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I spent last week out in Japan at Panasonic’s ToughBook facility. It was a good opportunity for me to witness first hand just how much R&D and testing is done before a ToughBook hits a customer’s desk. It’s quite scary how much punishment the fully rugged ToughBooks have to go through, but the semi-rugged machines aren’t pushed quite so hard, and it’s one of those that I’m looking at right now.
I reviewed the ToughBook CF-W5 a little while ago, which was the latest in a long line of W series machines with 12.1in screens and a 1,024 x 768 resolution. But the CF-Y5 is a different beast, with a slightly larger 14.1in screen running a far more appealing 1,400 x 1,050 resolution. Despite the extra physical dimensions, the CF-Y5 still looks and feels quite svelte, which is what you want from a notebook that you’ll be carrying around with you every day.
Along with the CF-Y5 comes new branding from Panasonic. No longer are these semi-rugged notebooks called ToughBook Light models, they now come under the new ToughBook Executive moniker. With the ToughBook Executive line, Panasonic is trying to grab customers who are looking for notebooks that are thin and light, but don’t compromise build quality. Obviously these machines aren’t near indestructible, like the fully rugged CF-19 that I reviewed a few weeks ago, but they’re definitely tougher than the average notebook.
Despite the fact that I’m a fan of small and light notebooks, I find the extra physical size that the CF-Y5 offers over the CF-W5 a welcome addition. In my reviews of both the CF-W5 and the CF-W4 before it, I mentioned that 1,024 x 768 is a slightly disappointing resolution for a notebook these days, and I have to say that the extra desktop real estate offered by the CF-Y5 makes a world of difference. One of the reasons that the W series notebooks have lagged behind in terms of screen resolution is Panasonic’s reluctance to switch to a widescreen aspect ratio – a 12.1in widescreen display tends of offer considerably more desktop real estate at 1,280 x 800. I asked the engineers in Japan why the ToughBooks haven’t gone widescreen yet and was told that customers hadn’t asked for widescreen. Listening to your customer base is very admirable, but it’s more than likely that those customers haven’t considered the inherent benefits that a widescreen aspect ratio would bring.