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Back in September 2008 I flew out to Japan for the launch of the Panasonic ToughBook CF-F8 and came away pretty impressed. Although I initially thought that full production review samples would be available a few weeks later, that didn't turn out to be the case. In fact, only now have I got a full production sample in front of me, a sample that I can actually benchmark and evaluate fully. So the question that has to be asked is whether the CF-F8 was worth the wait. The short answer is yes, but there are a couple of qualifications to that recommendation.
First up, the CF-F8 hasn't lost any of its visual impact. Like all ToughBooks this machine has an unashamed industrial look to it, while the integrated carrying handle reminds me of its fully rugged cousin, the ToughBook CF-30. Some may argue that putting a carrying handle on a 14.1in semi-rugged notebook is pointless, but I would disagree. Being able to just grab your notebook from your desk and carry it easily is a real bonus, especially if you're going to a meeting somewhere else in the building and don't want to pack your notebook up in a carry case first. Anyone who's had to balance files, reports, pens and the obligatory cup of coffee on their notebook on their way to a meeting will know exactly what I mean.
Still, many would argue that a carrying handle just adds weight, and that you'll probably need to still carry a power supply with you anyway - unfortunately they'd be wrong on both counts. Despite the carrying handle and semi rugged nature of the CF-F8, this is one of the lightest 14.1in notebooks on the market, weighing in at only 1.66kg. Meanwhile, battery life has always been a strong point on ToughBooks, and the CF-F8 is no exception. I'll talk battery test results a bit later, but suffice to say that you could use the CF-F8 for most of the day without the need for a plug socket.
And let's not forget that carrying a ToughBook around with you unprotected is far less of an issue than it might be with other notebooks. Since the CF-F8 is designed to survive drops of up to 76cm, even when operational, even if it does slip out of your hand while you're carrying it, it shouldn't be a disaster. Likewise, if you do happen to spill that obligatory cup of coffee all over the CF-F8 it won't be a problem either - with all the important bits sealed inside, any liquid will simply run through the chassis and out of the bottom.