The BenQ Joybook A53-BV09 finds itself outclassed by several of its competitors. Lacking the latest network connections and suffering from several usability issues, this device's only saving grace is a relatively large 160GB hard drive and a pleasing, simple design.
Featuring a 2.1GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T8100 CPU, this laptop should be tearing its way through our benchmarks. Unfortunately, because it only has 1GB of DDR2 RAM, 256MB of which is eaten up by the SiS Mirage 3+ integrated graphics component of the motherboard, a bottleneck is created that greatly reduces the system's speed.
The result is a WorldBench 6 score of 64, which will allow users to run basic office applications smoothly but prevents anything more intensive, such as video encoding, from being performed well. Our iTunes testing, where we convert 53min of WAV files into 192Kbps MP3s, returned a time of 1min 25sec, which is a few seconds slower than we were expecting.
Our 3DMark06 tests confirmed the lack of graphical grunt, with a score of 130. This means that the A53 will fail to play most modern titles, while even older games such as F.E.A.R. will not run properly.
Although the BenQ has an eye-pleasing design, it suffers from a number of usability issues. Despite the laptop having a full-sized keyboard that has excellent key responsiveness, the left shift key is strangely small. Where there is normally one large key that helps capitalise letters and select alternate symbols, BenQ has decided to split it into two separate keys— the second of which is inexplicably the backwards slash button.
Users will also be frustrated by the left- and right-click buttons being cut from the palm-rests: one side of each key is directly attached to the notebook's body. We found that this made left- and right-clicking more difficult.
The notebook's 15.4in screen has a native resolution of 1280x800 and displays images very well, but it suffers from a narrow vertical viewing angle. Movies are displayed with no artefacts, but the low level of RAM means that DVD watchers will experience intermittent dithering.
Although the unit is an entry-level device costing just $1199, several other models have shown that a wide range of features can be included, even at this price range. The Acer Extensa 5620Z-3A1G12Mi offers both an ExpressCard/54 and a type II PC card slot, and the BenQ Joybook R45 (PV-04) provides Gigabit Ethernet, FireWire connectivity and HDMI output.
This device, by comparison, has only three USB 2.0 ports, 802.11 b/g wireless and 10/100 LAN. Other expandability options such as the dual-layer DVD-RW, D-sub port, V92 modem, 4-in-1 card reader (SD, MMC, MS, MSPro), headphone port and microphone port can be found in almost every other notebook on the market.
The device weighs 2.5kg without the power supply and 3kg when packaged together, so it's suitable for use on the go. The battery lasted a sturdy 1hr 33min in our DVD rundown test, and good power management will see it run for longer.