The keyboard does have a very solid feel to it – in fact there wasn’t the slightest hint of flex, no matter how hard I typed. Having been to the ToughBook factory in Japan, I’m not really surprised by this, since Panasonic puts all its ToughBook models through significant amounts of torture before signing them off.
As mentioned earlier, this is the first ToughBook that’s based on the Santa Rosa platform. As a result the internals are based on an Intel 965 chipset, complete with an 800MHz FSB. Plugged into the chipset is a latest generation Core 2 Duo Merom CPU – a T7300 – running at 2.0GHz across both cores. There’s 1GB of RAM, which is unusual these days, with most notebooks shipping with 2GB. That said, because the CF-74 is running Windows XP rather than Vista, 1GB RAM is perfectly adequate. If you want to add more RAM it won’t be difficult – there’s an empty slot waiting under a cover mounted on the base of the notebook.
There’s an 80GB hard disk taking care of storage, which isn’t particularly capacious considering that notebook hard drives go all the way up to 250GB these days. That said, with a ToughBook you’re not just getting a hard disk, you’re also getting the shock resistant caddy that it lives in. A huge amount of research and development has gone into the ToughBook HDD caddies, which is why Panasonic can offer that 90cm drop guarantee for your data. There’s also a built-in optical drive – in this case a DVD-ROM/CD-RW combo drive, although you can specify a DVD writer if you need one.
As with most ToughBooks, connectivity is well catered for. Although this review sample doesn’t sport integrated HSDPA, it is an option for anyone that wants it – after all, Panasonic pioneered wireless WAN with its early GSM connectivity. What you do get is an Intel Wi-Fi adapter – a necessary part of Centrino branding – and integrated Bluetooth. There’s also a Gigabit Ethernet controller and a 56K modem, which pretty much covers all the bases.
On the right of the chassis you’ll find the power socket, which surprisingly isn’t covered. The first fold down flap hides an SD card slot and a port replicator connector. Next along is a small flap hiding a single USB port, and next to this is a door behind which hide both PC Card and Express Card slots.
The front is dominated by the pull out handle and the solid metal catch that secures the lid. To the right of the handle are headphone and microphone sockets, while underneath the handle is a hardware switch for the wireless adapters.