Bargain hunters will find lots to like about BenQ's latest entry-level notebook, including a stylish finish and generous features for the price.
Style isn’t something you see a lot of at the value end of the market, but the Joybook R45 puts in a decent effort for the money. Emulating the look of a leather-bound portfolio, its lid is covered in a brown faux-leather material that’s classy without being over the top. There are also nice touches inside like an aluminium button panel, glowing orange outlines around the power and wireless buttons, and a decorative red stripe above the keyboard. It looks better closed than it does open, though – the silver paint around the keyboard and wrist-rest area clashes with the rest of the colour scheme and cheapens the overall look.
Included features are impressive at this pricepoint. Sitting in the engineroom is a 2.1GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T8100 processor, 1GB of DDR2 667MHz RAM (expandable to 4GB), 160GB 5,400rpm hard drive and Nvidia GeForce 8400M G graphics with 128MB of memory. This pulled in a solid performance in PCMark05 with a score of 4595, making the R45 a great machine for general productivity tasks. 3D graphics are slightly better than what you’d get with an integrated chip, but the score of 1094 in 3DMark06 means it’s not up to the task for any graphically intensive games.
As a day-to-day machine, the R45 comes well-equipped, with a large 14.1in display and full-sized keyboard. The screen has a 1280 x 800-pixel resolution that’s easy on the eyes, and the ‘Display Brilliance Enhancement Film’ coating doesn’t reflect glare excessively like other glossy screens. The keyboard is comfortable to type on for the most part, although the larger keys like Enter, Caps Lock and the space bar are rattly and make a lot of noise when you press them. Another gripe is the mouse buttons: BenQ has opted for a single button that’s split in two underneath for left and right mouse clicks, and both sides are too stiff to use comfortably.
The R45 doesn’t skimp when it comes to connectivity: the left side houses HDMI and two USB 2.0 ports, as well as a four-in-one memory card reader and ExpressCard slot, the right side features headphone and microphone jacks, FireWire, DVD SuperMulti drive and two USB ports, and the rear rounds it out with VGA, Gigabit Ethernet and modem ports. As for wireless, the R45 is behind the curve with support for 802.11b/g Wi-Fi only. Other features include Bluetooth 2.0 + EDR, a two-megapixel webcam and an integrated microphone for VoIP calls.
Entry-level notebooks usually ship with either the bare minimum of extra applications or are crammed with bloatware, but the Joybook R45 sits happily between the two extremes. ArcSoft WebCam Companion 2 and ArcSoft Magic i-Visual Effects are preloaded for use with the webcam, CyberLink Power2Go and CyberLink PowerDVD are on-board for playing and burning DVDs, and there are time-limited trials of Microsoft Office 2007 and Trend Micro AntiVirus 2007. BenQ also throws in Q-MediaBar2, but its name is misleading; rather than function as a multimedia front-end, it’s simply a launcher that sits on the desktop with a carousel of 3D shortcuts for applications including Internet Explorer, email, WebCam Companion and PowerDVD – a function that’s better served by simply putting shortcuts on the desktop.
The R45 ships with a 4,800mAh 6-cell battery that sits flush with the bottom but extends slightly out from the rear. Using our DVD run-down test, with all power saving and wireless features off and screen set to 40% brightness, the notebook ran for one hour and 45 minutes before shutting down, which is short even by entry-level notebook standards. For regular use without Wi-Fi switched on, this could probably be extended to around three hours.