Putting the aspect ratio to one side, the screen is a very good with surprisingly vibrant colours considering that Panasonic doesn’t employ a high contrast coating. One caveat to that statement is that it’s dependant on you viewing the screen head on, as there is noticable wash out in the vertical plane, although the viewing angle in the horizontal plane is superb. Realistically it’s the latter that is more important, since if you’re ever showing someone something on your notebook, they’re usually next to you rather than above or below you.
The keyboard may be too small for some users, but I had no problem typing on it. The review sample that I received had a US spec keyboard, but it was a pre-production unit and the majority of manufacturers tend to have US keyboards on their prototypes. If there’s one major annoyance with the keyboard, it’s the tiny Return key, which takes some getting used to. The Spacebar is also tiny, but I didn’t seem to have any problems hitting it every single time. Keyboard shortcut junkies will be glad to see the Ctrl key located at the bottom left where it should be – many notebook manufacturers opt to locate the Fn key in this position, which can be counter intuitive.
Key sizes and positioning aside though, the keyboard on the CF-W5 has a pretty good feel to it. It’s clear that Panasonic has constantly developed the keyboard in the W series ToughBooks, since when I looked at the CF-W2 many years ago there was a disturbing amount of flex evident when typing. Thankfully there’s no such issues with the CF-W5 and typing for extended periods is not a problem.
Panasonic continues with its decision to use a round touchpad for the W series ToughBooks and opinion in the TrustedReviews office is split on this. It definitely looks distinctive, but I generally find the odd shaped touchpads are not as easy to use as their more traditionally shaped cousins. That said, Panasonic seems to be an exception to that rule, and I’ve had no issues using the round touchpad on this machine. There is a metalic silver ring surrounding the touchpad which includes indicator lights for hard disk activity, Caps Lock, Num Lock and Scroll Lock. The bottom section of the ring houses the two selector buttons.