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Panasonic ToughBook CF-W4 - Panasonic ToughBook CF-W4
One thing that has often plagued ultra-portable notebooks is noise. Many models that I've looked at may be almost invisible, but they're far from inaudible. Squeezing high-end components into a super-slim chassis can often result in noisy fans spinning up when you're pushing the hardware a bit. This however is not the case with the CF-W4 - this little beauty is completely passive, so there are no fans to spin up, no matter what you happen to be doing. If you've ever found yourself stuck in a hotel room late at night working, you'll know exactly why a totally silent notebook is a good thing.
The CF-W4 is finished in matt silver, and although you get a lot of silver notebooks these days, this one really does look a bit special. The magnesium alloy, reinforced lid gives this machine a unique look when it's closed, while highlights like the chrome silver lid release button and touchpad surround add to the stylish effect.
Opening the lid reveals a 12.1in TFT display in standard 4:3 format rather than the widescreen format that is becoming increasingly popular. The 1,024 x 768 resolution is nothing spectacular by today's standards, but pretty much every 4:3 aspect ratio screen of this size will be running the same resolution as this. Quality wise, this screen is as good as any I've seen - it doesn't have a high-contrast coating, but since ToughBooks are primarily aimed at business users that's not a huge surprise. To be honest, I really like high-contrast screens but I also know a lot of people who find them too distracting and reflective - it's a matter of personal preference.
When I reviewed the CF-W2 I was a little disappointed with the keyboard. I found that the whole keyboard flexed considerably when typing at speed, but thankfully the same can't be said of the CF-W4. I was able to hammer the keys on this machine without the slightest hint of flex rearing its head. That's not to say that this keyboard is perfect though - the travel on the keys is a little shallow and the actual key sizes are quite small. That said, with notebooks shrinking all the time, keys this size are no longer unusual and I found my hands becoming accustomed to the dimensions very quickly. One particular annoying aspect though, is the tiny Return key, while the reduced size Spacebar may also cause problems for some users.