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Unlike the ToughBook CF-Y7 that this machine replaces, the CF-F8 doesn't use a standard 4:3 aspect ratio screen. However, despite the fact that the CF-F8 sports a widescreen aspect ratio display, the screen is actually one of the few issues that I have with this machine. You see when I attended the launch of the CF-F8 in Japan I noticed that the Japanese versions were specified with a 1,440 x 900 resolution screen, while the UK versions were quoted as having only 1,280 x 800 resolution displays. No one could confirm 100 per cent whether the UK units would be shipped with the higher or lower resolution screens, but now that I have a production sample in front of me, I can confirm that we're getting 1,280 x 800 panels.
Not only is the lower screen resolution a disappointment because I know that Japanese buyers are getting more desktop real estate, but it also means that the CF-F8 in the UK actually has a significantly lower screen resolution than the old CF-Y7, which squeezed 1,400 x 1,050 pixels into its 14.1in screen. OK, so even if Panasonic had gone with the 1,440 x 900 resolution for UK machines, it still would have been lower than the CF-Y7, but the difference would not have been as large.
Resolution aside, the screen on the CF-F8 is very good indeed. The image is very bright and the colours vibrant, despite not sporting a glossy, high contrast coating. The lack of glossy coating is testiment to the fact that the ToughBook Executive line is aimed squarely at the business user, rather than the consumer. Viewing angles are also wide, so if you did need to show a colleague or client something on your screen, it won't be a problem.
As with all ToughBooks, the keyboard layout isn't perfect - despite this being a 14.1in machine, you're still getting a tiny Enter key, while the Spacebar is also similarly small. That said, I've never had a problem hitting the Spacebar on a ToughBook and the CF-F8 is no different. The small Enter key does take some getting used to, but if this is going to be your daily machine, you'll soon adapt to its keyboard. On the plus side, the Ctrl key is located in the bottom left corner, where it should be, so keyboard shortcut junkies will be happy.
The keyboard itself is one of the best I've encountered on a ToughBook. There isn't the slightest hint of flex no matter how hard you strike the keys, and each key has a lot more travel than I expected. I'm not talking ThinkPad levels of keyboard brilliance, but you'll have no problem typing for extended periods on the CF-F8, and be able to achieve a speedy rate while doing so.