Despite the ultra-light construction, the keyboard is very good. There’s a decent amount of travel and a solid break, allowing for a fast and comfortable typing rate. The layout is a mixture of good and bad, with the Tab, Caps Lock and Shift keys good and large, but a disappointingly small Return key, more akin to a US keyboard layout. That said, ToughBooks always have this layout, and I’ve never found myself missing the Return key once I’ve been typing for a few minutes on a ToughBook. On the plus side, the Ctrl key is located at the bottom left, just where it should be, so anyone who uses a lot of keyboard shortcuts will have no problems.
Below the keyboard is the ToughBook Executive trademark round touchpad. Now, I’m not usually a fan of odd shaped touchpads, but I can’t help but like the round ones on the ToughBooks. Besides the fact that the touchpad itself is very responsive and accurate, I just love the fact that you can scroll up and down through web pages by circling your finger around the circumference. There are left and right buttons mounted into a silver frame that surrounds the touchpad, also mounted into the frame are indicator lights for Caps Lock, Num Lock, Scroll Lock and hard disk activity.
Connectivity is well catered for, in both wired and wireless formats. There’s a Gigabit Ethernet controller, which will get you hooked up to your office network at lightning fast speeds – ideal for corporate types that work of a centralised server. There’s also a 56k modem, in case you’re completely stuck for a connection and there really is nothing else available. That said, with integrated Bluetooth, you can always get connected using your mobile phone if you get desperate. The Intel 4965AG Wi-Fi module will get you hooked up wirelessly at a maximum 54mbps using 802.11g, although it’s a shame that Intel’s Draft-N adapter hasn’t been used instead. Of course you’re not going to find too many Draft-N hotspots, but if you happen to have a Draft-N router in your home or office, it would be nice to make the best use of it.
Looking around the chassis you’ll find an Ethernet port, modem socket and two USB ports on the right. The front is surprisingly busy with the eject switch for the DVD writer, a hardware switch for the wireless adapters and a sliding power switch that glows green when the machine is on. Here you’ll also find a light that indicates when the battery is in Eco mode. This is an option that ensures that the battery never fully charges, thus avoiding “over charging” and reducing the lifetime of the battery. It’s swings and roundabouts though – your battery will last longer, but you won’t get the full benefit when working on the move. Of course the smart user will charge the battery up full when they know they’re going to be working away from power, but leave the CF-Y7 on Eco mode when working on mains power regularly.