Panasonic Toughbook W7 review: Panasonic Toughbook W7

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CNET Editors' Rating

3.5 stars Very good
  • Overall: 7.0
  • Design: 6.0
  • Features: 9.0
  • Performance: 5.0
  • Battery life: 8.0
  • Service and support: 7.0
Review Date:
Updated on:

The Good The Toughbook CF-W7 can withstand small spills and up to 200 pounds of pressure; weighs the same as a MacBook Air; WWAN options are available.

The Bad Bulky and ugly; ports and connections are not protected; ho-hum performance; dated 4:3 aspect display; circular touchpad is difficult to use.

The Bottom Line The Panasonic Toughbook CF-W7 manages to be lightweight and awkwardly bulky, but this rugged ultraportable offers excellent protection for business travelers who are extra rough on their systems.

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A handful of companies, including Twinhead and Dell, make ruggedized laptops, but Pansonic's Toughbook brand is still synonymous with the concept of a heavy-duty portable computer. Most laptops in this category don't actually meet the strict military specs of a truly rugged system, instead opting for designations of semirugged, or business rugged, which basically means they offer harder, thicker shells than standard laptops, along with shock-mounted hard drives and usually some degree of spill resistance.

This trade-off lets us carry tough laptops around without too much extra weight or bulk, and Panasonic's $2,099 Toughbook CF-W7 manages to fit plenty of extra protection into a 12-inch laptop that weighs just barely more than three pounds. That makes for an impressive system, especially if you take the mantle of "road warrior" literally and are extra hard on your equipment. However, the W7 still feels huge compared with today's ultratiny ultraportables, and it will appeal only to those who really need these ruggedized features.

Price as reviewed / Starting price $2,099
Processor 1.06GHz Intel Core 2 Duo U7500
Memory 2GB, 533MHz DDR2
Hard drive 80GB 5,400rpm
Chipset Intel GM965
Graphics Mobile Intel Express 965GM (integrated)
Operating System Windows Vista Business
Dimensions (WDH) 10.6 x 8.2 x 1.6-2.25 inches
Screen size (diagonal) 12.1 inches
System weight / Weight with AC adapter 3.0 / 3.9 pounds
Category Ultraportable

Admirably lightweight, the Toughbook CF-W7 actually weighs the same as Apple's svelte MacBook Air. Unfortunately, it's much bulkier than the Air, measuring 2.25 inches at its thickest part. The lid is raised in the middle, offering additional protection to the LCD screen, but that will make it hard to fit into smaller laptop bags.

The somewhat awkward design does serve a purpose, however, and the chassis is designed to withstand up to 200 pounds of pressure. That's not a license to stand on top of the screen, though, it's intended for compression across the whole surface of the system, as you'd experience when packing it into your luggage and having other heavy suitcase stacked on top. Unlike some other models in Panasonic's business rugged line, the W7 has a spill-through keyboard, which means liquids will pass through the keyboard into a canal and exit through a small hole in the bottom of the system. It's rated for a 6-ounce spill--we eyeballed with a paper cup of water, and it worked as advertised, but Panasonic recommends turning the laptop off and letting it dry completely after a spill.

The Toughbook is rated to survive a 1-foot fall from just about any angle, and we "accidentally" knocked it off a low table with no ill effects. Twelve inches doesn't sound too impressive, but it's the standard measurement we've seen in other semirugged systems, and even a small drop such as that one could kill a regular laptop (although that's far from certain). The hard drive itself should survive a 2.5-foot fall, but Panasonic says the laptop itself may be damaged in the process.

The optical drive moves from its usual spot on the side of the system to a top-loading model located directly on the wrist rest. It's a smart idea and keeps the drive extra-safe when the laptop's lid is closed. The ports and connections, however, are in their usual spots on the edges and get no special protection from the elements, like the rubber port covers we saw on the Toughbook CF-52.

The keyboard's keys are surprisingly large for an ultraportable laptop, and the round touch pad--something we've only seen before on the Intel Classmate PC--is aesthetically interesting but hard to use in real life, and you lose the standard edge scroll function standard in rectangular touch pads.

The 12.1-inch wide-screen LCD display offers a 1,024 x 768 native resolution, and we almost did a double-take when we saw the squared-off 4:3 aspect ratio--it's the first laptop we've seen in more than a year without a wide-screen display. The low resolution means you won't have as much screen real estate as you might like, but the display was clear and bright and had an easy-to-read matte finish.

  Panasonic Toughbook CF-W7 Average for category [ultraportable]
Video VGA-out VGA-out
Audio headphone/microphone jacks headphone/microphone jacks
Data 3 USB 2.0, SD card reader 2 USB 2.0, mini-FireWire, SD or multiformat memory card reader
Expansion Type I/II PC Card slot Type I/II PC Card or ExpressCard
Networking modem, Ethernet, 802.11 a/b/g Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional mobile broadband. modem, Ethernet, 802.11 a/b/g Wi-Fi, optional Bluetooth, optional WWAN
Optical drive DVD burner None, or DVD burner

Like the dated 4:3 screen, we also felt a bit left behind the times by getting a PC Card slot instead of the newer ExpressCard. FireWire is also missing, but we've found we can easily live without it on other laptops. Since your Toughbook will hopefully be spending plenty of time in the field, we were pleased to see mobile broadband options from AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon offered. Business buyers also get standard features such as a Trusted Platform Module chip and Computrace, a theft protection agent built into the bios, which helps track down lost or stolen laptops.

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Where to Buy

Panasonic Toughbook W7 - 12.1" - Core 2 Duo U7500 - Vista Business / XP Pro downgrade - 1 GB RAM - 80 GB HDD

Part Number: CF-W7BWNZDAM Released: Feb. 1, 2008

MSRP: $2,502.00

See manufacturer website for availability.

Quick Specifications See All

  • Release date Feb. 1, 2008
  • Installed Size 1 GB
  • Weight 3.1 lbs
  • Optical Drive DVD±RW (+R DL) / DVD-RAM - fixed
  • Graphics Processor Intel GMA X3100
  • CPU Intel Core 2 Duo U7500 / 1.06 GHz