The CF-F8 maintains its unique optical drive placement. Unlike other notebooks, the ToughBook executive machines hide the optical drive under the wrist rest, part of which flips open to allow discs to be inserted or removed. As with all things ToughBook though, this design is used for a reason, and that reason is weight. By negating the need for an ejectable tray, or slot loading mechanism, the drives in the ToughBooks are very light. In fact, the drive used in the CF-F8 has been made even lighter than the previous generation unit, weighing only 50.5g instead of 59.5g - that may not sound like much, but when it comes to lightweight notebooks, every little helps.
The keyboard has a very good action to it, with just the right amount of travel coupled with a firm break. Typing at speed, even when striking the keys hard, didn’t cause any undue flex - I could quite happily type all day on this machine. Of course the keyboards on the samples here today were Japanese, so it’s hard to go into detail about layout, although if I’ve had one criticism of ToughBook keyboards in the past, it’s that they tend to come with US style layouts, so I don’t expect the CF-F8 to be any different when it hits our shores. The trademark round touchpad is also in evidence, and even though it seems like a strange design trait, being able to scroll through documents and web pages using an iPod like wheel motion around the edge, is surprisingly useful.
The right side of the chassis sports three USB 2.0 ports, an Ethernet port, a modem socket and a D-SUB port for connecting to an external monitor. It’s a shame that there isn’t a digital video connection - I appreciate that DVI is hard to squeeze into a thin chassis, but HDMI or even DisplayPort wouldn’t have been a problem. At the front you’ll find the eject switch for the DVD writer, a hardware switch for the wireless antennae and the power switch, which refreshingly glows green as opposed to blue. On the left hand side is an ExpressCard slot, headphone and microphone jacks, an SD Card slot, a docking connector and the power input.