The adjective ‘sexy’ is usually reserved for supermodels, film stars and, occasionally, cars. To call a notebook sexy is, you’d have thought, taking things a little too far. But then, this is no ordinary notebook. The Panasonic ToughBook 71 has been designed to be a little more durable than the average plastic laptop. Intended for the large number of business users who rely on their portable computers and need them to survive the occasional knock, drop and coffee spill, the ToughBook 71 has several unusual features.
First, there’s the case, which is made from magnesium alloy. Although light, this is (according to Panasonic) 20 times stronger than the ABS plastic used in the construction of most notebook PCs. That helps to protect the LCD panel and the internal components from the stresses of everyday life. Such as having a reclining aircraft seat smashing into it. Then there’s the keyboard and touchpad mouse, which are both water resistant to cope with the occasional coffee spill. Finally, the protection extends to the 4GB hard drive, which is mounted in a polymer gel to prevent shock or vibration damage.
On the practical front, this notebook is based on a 266MHz Pentium II processor, with 32MB of memory that can be upgraded to a maximum of 160MB. There’s a 2MB graphics adapter driving the 12.1-inch TFT LCD panel, the latter capable of a top resolution of 800 x 600. It’s pretty bright, too, so using it in daylight is not much of a problem. In standard form, the ToughBook 71 is equipped with a 1.44MB floppy drive but no CDROM drive. You have to pay extra for that, but it can be conveniently used in place of the floppy drive while you’re out on your travels. To use both together, you’ll have to plug the floppy drive in externally, using the appropriate cable.
Love ‘em or loathe ‘em, touchpads are here to stay, and the ToughBook’s is a pretty good example of the breed. It’s reasonably sensitive, has a couple of buttons at the front and can even be used for capturing signatures using a pen. The keyboard is mostly full-sized and has a light feel that will appeal to touch-typists but not to the more heavy-fingered. Because the ToughBook 71 doesn’t need a separate carry case, there’s a strong metal handle built into the front. The whole package is backed by a three year parts and labour warranty.
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