The CF-W5 is the baby of Panasonic’s Toughbook range, a thin (268 x 210 x 44mm), ultra-portable laptop weighing in at a very creditable 1.4kg including the power adapter, but the protection comes at a price.
Part of Panasonic’s business rugged range of notebooks, the Toughbook CF-W5 can withstand a drop of 30cm without it suffering any ill effect. Mind you, if you buy any decent notebook in the CF-W5′s price range these days and it doesn’t survive a drop like that then there is something wrong, but to give Panasonic its due, not many are this small and thin.
Style-wise it looks quite industrial, but in a good way. Finished in metallic silver the wrist pads have a corrugated finish, which sounds odd but makes the Toughbook CF-W5 stand out from the crowd, as does the ridged magnesium alloy lid. The keyboard has small keys which take a bit of getting used to, but the keys are well made and responsive, as is the oddly circular touch-pad.
Powering the CF-W5 is an Intel Core Solo U1400, an ultra-low voltage CPU running at 1.2GHz, which uses just 5.5W of power when running at full throttle. All of which means that although the CF-W5 won’t move the earth with its performance, its battery life is stunning – of which more later.
Backing up the CPU is just 512MB of DDR2 memory, half of what you normally find as standard in a notebook these days, but there is a spare SO-DIMM slot so you could add up to a gigabyte of extra memory. It might be a wise idea to invest in extra memory as the integrated Intel graphics can swallow up to 128MB of system memory, so the more the better.
Although the Toughbook CF-W5 has badges on it telling you it has an optical drive, it takes a minute or two to realise where it is housed. Flicking the eject button on the front of the chassis opens up the whole right-hand side of the wrist pad to reveal a top-loading, dual format DVD burner – very clever, and a trick that Panasonic has used in some previous Toughbook models.
You’ll be needing this optical drive to keep the hard drive free of clutter, as the CF-W5 only has a 60GB disk, which is perhaps a bit mean in this day and age. The 12.1-inch screen is also a little disappointing as its uses a standard 4:3 aspect ratio, not a widescreen format like many of its ultraportable competitors, so its native resolution of 1,024 x 768 pixels looks a little short of working area in comparison.
Back to the battery life of the CF-W5. As standard it comes with a 5,200mAh battery and, aided by the low-power CPU, it has some stunning battery figures; five hours while watching DVDs and a whisker under seven hours when using it for normal office work. Very impressive. If you want to use it on a journey to read an e-book then you will almost be able get through War and Peace, as it offers just under eight hours of life in this mode.
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