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BenQ Joybook R45
BenQ in India is a name that one normally associates with LCD panels and peripherals such as ODDs. Their presence in the laptop market, a very lucrative segment, in India is fairly limited with just the occasional 'Joybook' showing up in the public eye. One such laptop, the R45 was introduced earlier this year and is the product we are reviewing today.
At first glance it seems that BenQ has oddly borrowed style elements from its fierce rival Asus, when it comes to the styling of the R45. For starters like the Asus leather-bound series of laptops, it sports a leather–covered lid which makes the laptop look “pseudo-fashionable”. However unlike the ASUS products, the lid is the only place where the leather finishing is present. While this is a good touch it does kind of look odd, because the rest of the laptop’s styling is extremely generic, i.e. a dark silver matte finish for the keyboard and the standard black matte finish for the rest of the surface area of the laptop.
Being a 14.1 inch laptop, the R45 is a fairly stout laptop with dimensions of 340 x 246 x 27mm and its weight of 3 kilograms. Its physical construction is fairly sound, with the base material used in the manufacture being of a nice sturdy nature. The only downside here is that the hinges of the laptop are ordinary in their design and to our horror were emitting audible squeaks after just a couple of days of use. We hope this was a problem with our test piece and not an inherent design problem.
Moving on, the keyboard of the R45 is a fairly pleasant affair to work with. Though the keys are of a standard black matte finish, they are well spaced out and offer excellent feedback. Though they are not made to be soft to the touch, they feel very similar to them and hence offer a great typing experience. We spent a few hours on the laptop and did not suffer from the normal “broken hand syndrome” that many laptops can cause with badly designed keyboards. The touchpad of the R45 in a similar vein is well made. It is fairly large in size, allowing for easy mouse manipulation along with the single-tab oversized mouse button key.
The LCD panel of the R45 is a 14.1-inch affair with a native resolution of 1280x800. It supports BenQ’s UltraVivid technology, with DBEF (Display Brilliance Enhancement Film) technology, which is a whole lot of marketing speak for enhanced brightness, color and contrast levels. The technology certainly works as advertised as the LCD panel offers some very vivid colors, eye-splitting brightness and very good contrast ratios. There is however a direct fall-out of this. Any video stream that is not HD, immediately looks very bad and in case of low-scale video content like Youtube can make the video look so bad that it gets irritating very quickly.
Though virtually every laptop today comes with a webcam, the R45 deserves a special mention. It has a 2 MP Webcam that allows you to video conference very nicely, offering surprisingly sharp input and very little lag while streaming. Though the software provided with the laptop is as good as non-existent, the 2 MP webcam is great. Connectivity-wise the R45 is standard to other laptops in this range. It offers 4x USB, HDMI output, 1x VGA output, express-card slot, a Fire-wire slot and the standard assortment of RJ11/RJ45 jacks along with the microphone and headphone slots. It also comes with an inbuilt DVD super-drive and a 4-in-1 multiformat card reader.
The R45 test model we received was an entry-level affair. It had an Intel C2D T5750 processor clocked at 2 GHz, 1 GB of DDR2 RAM, a 250 GB 5400 RPM drive and its graphics were powered by an Nvidia GeForce 8400 series. These are some fairly dated specifications and this showed in our test results partly thanks to the paltry 1 GB of system RAM. We ran PCMark Vantage, PCMark 05 and 3DMark 06. The reason we are not able to deduce PCMark 05, is because it was a complete no-show as it kept crashing repeatedly. We ventured into trying out PCMark Vantage and it ran fine without any issues.
As you can see from the scores above, the low amount of system RAM affected the entire test resulting in very low scores. 3DMark 06 was also not very great achieving a total score of 1049. After seeing these abysmal scores, we had a chat with company representatives and though they mentioned the presence of a faster processor i.e. T8100 and 2 GB of RAM in the higher level models, we don’t expect the scores to significantly improve due to the demanding nature of the Windows Vista OS and the entry-level specifications of this notebook.
Our next test was the battery life of the R45. The test piece we received had a typical 6-cell affair, which ideally should be able to give 2 ½ hours of battery life. However the results we got were far from that. At a full-burn test, the battery of the laptop conked off in just over an hour and in power conservative mode, it lasted barely 1 ½ hours. This is not very good and despite every attempt on our part to tune the laptop for better battery management we were unable to cross the 1 ½ hour mark.
The R45 is a good notebook that is priced at a rather expensive Rs. 47,000. At its cost it begins to compete with the Dell Studio range, which with its superior specifications, better looks and overall far more competitive price are leagues ahead. Keeping these factors in mind, we can’t recommend this laptop at all.