Like all ToughBooks to date, the screen on the CF-74 sports a 4:3 aspect ratio, rather than a widescreen display. That said, I should be getting my paws on the new CF-52 soon, which will be the first widescreen ToughBook. The screen on this CF-74 differs somewhat from the previous model I looked at, since it’s a touch screen. I’m actually quite a fan of the touch screens that Panasonic uses for its ToughBook range. You may think that a touch screen is a pointless gimmick, but once you’ve gotten used to just prodding icons and buttons with your fingertip, you won’t want to go back again. Also, since even the CF-74 can operate when reasonably wet or dirty, it will be a lot easier to navigate Windows using a touch screen than the touchpad. That’s not to say that the touchpad isn’t good, because it is, proving to be both responsive and accurate.
The screen sports a native resolution of 1,024 x 768, which is fairly conservative for a 13.3in display, but there is good reason for this. If you’re going to be stabbing buttons and dragging windows around with your fingertip, you don’t want the resolution too high. Also, because Panasonic is assuming that this machine will be used in a number of environments, including outdoors, the larger icons afforded by the lower native resolution will make viewing the screen and interacting with it easier for the user.
The screen is very bright, making the CF-74 an ideal tool for use in bright sunlight, although the touch screen coating does mean that colours are not as vivid and vibrant as they otherwise would be. Touch screen coatings can also affect viewing angles, but the CF-74 seems to suffer from no such issues, so you shouldn’t have any problems if you need to show others data on your notebook.
Just like pretty much every ToughBook I look at, the keyboard has a US layout rather than UK. This means that the Enter key is smaller that I’d like, but it doesn’t take too long to get used to this anomaly, and I never find myself missing a carriage return when typing at speed. On the plus side, the Ctrl key is exactly where it should be, in the bottom left corner, and the cursor keys are dropped away from the main keyboard for easy access.