A couple of months back I flew out to Japan for the global launch of Panasonic's latest ToughBook mobile computers. The big news was the launch of the brand new ToughBook CF-F8, which really is a great machine - I'm hoping to get my paws on a full production sample of the CF-F8 soon, so I can give it the full review treatment. But also announced out in Japan was the ToughBook CF-W8, which is the latest evolution of Panasonic's long running W series, thin and light notebooks.
The CF-W8 falls under the ToughBook Executive brand, which means that it's not a fully ruggedised product like the ToughBook CF-30, but it's still a lot more robust than other thin and light machines. Despite only weighing 1.28kg, the CF-W8 can survive a drop from 76cm while open and operational. This means that you never have to worry about it being knocked off your desk and damaged. It also caters for anyone who's clumsy enough to spill coffee/water/tea/any liquid on their notebook.The mainboard in the CF-W8 is completely sealed, so if you pour water on the keyboard it will simply drain out of the bottom and cause no damage.
The CF-W8 can also withstand up to 100kg of pressure on its lid without the screen sustaining any damage. This feature was originally implemented to withstand the morning crush on the Tokyo subway, but it's reassuring that you can happily stash your notebook in a bag without worrying about it getting crushed.
Panasonic is still bucking the widescreen trend with the CF-W8 - the company insists that until its customer base specifically asks for the W series to switch to a widescreen display format there's no point in changing. So, what you've got here is a 12.1in 4:3 screen with a native resolution of 1,024 x 768, which, it has to be said, is getting a bit long in the tooth. When you consider that most 12.1in widescreen notebooks sport 1,280 x 800 resolution, the CF-W8 is somewhat lacking in the desktop real estate department. That said, if I know one thing about the ToughBook engineers, it's that they know their customers, so I can only assume that most of the user base prefers the old 4:3 aspect ratio.
The screen itself is a very good one and the lack of glossy coating should appeal to anyone who finds it hard to get on with high contrast screens. The lack of glossy finish also makes it clear that Panasonic pitches its ToughBook Executive notebooks at the corporate market and not consumers. The lighting is even across the whole surface, and colours are surprisingly rich and vivid - viewing angles are also impressive and showing a colleague something on the screen shouldn't be a problem.