I first saw this new ToughBook back in September when Panasonic invited me out to its facility in Wales. Even now, this is still a pre-production unit, rather than a full retail sample, but it's pretty close to the final build. Like the ToughBook CF-W4 before it, the CF-W5 is an ultra-portable semi-rugged notebook - so you're not going to be throwing it onto the ground, standing on it and dousing it in water, like you would a ToughBook CF-29! But that's not what this little notebook is all about, the CF-W5 is designed to be thin, light and durable enough to withstand the daily grind.
Whether or not you're looking for a semi-rugged notebook, the CF-W5 is pretty appealing. Like its predecessors it looks quite stylish, finished in matt silver. The lid is ridged and constructed from magnesium alloy to afford some protection to the screen underneath it - the result is a slightly unusual, but nevertheless attractive look to the notebook when it's closed. Unlike the more serious ToughBooks, the ports and connectors are not protected by waterproof rubber bungs, but that's not really surprising for an ultra-portable machine that weighs less than 1.3kg.
Despite its svelte dimentions and light weight, the CF-W5 can still withstand a fall from 30cm. Obviously that doesn't mean that you can knock this machine off a tabletop and expect it to come out of the experience unscathed as you would a CF-29 or CF-18, but it does mean that when you unceremoneously throw it down on your desk, you're not going to cause any damage. Most important is that the hard disk is still protected, so you shouldn't lose any important data if you tend to be a bit rough with your laptops. So what you're getting with the CF-W5 is a notebook that can withstand a knock or two, but which won't weigh you down as a result.
Opening up the lid reveals a 12.1in screen with a resolution of 1,024 x 768. The resolution is a bit of a give away to the fact that the screen utilises a 4:3 aspect ratio, rather than the more common widescreen formats. This is a bit of a shame, since most ultra-portable notebooks these days will sport resolutions of 1,280 x 768 or 1,280 x 800, with the truly tiny Sony TX series machines sqeezing in 1,366 x 768 pixels. The result is that the CF-W5 not only lacks some desktop real estate compared to the competition, but it's also physically larger as a result of the traditional aspect ratio. To be fair, ToughBooks aren't what you'd refer to as consumer notebooks, and a number of manufacturers have told me that corporate users often prefer a 4:3 display rather than a widescreen one.