Below the keyboard is a touchpad with two selector buttons below it. The touchpad is pretty good quality, but I haven’t really bothered using it, because like the CF-29 before it, the CF-18 has a touch screen.
I was never really convinced of the benefits of touch screens until I reviewed the CF-29 – now I’m totally sold on them. It’s so handy just being able to tap icons on the screen and even drag windows around using your finger. That said, the 10.4in screen on the CF-18 makes using your finger for tapping and dragging a bit trickier than it was on the CF-29. But Panasonic has thought of this – there’s a stylus hiding in the bottom left corner of the screen allowing for more delicate touch screen manipulation. There’s even a coiled tether strap that attaches to the stylus at one end and the lid at the other, so you never lose the stylus no matter how rough things get.
On the right side of the chassis you’ll find two lockable hinged doors hiding the hard disk enclosure and the battery. The front is pretty barren apart from the sliding power switch, although a nice touch is the buttons to adjust the brightness of the screen.
The left side is stacked full of features – there’s a lockable hinged door that hides two Type II PC Card slots, as well as an SD slot. Here you’ll also find an Ethernet port, modem socket, two USB 2.0 ports and power connector – all protected by rubber sealed plastic flaps. Finally at the rear there’s a serial port, a D-SUB port and headphone/microphone sockets.
Where the CF-18 really differs from the CF-29 is the fact that the screen can twist around and lay flat against the keyboard, creating a tablet format. The Digitizer version of the CF-18 ships with Windows XP Tablet PC Edition, but this touch screen version ships with standard Windows XP Pro. Panasonic has installed its own screen rotation application, so you can use the CF-18 in either landscape or portrait modes.