Panasonic – Toughbook CF-F9 review

14.1in rugged lightweight notebook
Photo of Panasonic – Toughbook CF-F9
£1,742 + VAT

When the going gets tough, the professional businessman gets a Panasonic Toughbook laptop. And by doing so, he’ll ensure that none of his precious data is likely to be damaged in transit, that battery life can be extended well beyond the norm and Internet connectivity can be effortlessly maintained.

New name, same toughness
Unsurprisingly, the CF-F9 is an update of Panasonic’s Toughbook CF-F8 that’s been carried out with the aim of ensuring the three tenets above remain at the centre of its design. Initially you might think nothing has changed – you still have a textured matt black lid with a sturdy silver magnesium alloy case that is capable of withstanding a distributed pressure of up to 100kgf (that’s 100kg, accelerated at the forced of gravity). Panasonic has also retained the extremely practical – and chic – built-in carrying handle, which does away with the need for a separate bag for transportation.

You’d normally expect a rugged machine like this to weigh considerably more than your average notebook but the CF-F8 was just 1660g . The CF-F9 manages to reduce this still further, to an astonishing 1620g, making it the lightest 14.1in notebook on the market. The base layout is also the same as its predecessor, with a large circular touchpad in the centre and a flip-up DVD Super Multi Drive to the right, leaving a square hand-resting area to the left.

The keyboard is full-size (minus a number pad) and cream-coloured, in the much favoured chiclet style. The keys respond swiftly and firmly. One of the benefits of the Touchbook protection system is the fact that a full 200ml glass of liquid can be poured over the laptop’s keyboard and touchpad without damaging the electrics, as the water drains away via pre-cut channels. The whole notebook is also shockproof from a height of up to 76m and the hard drive (which has been expanded from the CF-F8′s 250GB to 320GB) has also been packed inside special shock-absorbing pads.

Well connected
The CF-F9 has many of the usual notebook connections, including three USB 2.0 ports and VGA, plus headphone and microphone jacks, yet there’s only a single SD/SDHC memory card reader, rather than a 5-in-1.

Another notable absence is an HDMI display port – but you do have a PC Card expansion slot as well as a Mini Port Replicator, LAN and Modem. The 14.1in colour LCD display has been beefed up from the previous model’s 1280×800 resolution to 1440 x 900, thus providing better defined and brighter pictures.

Under the hood
The processor performance has also improved markedly, with the CF-F8′s Intel Core 2 Duo SP9400 replaced with an Intel Core i5-520M clocked at 2.4GHz, paired with 2GB DDR3 SDRAM. Multi-tasking is thus relatively painless.

The integrated Intel GMA HD graphics, on the other hand, only has 256MB of memory – enough to make movies and presentations look good, but not enough to run anything more than basic games. Sound, too, is definitely nothing to write home about, being classically tinny – maybe some surround sound next time chaps?

Keeps on running
There are no disappointments, however, when it comes to the battery life. This has been extended from six hours to seven, and Panasonic’s proprietary Power Management system encourages ecological-minded energy use. Maintaining online connection is another pillar of the Touchbook range, why has led to the existing wi-fi and Bluetooth connectivity has been enhanced by Gobi 2000 mobile broadband technology, so sending those important documents via e-mail should never be a problem…

Company: Panasonic

Contact: 0844 844 3852

The Toughbook CF-F9 has definitely made significant improvements in ruggedness, CPU performance, battery life and connectivity over its predecessor = though some may find the hefty price tag off-putting in the face of less rugged rivals. For those who need this level of toughness, though, there's really nothing to match it.