Finding Joy in a Netbook
By Andy Sim
It's getting harder to differentiate the netbooks from conventional laptops with the former growing in size by the day. A number of PC vendors have already buffed up the dimensions of their netbooks to give consumers more screen estate. This has unwittingly blurred the lines between the two.
In fact, based on some of their recent offerings, Acer and ASUS have already landed in the 11.6-inch territory. Next in line would be BenQ's successor to the U101, the 11.6-inch Joybook Lite U121 Eco netbook.
It's Purely Physical
Playing the green card is trendy among manufacturers now and BenQ feels that the U121 deserves a special Eco tag mainly for its power-saving LED display, Atom processor and eco-friendly recycled packaging.
Physically, compared to the Joybook Lite U101, minor modifications were made to the glossy finish although the Joybook's lid is noticeably slimmer this time. BenQ will be retailing the U121 in either blue or white with a metallic-grey base. In terms of its build quality, the U121 retains a solid heft with little flex detected for the cover and wrist rest.
Noticeably, most of the changes are impressed onto the interior instead. With the U121, BenQ has relocated all the LED indicators to the front lip. At 1.45kg, the netbook is also relatively light considering its larger mass and 6-cell battery.
Naturally, the U121's keys have a larger pitch compared to the 10.1-inch U101. They were comfortable to type on and thankfully, the 'tab' key has been resized wider than before. However, we did notice a few odd placements. For example, we found a Euro and Dollar key situated around the arrow keys. This is rather uncommon even for netbooks.
Another laudable feature of the U121 can be found in its responsive trackpad. It might not support multi-touch, but it definitely made for fast navigation. If you're looking for a bright 16:9 display, then perhaps the 200nits specification would make a fine option although you'd have to contend with a reflective screen. Horizontal viewing angles are good up to 70 degrees off the center axis.
The Joybook Lite has a typical connection suite not unlike its rivals. Expect three USB ports, a VGA port, and a 4-in-1 card reader. Moving on to one of the selling points of the U121, its quick charge feature, also known as Q-charge. BenQ claims that a single-hour charge should be enough to juice the battery up to 80%. We tried this out for ourselves and it turned out to be true.
A Joyful Performance
Evidently, the most impressive attribute about the U121 has to be its battery life. We looped a video clip on the netbook to stress its battery pack, and it only fizzled out after an enduring 635 minutes. That's over five hours of mileage you're looking at.
This Joybook is fitted with an Intel Atom Z530 1.6GHz processor, 1GB of RAM and includes the GMA 500 integrated graphics. This setup yielded a typical system score of 1,329 PCMarks. More importantly, the system was zippy enough for the basic usage expected from a netbook, like surfing the net.
Finally, like its U101 predecessor, BenQ's latest netbook also packs a wallop in the audio department. Never mind its SRS TruSurround HD features, for its sound is decently clean and it's most definitely loud and punchy. With a rather economical price of S$899, it looks like BenQ has covered most of the angles right this time.