The BenQ R43-PV03 has a lot going for it: it's inexpensive, ships with a dual-core CPU, and sports a good-looking 14.1in screen. At 2.3kg, it's also easy to carry, and a decent choice for anyone who wants a machine for school, work or home use.
It costs only $1249, but runs an Intel Core 2 Duo T7250 CPU, as well as 1GB of RAM and a 160GB, 5400rpm hard drive. These are more than decent specifications for multitasking, watching movies and working on photos or videos, even though its test results were underwhelming. In our WorldBench 6 benchmark, the Joybook scored 65, while in our MP3 encoding test, in which we convert 53min worth of WAV files to 192Kbps MP3s, it took 1min 45sec. Both of these results are slower than what we were expecting from a machine with a T7250 CPU; the MP3 test, in particular, is about 18sec off the time we expected.
Instead of using an Intel chipset, BenQ has built the R43-PV03 with a SiS M672 chipset, which also has an integrated SiS Mirage 3+ graphics adapter. You won't get any decent 3D performance out of it – as its score of 125 in 3DMark06 indicates – so gaming with this notebook is out of the question.
But don't let that put you off. The R43-PV03 is still great for running everyday productivity applications and photo editing software, plus it'll easily handle multitasking – you won't notice a slow-down while simultaneously browsing the Web, listening to music and working in an office document, for example.
Physically, the R43-PV03 is built well enough. It has a latch-less lid with strong hinges, which hold the screen in place even if the notebook is bumped. Meanwhile, it has a strong set of speakers, which provide loud and clear sound.
There are three USB 2.0 ports, D-Sub, microphone and headphone ports, 10/100 Ethernet and 56Kbps modem ports, as well as one ExpressCard slot. However, it doesn't have a FireWire port, so getting video off a camcorder could be a chore. Photos can be copied to the notebook through its 4-in-1 memory card slot, which can handle SD, xD, MMC and MS cards. For wireless connectivity, the unit has Bluetooth and 802.11b/g Wi-Fi, and these can be activated and deactivated through a simple key-stroke combination, rather than physical switches.
The keyboard is comfortable to type with, thanks to its full-sized keys. Only the arrow keys and the delete and function keys are slightly small. Navigation is by way of a touchpad; we just wish that the buttons for the touchpad were separated, as both the left and right buttons share the same physical button.
It's easy to work with this notebook while it's on your lap, and only the left-hand side gets a little warm when the notebook has been running for a while. A vent and fan extract warm air from the notebook's chassis; the fan's operation is audible, and could possibly be distracting if you use the notebook in silent environments.
Away from an outlet, the R43-PV03 will last 1hr 42min while running a DVD. It should last longer while running typical productivity applications and even longer if power management profiles are implemented.
For protecting your data, BenQ supplies its DataTrove software, which can be invoked during start-up by pressing the Alt and F10 keys. With this program, you can save images of your hard drive to an external hard drive, and easily restore it if anything ever goes wrong.
Some features that are missing from this notebook are a webcam, FireWire (as previously mentioned) and a PC Card slot. However, you can use the ExpressCard slot to plug in a FireWire card and other add-ons, such as a TV tuner or 3G data card.
Indeed, the lack of these features isn't enough to dampen our enthusiasm for this unit. It performed reasonably well, it's very well built, has a good screen, is easy to carry, and it will only cost you $1249. If you're after a budget notebook, the R43-PV03 is a valid contender.