The left of the chassis houses the pull-out hard disk caddy and the optical drive, along with another single USB port. Most of the rear is taken up by the battery, but there is a single flap that hides a serial port, D-SUB connector, Ethernet port and modem socket. Finally on the underside, you’ll find a little slot where the stylus lives – in case you think that prodding the screen with your finger is a little uncouth.
When it comes to performance, this latest CF-74 is definitely a fair bit quicker than the previous model. Much of this will be down to the CPU, chipset and memory. The previous CF-74 had a 1.83GHz Core Duo, a 667MHz FSB and 512MB of memory – the chip in this machine isn’t just clocked faster, but it also has double the cache at 4MB instead of 2MB, while the 800MHz FSB and twice the memory also give it a boost.
The older CF-74 did manage slightly more battery life at 479 minutes compared with 465 minutes, but that’s to be expected when you factor in that this latest CF-74 is a much faster machine. Ultimately, losing 14 minutes overall battery life is very acceptable considering the beefier components.
At 2.7kg, the CF-74 is lighter than you might expect, and over a kilo lighter than its big brother, the CF-30. Size wise, the CF-74 measures in at 303 x 293 x 60mm (WxDxH), so it’s reasonably large, but as already mentioned, the carrying handle means that you won’t need a separate bag.
With a price of £2,450 including VAT, the CF-74 isn’t cheap, but then ToughBooks never are. What you’re getting for that money though, is a notebook that should be able to survive anything that you or your workforce throws at it. As I said before, you can’t drive a car over it, but it surprises me how rarely that need arises.
Panasonic may describe the CF-74 as a semi-rugged notebook, but it’s far more robust than any other semi-rugged unit I’ve come across. The solid construction, carrying handle and great battery life make it a very attractive proposition for any company that regularly sends staff out into the field. Yes, it’s expensive, but as always with a ToughBook, you either need what it has to offer, or you don’t.