I plug into everything like USB.
Posted: 15/08/2008 2:08 PM
In Australia, BenQ laptops have never been very popular. Marketed under their JoyBook moniker, they have often been given good reviews and their users tend to swear by it. However, even with all the positive reviews, and reasonable prices – their reception in Australia have been nothing but underwhelming.
This particular BenQ unit was introduced to the Australian market in mid-2006 to computer shop channels only. Not available via retail, and not having much advertising exposure – it remained a laptop targeted to enthusiast and savvy users. Priced at a worth $1499, it sports a Intel Centrino Duo T2300E (1.66Ghz), 512Mb RAM, 15.4” 16ms Glossy Wide LCD driven by the Intel GMA950 Integrated Graphics, 60Gb Hitachi HDD, Philips 8x DVD-Burner, Gigabit Ethernet, 4x USB2.0 ports, a Firewire 4-pin port, Expresscard Slot, Integrated Intel ABG Wireless, Integrated Modem, VGA and TV out, Optical, Headphone, Microphone and Digital Out and integrated SD/MMC and MS card reader. It was a considerably good proposition, counting that it ships standard with Microsoft Windows XP Home pre-installed and a 6-cell battery which lasts 3.5 hours.
While the look of the BenQ R55UV10 was not outstanding, it does present a rather different but subdued appearance. The top shell is sturdy and is made of a purpley dark glittery plastic which distinguishes it from the competition. The letters BenQ are on the shell in a chromed appearance – adding to its class. Inside, the trim around the keyboard is silver, surrounded by a purple shim with the touchpad nicely integrated into the colour scheme (glittery purple pad with silver buttons). High intensity blue status indicators are spread on the bottom corner and some are scattered above the hotkeys. Three hotkeys are provided, and besides that, nothing is out of the ordinary. On the underside, a small fan keeps the unit cool, all decked out in black plastic. Four rubber feet and some solid plastic props keep the laptop elevated and they are recessed deep into some ports to keep them from falling out.
The hinges are slightly different from the conventional design – hinging from the main body isn’t elevated but more so recessed – which limits the screen tilt backwards to about 120 degrees open. The hinge, however, feels sturdy but may be prone to snapping by people who are careless and try to open it all the way.
The laptop performs admirably, tearing through most tasks faster than most desktops which I had to compare to at that time. Windows loads quickly, and applications load fast. While 512Mb of memory is quite restrictive, upgrading memory is of little hassle and really allows this laptop to shine. While hooked into a large external monitor – it handles tasks like photoshop fairly well and I have no hesitation in commending its performance except when it comes to graphics.
Gamers will be very disappointed with the integrated graphics that comes with this laptop. There are other models based on the same chassis that feature the Nvidia Geforce 6 series mobility graphics chipsets – and that would be a much better option. While simple games run acceptably on the Intel GMA950, a lot of graphic detail is sacrificed and many buggy effects causing display corruption are bound to occur, especially if you are a fan of Colin McRae Rally and Need for Speed.
The keyboard is relatively close to full size, tactile feedback is good. The touchpad however, isn’t as good – while being large, the special design which doesn’t have a good edge leads to your finger sliding off the touchpad altogether which causes a little frustration while getting used to it. The buttons are stiff, noisy and cause distraction to people around me. The screen is nice and bright and sharp – and while I cannot verify the claims of a 16ms screen being any better than any other – it wasn’t bad at all. The inbuilt mic was clear, and the firewire and gigabit Ethernet a nice touch for those who want to edit videos. Wireless worked very well, with the antennas achieving an above par sensitivity compared to all the Ralink and Zydas based cards I’ve played with.
The other major criticism is of the speakers. The speakers are tinny. Worse actually. They sound like a mouse screaming at a can. It’s terrible. Nothing short of headphones will solve the problem – not even equalization. Definitely not good for watching movies on unless using external speakers or headphones. But then, the internal soundcard is also a bit noisy – and using an external one is by far your best bet.
Battery life is fairly good – at three and a half hours, it tends to be above par for a value laptop. However, the problem is – there’s no spare batteries available. It’s quite difficult to obtain any – and they are expensive. I was quoted about $200 for a spare battery which really sours up the deal if you need any more time away from the wall.
The laptop feels relatively sturdy at 2.8kg and is entirely solid. All the panels are well supported and it’s not really bendable at all. It doesn’t sit too well on your lap because of its awkward shape – but working on a desk – it doesn’t bend a lot with your palms sitting on the palm rest. It has travelled with me quite a few times and has been working flawlessly.
It has a two year warranty, which demonstrates their confidence in their products. In that time, I have not needed to use the warranty whatsoever. It is ideal for students and businessmen who need ultimate reliability.
Flawless is all I can say. Using relatively standard hardware inside, I’ve had no problems installing multiple flavours of linux, Windows Vista and also MacOSX onto it. It uses all standard parts, and if you are willing to void the warranty, virtually anything could be upgraded. The preinstalled version of Windows XP Home has only a few applications supplied by BenQ which control the hotkeys and make media easier to access. I personally do not find much use for them, but it’s rather easy to uninstall and or ignore. Everything works out of the box … and there is no real problems of note.
Overall, I have nothing less than praise for this laptop. While having no frills in terms of the hardware, the laptop sports a price which is fairly easy on the pocket and gives a fair mix of performance and looks for price. It truly escapes me how such a laptop could prove to be unpopular as it’s been a gem.