The JoyBook 8000 marks the first attempt by BenQ to enter what some might argue is a crowded notebook market. BenQ's stance on the JoyBook is different from other notebook manufacturers though, as it won't be selling the JoyBook as 'just another notebook', but will instead market it totally as a digital lifestyle product. An immediate assumption is that this ploy is designed to obfuscate shortcomings in the hardware, but this simply is not the case as the JoyBook 8000 has a lot going for it.
So while magazines like PC Authority will be digging into the product and discussing its speeds and specifications, BenQ will be focusing its marketing campaigns more on what you can do with the JoyBook rather than what it has. It's a tactic we've grown accustomed to with Apple over the years, and in another similarity with Apple, this philosophy has spilled over into the JoyBook's design.
Immediately apparent, aside from the humongous screen (more of that later), is the detail taken with the ports, buttons and layout.
In keeping with the upcoming marketing philosophy, it looks straight-out-of-the-box like a 'book for doing things with.
The main part of the JoyBook's appeal is its large widescreen display. This 15.2in LCD supports a maximum native resolution of 1,280 x 854 and displays in a 15:10 aspect ratio. This is almost 16:9, but still fantastic to watch DVD movies on. The unit comes with a GeForce4 440 Go graphics chip which is good for gaming, and also features S-Video and digital optical outputs for hooking it into other equipment. The JoyBook 8000 also comes with a DVD/CD-RW combo drive, with a slot-loading front which adds nicely to the unit's aesthetic appeal.
One of the more notable design inclusions is a panel on the front lip of the unit with controls for the CD drive, including play, skip, volume controls plus 3.5mm audio in and out ports. With the JoyBook powered down and the screen closed, you can use these buttons to play audio CDs without needing to boot up the notebook, which is a nice inclusion.
The JoyBook 8000 also features generous USB 2.0 ports (four in total) plus two FireWire ports, and a type II PCMCIA slot. This is a lot more than other notebooks designed around a 'digital lifestyle' feature.
Although we've listed the specifications of this review model, please note that this is a pre-production preview JoyBook 8000 – one of only two in the country – and that the specifications may change with the final shipping models. These changes may even affect the type and number of ports, but expect at least two FireWire and two USB 2.0 ports, which are still more than adequate.
Internally, the JoyBook 8000 comes with a 1.8GHz Pentium 4-M, 256MB of SDRAM and a 30GB hard drive. These are respectable base specifications (again, subject to change), and are capable of handling most tasks you'll throw at them, such as DV editing and gaming.
The only sticking point is that a larger hard drive would be preferable if you do intend to use the JoyBook for editing hours of DV footage.
We were also unable to fully benchmark the unit as it was a little bruised and battered from its earlier life shuttling around boardrooms in Asia, particularly with its demonstration build, but we were able to return some preliminary graphics scores, with 3,886 in 3DMark2001 SE and 80.1fps in Quake 3: Arena. These are not the highest scores we've ever seen, but we're reserving our judgment until we review a full production unit.
This JoyBook 8000's build quality was extremely good, with a solid and cool magnesium alloy body and screen backing, which we feel could take the occasional bump with ease.
All up it's a great notebook, gorgeous both in design and to look at in every way, the only potential hitch is the final pricing: at the time of writing it was estimated to cost anywhere between $4,000-5,000, but this will totally depend on the final specifications and market when it's released.