Below the keyboard is a touchpad for pointer manipulation. Panasonic always equips its ToughBook with very good touchpads and this is no exception. The touchpad is fast and acurate even when wet or dirty and it’s recessed into the wrist rest to avoid accidental activation when hitting the Spacebar. The right side of the touchpad can also be used for scrolling through documents or web pages, although there’s no visual indication of this.
The CF-74 is labelled as “Business Ruggedized” as opposed to the “Fully Ruggedized” CF-29 and CF-18. That said, for most users this notebook will be more than rugged enough. As I’ve already mentioned, it doesn’t mind being dropped and can shake off the odd spill or splash. Also, like the CF-29, all the ports are hidden behind protective flaps to stop dirt, dust or water getting in. This makes the CF-74 far more robust than the “Semi Rugged” CF-51 that I looked at about a year ago. So, for a business that is worried about its workforce damaging the company notebooks, but doesn’t want to go the whole hog with a Fully Ruggedized notebook, the CF-74 seems like the obvious choice.
There’s quite a lot hiding behind those protective flaps around the CF-74’s chassis. On the right behind three flaps you’ll find an SD/MMC memory card reader, a port replicator connector, a USB 2.0 port and both PC Card and Express Card slots. It’s good to see that Panasonic as incorporated both types of slot allowing you to use current products, while remaining future proof.
No protective flaps at the front, but you do get both headphone and microphone sockets, while hiding under the carry handle is a hardware switch for the integrated Wi-Fi adapter that supports 802.11a, b and g.
The left is dominated by the integrated (but removable) DVD writer. This drive will write to just about anything you care to throw at it – DVD+R/RW, DVD-R/RW, DVD-RAM, CD-R and CD-RW. There’s one flap next to the DVD writer hiding a second USB 2.0 port.
There’s one more flap at the rear, this time concealing a network port for the integrated Gigabit Ethernet controller, a modem socket, a D-SUB port and a serial port. Legacy connectors like serial ports may be disappearing on other notebooks, but ToughBook users are often connecting proprietary hardware which requires a serial connection – that said, my speed camera detector still uses a serial connection!