Panasonic Toughbook CF-W8 - Review

We take a look at a preproduction sample of Panasonic's Centrino 2 based 'business ruggedised' Toughbook CF-W8.

Panasonic isn't like most laptop manufacturers. Its machines don't even try to compete with the rest of the horde, and it would never be so low brow as to offer a pure consumer laptop. Instead its ToughBooks are designed for those who want reliability, good battery life and of course real toughness in a small and light package.

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A few months ago IT PRO was privileged enough to be invited to Japan to visit Pananonic's ToughBook factory in Osaka, Japanto see how its notebooks were put together. It was a fascinating insight into high level manufacturing and we got to play and touch its latest 8-series line of products .

On our return we got a chance to have an extended look at the CF-W8, its executive product that offers semi-rugged protection, which is still more than most business notebook. The unit we were sent was preproduction and as of writing the price isn't confirmed, though the fact that its predecessor, the CF-W7 cost around 1,500 should be used as a guide price.

Of course one of the downsides of being very tough is that you're unlikely to be pretty too. Panasonic's Toughbooks aren't exactly known for their good looks, so to say that the CF-W8 isn't the most stylish laptop around isn't much of a surprise. The lid extends with a huge silver bulge, the bottom is covered with numerous covers and screws, and the rest of the chassis is decorated with protruding lumps of plastic.

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It's all there for good reason, though the CF-W8 falls into the Business Ruggedised' area of Panasonic's Toughbooks, which means that three of the main key areas the screen, hard disk and keyboard are, in theory, protected. This tripled-pronged protection tackles safe-guarding your laptop in numerous ways: the 12.1in TFT screen is held in a magnesium alloy chassis which can withstand pressures of up to 100kg. The hard disk is also protected by magnesium this time, it's in a small chassis with four pressure-sensing absorbing pads that can detect and withstand shock in the event of the CF-W8 being dropped.

The final element of protection focuses on the keyboard it's designed to withstand a 200ml soaking, with every drop of liquid able to filter out through drainage channels, leaving the electronics intact.

In Japan we saw ToughBooks being subjected to prolonged spraying with water and surviving, so we're inclined to believe its claims. Panasonic also claims that the machine can be dropped without incident from a height of 76cm just over of a metre and we found no reason to doubt these claims several drop-tests from heights at the limit found that the CF-W8 shrugged them off with little fuss. A fully ruggedised Toughbook would offer even more protection, but this should be more than enough for all but the most demanding of users.

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