spare side, this can be upgraded to a maximum of 3GB to ensure a zippier ride. Once again, BenQ has opted for an Intel GMA GM965 shared graphics chip, as opposed to a dedicated GPU. This pretty much puts the S32B (BV14) out of contention as a gaming notebook, a fact made clear by its score of 319 in 3D Mark06. Older games should pose no problem however, with 3DMark 2001 returning a semi-decent result of 2558. (It will also handle Vista's complex Aero interface without a hitch.)
Curiously, when we ran our Workbench 6 application, which assesses a notebook's processing speed and overall performance, the S32B (BV14) failed to fully complete the test. This is even more baffling when you consider that the earlier BV13 model managed this feat on its first attempt (albeit with a rather average score of 68). Regardless of this fact, the BV14 will ably handle most day-to-day tasks, such as Web surfing, word processing and DVD playback. More taxing applications, such as video editing or intensive multitasking, may slow down the machine however. This indicates that the (BV14) is aimed at business users with a penchant for occasional entertainment, a fact bolstered by its unfussy, professional appearance.
Indeed, when it comes to design, the Joybook S32B (BV14) strikes the perfect balance between flashy good looks and stylish understatement. The black lid sports a striking pop art influenced pattern that is nevertheless quite subtle. It lends the notebook a sense of 'cool' that is hard to pin down; a bit like that quiet, lanky kid in high school who inexpiably got all the girls (You know the type we're talking about. They usually wear hats at jaunty angles).
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 (334x227.5x30mm), though the location of the Fn key may cause initial frustration due to its close proximity to the Ctrl key. The ripple-textured touchpad was pleasantly responsive, suffering from none of the sluggishness that we criticised the (BV13) for.
We found the 13.3in widescreen display to be equally attractive, combining size and portability to handsome effect. Image quality was above average, with its native resolution of 1280x800 offering good levels of brightness and contrast. However, reflections became an issue under fluorescent lighting, despite BenQ's much touted 'low-reflectivity' anti-glare coating. Attempting to view the screen from unconventional angles also proved problematic. As such, the display is really only suited to one viewer at a time.
For a budget notebook which is also comparatively lightweight, the Joybook S32VB (BV14) has its fair share of components and features. Notable standouts include no less than four USB 2.0 ports, an ExpressCard slot, a mini-FireWire port, plus a built-in microphone and 1.3-megapixel webcam. In our DVD rundown test, the notebook's battery lasted an impressive 134 minutes. This is more than enough time to get you through the majority of feature length movies; making the (BV14) a boon for travellers who frequently engage in long commutes.
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