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Panasonic Toughbook W4

Pana's superb semi-rugged ultra-light with optical drive gets an overhaul
(by Conrad H. Blickenstorfer)

Everything that we said about the Toughbook W2 applies to the new Toughbook W4: it's a semi-rugged notebook for those who like the T-Series' size and weight, but also want an optical drive and even longer battery life. Normally, you'd expect the resulting machine to be larger and heavier. Amazingly, the W4 has a footprint identical to that of the T-Series, and despite the built-in DVD-CDRW drive it's barely thicker and weighs just a tiny bit more. That's even more amazing considering both the W2 and the W4 have significantly larger batteries that allow battery life in the six hour range. The W4 is part of Panasonic's "semi-rugged" lineup; what this really means is that it's largely made of magnesium and benefits from the company's expertise in building longer-lasting computers that can take more abuse. However, don't drop it off a cliff or leave it in the rain. The W Series ranks as one of the very best compact notebook solutions anywhere.

What sets the Toughbook W4 apart from the still offered W2? At first sight they look identical and even the specs aren't very different. Both run the same 1.2GHz Intel ULV 753 processor, but the newer W4 uses PC2-3200 memory, has the 128MB Intel 915GMX integrated video controller instead of the older 64MB 855GM, and an even more powerful battery (58 vs 49 watt-hours), good for over 6.5 hours between charges. For some reason, the newer W4 appears to lose gigabit speed on its LAN port as well as the SD Card slot.

If you closely compare the new W4 with the older W4, you actually see a lot of differences. It's as if Panasonic's design engineers had to use the same design but build it around a different motherboard. The optical drive is now on the right instead of the left, and so are the USB ports, whereas the PC Card slot moved over to the left.

Added/updated Updated 02/2007: replaced by W5
Processor Intel Pentium M ULV 753
CPU Speed 1.2 GHz
Standard/Max RAM 512MB/1024MB (PC2700)
Disk/drive 40GB HD + DVD-CDRW
Card slots 1 PC Card Type II + 1 SD
Display type Transmissive anti-glare TFT
Display size/res 12.1" XGA, Intel 855GM video 64MB
Digitizer/pens none
Keyboard/scale integrated 85-key, 100%-scale
Housing magnesium
Operating Temp semi-rugged
Sealing semi-rugged
Shock semi-rugged
Size (WxHxD) 10.6 x 8.3 x 1.2-1.8
Weight 2.8 lbs.
Power 58 Watt-Hour Li-Ion ("6 hrs.")
Interface 2 USB 2.0, RJ11, RJ45
Interface Audio, VGA, 802/11a/b/g
List price seen at US$2,050 to 2,300
Contact www.panasonic.com
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