Panasonic's Toughbook brand naturally brings to mind 'fully ruggedized' notebooks designed to operate in hostile environments. But the company also makes a range of 'business ruggedized' Toughbooks that are sturdier than your average notebook, thanks to features such as hard disk shock protection and spill-resistant keyboards.
We reviewed the Toughbook CF-T7 a little under a year ago, and were impressed. Panasonic sent us a pre-production sample of its successor — a full review will follow when we receive a final production model.
The CF-T8 is compact (27.2cm by 21.4cm by 4.9cm) and lightweight (1.4kg), thanks in part to the magnesium alloy casing that lends a silver sheen to the system. The distinctive round touchpad is retained from the previous model, while the keyboard is firm and solid.
There's only room for a 12.1in. 1,024-by-768-pixel display on the CF-T8. Its 4:3 aspect ratio seems a bit dated in today's largely wide-screen world, but on the plus side it is a touch-screen.
Rugged features include a water-resistant keyboard with a special integrated drainage system that will channel any split fluids away from the electrical components inside the notebook.
The 120GB hard drive has protection to withstand drops from 76cm (the average height of a desk), even when the notebook is running. Shock-absorbing pads provide extra support for the hard drive from everyday vibration and jolts.
The Toughbook CF-T8 can also withstand pressures of up to 100 kilos without incurring any damage to the screen or hard drive.
You can run the supplied Windows Vista Business on the Toughbook CF-T8, or downgrade to Windows XP Professional. The CPU is a 1.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo SU9300 processor, supported by 3GB of RAM.
Connectivity features include Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and Gigabit Ethernet. Mobile broadband is an optional extra.
Panasonic claims you can get up to 8 hours of battery life with the notebook's power-saving 'Eco mode' enabled. We will test this when we get our final production sample.