Panasonic Toughbook CF-Y7 Notebook PC - Review

Panasonic Toughbook CF-Y7 Notebook PC - Review

Panasonic Toughbook CF-Y7 Laptop PC - ReviewPros: Thin and extremely light; deceptively shock-proof

Cons: Shock-resistance adds heavy price premium; no SSD option

Bottomline: This thin, light notebook is ideal for anyone frequently on the move and will take a knock or two

Price: 1,679

One doesn’t expect a so-called rugged notebook to look as good as the Toughbook CF-Y7.

The name conjures up an image of a bulky computer weighing several kilograms, with a weak processor and lots of heavy, ugly cladding.

Fortunately, this Toughbook is unlike that in almost every way. It uses a Core 2 Duo L7500 processor, running at 1.6GHz.

Admittedly this is at the slow end of the dual-core range, but the ‘L’ indicates that it’s a low-voltage model, which is useful for keeping down both heat generation and power usage. This is accompanied by 1GB of DDR2 memory, which again is on the low side for a modern computer running Vista.

Although the 80GB hard drive looks paltry compared with the 100GB and more offered by some manufacturers, as this is a business and travellers’ notebook this is enough space for the storage of music and pictures as well as a few films for plane journeys.

Its overall PCmark05 score of 2,883 was respectable enough. It performed well throughout our benchmarking, but its graphics performance (it uses an integrated Intel 965 graphics chipset) was a problem - something borne out by its 3Dmark06 score of 459. Then again, the Y7 is a business notebook and, despite these scores, its DVD playback is fine.

The 14.1in screen is relatively large compared with the notebook’s body, so it looms large when the lid is opened, and with a native resolution of 1,400x1,050 it is both sharp and clear. A lot of what little bulk the notebook has is taken up by the shock-absorbing material mounted behind it.

Otherwise, it looks a little flimsy, especially as it weighs just 1.4kg. But this appearance is deceptive because it’s built to take a shock. That’s not to say it would survive a hammer blow, but a fall off a desk caused it no problems. Panasonic states it can take 100kg weight spread evenly on the screen and a 72cm drop.

The hard disk is possibly the most vulnerable part of any notebook and Panasonic has mounted this in a shock-absorbent chassis. However, somewhat surprisingly th ere is no solid-state drive (SSD) option; these Flash-based hard drives have no moving parts and are therefore far more robust.

The Toughbook’s unorthodox design takes in a front-mounted DVD (multiformat) drive that opens with a switch and has a flip-top rather than a slot for loading discs. While the circular touchpad isn’t too hard to get used to, the curved buttons mounted on either side are very fiddly. The keyboard, which spans the whole width of the case, is pleasant to type on, and the keys have a decent amount of travel.

Just two USB sockets are mounted alongside the network and modem ports on one side, while the power, VGA and docking ports are on the other. There’s also a PC Card slot, headphone and mouse sockets and an SD card socket (which can cope with SDHC cards). Networking is available using 802.11a/b/g wireless as well as via a Gigabit Ethernet socket.

The Toughbook CF-Y7 is equipped with a Trusted Platform Module (TPM) chip that activates the Bitlocker drive encryption feature of Vista, however this is only supported by the Ultimate and Enterprise editions of Vista and not Vista Business, which was shipped with our review sample. There’s also an option for Windows XP and the notebook comes with a three-year warranty.

While the CF-Y7 may not be the fastest notebook around, for frequent travellers its rugged and lightweight design will more than make up for any deficiency in its performance.