Notebooks Guide

BenQ Joybook S41 review

BenQ Joybook S41 (Intel Santa Rosa)

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Black, Silver and Pokka Dots?

Black, Silver and Pokka Dots?

Those who have seen HP's recent notebooks with its Imprint technology will realize that notebooks nowadays are no longer just in boring black and silver. Patterns and other custom designs can be added underneath the surface thanks to an in-mold process that ensures the designs won't fade with time or get scratched. BenQ has something similar known as Laminated Color Technology (LCM) and this is showcased with the Joybook S41, which has a pattern of squares and circles that BenQ claims to be inspired by pop art. Well, we aren't art critics so while we vaguely know of such an art movement, we can't verify whether this design is representative.

What we do know is that an impromptu and unscientific poll of people who happened to get a glimpse of this design while it was being tested in our labs were unanimous in declaring it ugly. Comments of how the circles looked like water splotches were common. Perhaps we are all a bunch of philistines here but we have no doubts that there will be consumers out there who harbor similar sentiments. On the other hand, there are probably also some who favor such a design. The good news if you're in the former camp is that the design is only obvious up close. At a distance, the Joybook will just look like it's uniformly black, with a contrasting silver strip near the hinge. This is why you can't see that pattern in any of our photographs.

The interior is slightly better. The palm rest and the narrow strip above the keyboard is in brushed aluminum and it feels good; in fact, it looks rather classy. However, this effect is diminished somewhat by the screen, which is held in place by plastic looking silver hinges while surrounded by a border of grey plastic dotted liberally with rather ugly cushioning pads to protect the screen from the keyboard when the lid closed. In short, there seems to be three different color schemes here and although they were all in shades of grey or silver, it is still a mishmash of colors that did not exactly blend.

Now that we got past our dislike of its appearance, what did BenQ do well with the Joybook S41? The keyboard for one is admirably full sized and there is adequate spacing between the keys. The touch pad has a tactile feel and actually has some friction. The buttons are on the same level as the touch pad and users can simply glide their fingers to the buttons. A lack of any fingerprint sensor however points to its focus as a lifestyle and multi-purpose notebook rather than strictly for business.

The usual function keys for controlling volume and brightness are also present, along with two special quick access or shortcut keys to special features. One key activates BenQ's QShot feature and instantly takes screen shots of the desktop and still images if you're playing a movie. The other key turns on the SRS TruSurround XT audio feature that only manages to increase the volume of our movie somewhat, especially since with only two 1.5W speakers and no subwoofer to speak of, the audio on the Joybook S41 is only barely passable and not a strong point even with its TruSurround enhancement. The weak audio subsystem left us wanting audio like that of Acer's new Gemstone series of notebooks, so unfortunately one would have to resort to good headphones with the Joybook S41.

The BenQ Joybook S41 comes with a 14.1 widescreen display and a native resolution of 1280 x 800. It's also glossy and reflective, following a trend that we are not too enamored with, since in a well lighted environment, such screens simply reflect too much of the surrounding so if you need to watch movies or videos, turning off all the lights is necessary for optimal viewing. However, such glossy screens have their merits too such as the much more vibrant feel and better color representation. There's also the usual camera mounted at the top of the screen, a 1.3-megapixel version that's called the QEye and appropriate software is included to capture videos and images.