Below the Spacebar is the traditional circular touchpad that has always featured on the ToughBook Executive line. Despite its unconventional shape, the touchpad is excellent, providing quick and accurate pointer manipulation. And, as always, I love the fact that you can scroll up and down through documents and web pages by running your finger around the edge of the circle.
Nestling underneath the right side of the wrist rest is the integrated DVD writer. Flicking a switch on the front edge of the notebook causes the lid to flip open and reveal the drive. Not only does this design look good, but it also saves weight, since there are no tray or motorised loading mechanisms to incorporate. The CF-F8 will also completely power down the DVD writer if it hasn't been used for a few minutes, thus saving battery life.
Although ToughBooks are usually about build quality and reliability more than performance, the CF-F8 is pretty well specified when it comes to internal components. Driving things is an Intel Core 2 Duo SP9300 CPU running at 2.26GHz and backed up by 6MB of level 2 cache. You get 3GB of memory as standard, which makes sense considering the 32-bit operating system options - Panasonic will ship with either Windows Vista or XP and our review sample shipped with the latter. Windows XP verily flies along with this hardware configuration, and I imagine that most customers will choose this option.
Storage comes courtesy of a 160GB SATA hard disk, housed in a shock resistent caddy. That's hardly capacious by today's hard disk standards, but should be more than enough for a business notebook. Graphics are handled by the Intel integrated chipset, which utilises a portion of the main system memory.
Connectivity is well catered for with Draft-N Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 2.0+ EDR as standard, while integrated HSDPA is available as an option - it adds £200 plus VAT to the price. You also get Gigabit Ethernet, ensuring that you can get connected at high speed in the office, assuming your network is suitably equipped. There's also a 56k modem in case you really, really can't find any other type of connection.
As is the tradition with ToughBooks, the chassis is constructed from a magnesium alloy that's both lightweight and strong. The result is a machine that you'd expect to be far heavier than it is, and one that you could happily carry around with you all day without hurting your shoulder. The lid on my review sample was black, but when I was in Japan Panasonic was showing off the CF-F8 with a number of different coloured lids. The lid is also ribbed, which is key to the protection of the screen underneath it - as with all ToughBook Executive models, the CF-F8 can withstand up to 100kg of pressure on its lid without the screen getting damaged.