I have no complaints with the keyboard, which can often be a point of issue even expensive machines, let alone budget ones. The full size chassis works in its favour here and the keyboard has a nice tactility to it, with acceptable travel on the keys. As per usual, the Fn and Ctrl keys are swapped, but this seems to be standard on the majority of laptops these days. This may be an issue if you’re used to using lots of keyboard shortcuts, but on the whole, it looks like something that notebook users will have to get used to.
Audio on the other hand, is of the usual laptop standard with tinny output and distortion at the top end. If you’re going to listen to a lot of music on this machine, my advice would be to buy a set of headphones.
As for benchmarking, the 5100U PM turned out to be a bit of a mixed bag. In terms of battery life BenQ quotes an extravagant six hours, but mobile mark turned in a very respectable performance score of 163 and a battery time of 271 minutes.
Calling into question BenQ’s ultra portable labelling once more is a disproportionately large power brick – one of the largest I have seen. It’s worth taking the size of the power supply into account if you’re intending to carry the BenQ around with you all day.
Windows based testing was more disappointing though. PCMark 2004 scored a fairly low 2361 overall with CPU, memory, graphics and the hard drive scoring 2820, 2011, 561 and 2186 respectively.
It was a similar story in SYSmark where scores of 166, 195 and 142 for Overall, Internet Content Creation and Office Productivity are again on the low side. Here it's clear that the older CPU and memory-sharing graphics chipset are holding the BenQ back, but even so I would have expected a couple of scores over 200. If you plan to stick to Windows based tasks, the 5100U PM should still be adequate for your needs - just don't expect it to rival your desktop for performance.
The price of £902.42 is pretty competitive, but not exactly stunning. There are much smaller and lighter machines like the Toshiba Portégé A100 available for less, while a similarly specced machine from Systemax won’t cost you much more, but will come with a better screen resolution. That’s not to say that the BenQ isn’t aggressively priced, because it is. But I would rather have paid a little bit more for the benefit of increased desktop real estate.
Whether you decide to go for the 5100U PM will depend on a number of factors: the disadvantage of the chassis size verses the bonus of the larger screen size, battery life verses performance. Unfortunately the large screen is offset by the low resolution, and although BenQ calls this an ultra portable notebook, the dimensions and the weight tell another story.
All that said, you are getting a decent amount of kit for your money, and it's not going to cost you anywhere near what an IBM ThinkPad would set you back. But, as always, you get what you pay for to a certain degree, and you're going to have to accept that BenQ has cut a few corners to achieve its low price point.
BenQ has produced a competent notebook at a good price. Everything about it – screen, keyboard, touchpad, specifications – is able rather than outstanding. It is a fair mobile workhorse, but the specification reflects the aggressive price.