There’s quite a bit squeezed into the slim chassis – on the right you’ll find an Ethernet port, modem socket and two USB 2.0 ports, while the left is populated with the power socket, D-SUB port, expansion port, PC Card slot and an SD card slot. Unusually the front is pretty well stacked too with the eject switch for the DVD writer, a hardware switch for the wireless, headphone and mic sockets, and finally the power switch that glows green when the notebook is on.
Battery life is very impressive with the CF-W5 lasting six hours and 41 minutes under Mobile Mark. I couldn’t get a performance score from Mobile Mark, since no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t stop the CF-W5 from going into standby when the battery got down to one per cent. Of course this is no bad thing for the end user, since that’s exactly how you’d want your notebook to behave, but I am still baffled as to why it insisted on going into standby even though it was configured not to. You could quite happily use the CF-W5 to watch movies too, since it lasted five hours 36 minutes playing back a DVD!
The SYSmark score of 168 is slightly up on the previous model’s 157, but this could easily be improved by adding more memory. For some reason I couldn’t get PC Mark to run at all, but as I’ve already mentioned, this is a preproduction unit and I’d hope that this wouldn’t be the case on a retail model.
With a price of £1,680 including VAT, the ToughBook CF-W5 is far from cheap and finds itself on a par with Sony’s excellent VAIO TX3XP, which has a widescreen display with a higher resolution, larger hard disk and a staggering nine hours battery life. Of course the Sony isn’t semi-rugged like the CF-W5, so if you are planning on being pretty rough with your ultra-portable notebook, the W5 is still worth a look. However, I think that Panasonic needs to refresh its thin and light ToughBook line and offer something with more screen resolution and a dual core CPU, and luckily that’s exactly what it’s going to do. The CF-Y5 will be slightly larger due to the larger display, but it will also feature a dual core processor – I should have a review sample soon, so watch this space.
The ToughBook CF-W5 is pretty much an evolution of the CF-W4, which is not necessarily a bad thing. However, if you definitely aren’t planning on dropping your notebook on the desk from 30cm, there may be better options out there. That said, the W5 is still slim, light and well built. The battery life is also very impressive and the option of an integrated HSDPA module is something that the competition can’t offer yet.