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Panasonic Toughbook T8

Business-rugged ultra-light T-Series Toughbook gets Centrino 2 treatment
(by Jessee Allread)

The Panasonic Toughbook T8 replaces the T7 which replaced the T5, a design that began life as the T2 and then became the T4. Like those older "business-rugged" Toughbooks, the new T8 is a very compact, ultra-light notebook computer that weighs just barely over three pounds. That's lighter than most Tablet PC slates. The T8 sports the same handsome design as its predecessor and has the look and feel of Panasonic's full-size Toughbooks, only downsized.

Under the hood, howeverm a lot has been changing over the years the T-Series has been around. The T8, not long ago powered by a lowly Core Solo U1400 in its T5 incarnation, now sports a Centrino 2-spec 1.2GHz Core 2 Duo SU9300, and you can load the machine with up to 4GB of PC2-5300 memory -- not a bad idea with a machine that now comes with Vista Business (a XP "downgrade" remains available for now). Disk space has also grown over the years, with the T8 offering a fairly generous shock-mounted and removable 120GB drive. The bright 12.1-inch touchscreen remains at the traditional 4:3 aspect ratio and 1024 x 768 pixel XGA resolution. Despite its amazingly light weight, the Toughbook T8 feels sturdy and very well made, and it should as Panasonic uses the same materials and design principles as in its big, rugged notebooks. We like the T8's full-size keyboard, very responsive touchpad, and speedy ultra-low voltage SU9300 chip.

On the wireless side, there's now the Centrino 2 Intel WiFi Link 5100 that supports 802.11 draft-n and Bluetooth v2.0 (but you can't combine Bluetooth and the optional fingerprint scanner). Also, there's optional integrated Gobi 3G global mobile internet (WWAN). Panasonic always equipped the T-Series with massive, industrial-strength batteries for extra long life, and the T8 is no exception. Its massive Li-Ion battery packs 85 watt-hours, good for between five and nine hours of operation. That is actually down from the 7-12 hours listed for the old T5, but such is the price of progress (and speedier Intel processors). As before, there is a PC Card expansion interface and also a SD Card slot.

The new T8 looks almost identical to prior Ts, with the exception perhaps of the more substantial changes from the T2 to the T4. It's no longer quite as svelte and light, but at a weight of 3.3 pounds WITH a touchscreen (with screen rotation!) and the huge battery, who'd complain? Still, sometimes we miss the featherweight 2.7 pound T2. On a 3.3 pound machine we'd almost expect an integrated optical drive by now, but Panasonic has that in other 7 and 8-Series models.

Added/updated Added 09/2008: replaces T7; 05/2009
Processor Intel Core 2 Duo SU9300 with 3MB L2 cache and 800MHz FSB
CPU Speed 1.2 GHz
Standard/Max RAM 1024MB/4096MB (PC2-5300)
Disk/drive 120GB HD shockmounted
Card slots 1 PC Card Type II + 1 SD
Display type Transmissive anti-glare TFT
Display size/res 12.1" XGA
Digitizer/pens touchscreen
Keyboard/scale integrated and spillproof 83-key, 100%-scale
Housing magnesium
Operating Temp business-rugged
Sealing business-rugged
Shock business-rugged
Size (WxHxD) 10.7 x 8.4 x 1.4-1.9
Weight 3.3 lbs.
Power 85 Watt-Hour Li-Ion ("5-9 hrs.")
Interface 2 USB 2.0, RJ11, RJ45, audio in/out, video
Wireless Intel WiFi Link 5100 (802/11a/b/g/draft-n), Bluetooth v2.0 + EDR, fingerprint scanner optional
List price Starting at $2,099
Contact www.panasonic.com
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