The CF-W5 has the same party trick as previous W models, in that the optical drive is hidden under the right side of the wrist rest. But unlike most optical drives which implement an ejecting tray or a slot loading mechanism, Panasonic has equipped the W series ToughBooks with a top loading device. Flicking the eject switch results in the whole right hand side of the wrist rest flipping open to reveal the hidden optical drive. The CF-W5 ships with a DVD writer, so you’ll be able to backup any important data, or offload non-essential files if you start running low on hard disk space.
The ability to free up space on the hard disk may be useful, since you only get a 60GB drive. I know it seems a bit churlish complaining about 60GB, but you can get larger 1.8in drives these days. Other internal components comprise an Intel Core Solo U1400 ultra low voltage CPU running at 1.2GHz and 512MB of RAM. The latter is a little disappointing as I think notebooks should ship with at least 1GB of memory these days, although at least there is an empty SODIMM slot for augmenting the memory. The memory issue is compounded by the fact that the Intel Integrated graphics suck up at least 8MB, so you’re only getting 504MB of system memory.
Being a Centrino branded machine there’s an Intel 802.11 a/b/g Wi-Fi adapter inside, so you won’t have any problems hooking up to any wireless networks that you encounter. Conspicuous by its absence is Bluetooth, so don’t expect to be able to connect the CF-W5 to your mobile phone or even a Bluetooth enabled digital camera.
One of the big announcements back in September was that the CF-W5 would be available with an integrated HSDPA module, but unfortunately my early review sample didn’t include this. The HSDPA module is an option which will set you back around £300 extra, which is a fair old whack considering that you can pick up a data card for nothing. To be fair though, the cost of a data card is subsidised by the network operator, but with an integrated module the cost of the hardware falls to the consumer.