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Panasonic ToughBook T1 review: Panasonic ToughBook T1

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MSRP: $2,235.00
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The Good Very light; sturdy case; shock-mounted screen and hard drive; long battery life; three-year warranty.

The Bad Expensive; limited configurability; costly external drives.

The Bottom Line This pricey ultralight isn't meant for everyone, but it's a solid investment for travelers who are tough on their laptops.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

7.7 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 7
  • Performance 8
  • Battery 9
  • Support 8

Review Sections

Panasonic's ToughBooks have traditionally been the laptops of choice for the most harrowing circumstances, from trekking in Nepal to surveying construction sites. The notebooks earn their name with rugged features such as a brawny, magnesium-alloy case and shock-mounted hard drives. One of the tiniest ToughBooks, the T1, rolls these hearty features into a featherlight, 2.4-pound case. It also carries an ultralow-voltage, Pentium III-M processor that contributes to its awesome battery life; a Secure Digital slot for convenient file sharing on the fly; and a long, three-year warranty. Combined, these traits make for a laptop that's both light and strong enough for loads of travel. But beware--at $2,399, it's expensive. The Gateway 200, in contrast, sells for $1,999. The 2.4-pound ToughBook T1 follows on the heels of its slightly smaller predecessor, the 2.1-pound R1. The new T1 is still slim, however, at 10.6 inches wide by 8.3 inches deep. Its height varies from 1 inch in front to 1.5 inches in back; the battery underneath provides a little lift.



The ToughBook T1's circular touchpad and mouse come rimmed with a shiny, silver film that could crack over time.
For a notebook this small, the ToughBook T1's 12.1-inch display with a 1,024x768 native resolution is big. It's also shock-mounted, along with the 40GB hard drive, for extra protection. Despite these precautions, Panasonic's user manual still advises not to "drop or hit the computer against solid objects." Fortunately, the ToughBook T1's silver case is made of tough magnesium alloy to help ward off damage.

The ToughBook T1 features average connectivity options for an ultralight, with two exceptions: its cool Secure Digital memory slot, which lets you save files to small, chewing-gum-sized media, and a full-sized VGA port. Otherwise, the system includes a single Type II PC Card slot on its right edge; 56K modem, Ethernet, and two USB 2.0 ports, as well as the VGA and SD slot on the left; and two microphone/headphone jacks on the front. 802.11b wireless is an optional component that adds $239 to the already high price. Should you choose this feature, Panasonic throws in an internal, mini-PCI 802.11b card and builds an antenna into the side of the LCD bezel. Of course, you can always add wireless on your own via a third-party Type II PC Card.

The ports on the front edge are easy to reach.Some of the T1's keys are undersized.
The T1's keyboard isn't the best or the worst we've encountered on an ultralight; it has sufficient width but some undersized keys, particularly Page Up and Home. Below the keyboard sit a circular touchpad and two macaroni-shaped mouse buttons; we wish these items weren't rimmed with a shiny, silver film that could crack over time. We also regret that the lid latch resides on the front edge and not on the lid itself, forcing you to use two hands to unlock and lift the lid. And the ToughBook T1 doesn't squeeze great sound from its single, tiny speaker above the keyboard, though that's not surprising in a system this small.


The PC Card slot on the right side can be used to add wireless.
The ToughBook T1 shows its true ultralight colors in its limited configurability. The laptop includes just one processor choice, Intel's ultralow-voltage, 866MHz mobile Pentium III-M; a 40GB hard drive; an Intel 830M graphics chip that borrows up to 48MB of video RAM from main memory; and a 12.1-inch display. If you choose to buy this system from the Panasonic Web site, your only configuration flexibility lies in main memory, which you can upgrade from the standard 256MB of 133MHz SDRAM to 512MB.

The ToughBook T1's price is a little on the high side, but it includes cool extras such as its shock-mounted hard drive and screen. Start adding options, however, and you'll incur plenty of extra costs. The external USB floppy drive, the external USB DVD/CD-RW drive, and the replacement battery cost a higher than average $199, $439, and $259, respectively.

Software choices for the ToughBook T1 are sparse. Panasonic provides one operating system: Windows XP Pro. Adobe Acrobat Reader is the only third-party application you get, and Panasonic's setup and diagnostic software round out the meager offering.

The company also preloads an online-only version of its reference manual; a hard copy of the getting-started manual comes in the box. Both of these manuals indicate that the ToughBook isn't meant for newbies, as they contain none of the large, colorful pictures diagramming the simplest actions (such as plugging in) found on laptops from HP, Dell, and other computer makers. For such a small notebook, the Panasonic ToughBook T1 performed well in CNET Labs' tests. The ToughBook T1, with an 866MHz Pentium III-M, had the lowest-speed processor of the three ultraportables tested, but it still came in first in mobile performance, beating the Gateway 200 by 5 points. It also beat the 1.2GHz Celeron-powered Sotec 3210x by 10 points. Neither of those margins of victory would translate to a noticeable performance difference in real-world use, however.

MobileMark2002 mobile performance test
Longer bars indicate faster performance
Panasonic ToughBook T1
97 
Gateway 200
92 
Sotec 3120x
87 


Find out more about how we test notebook systems.

System configurations:

Gateway 200
Windows XP Professional; 933MHz Intel Pentium III-M; 248MB SDRAM 100MHz; Intel 830M integrated graphics 48MB (8MB shared); Toshiba MK2018GAP 20GB 4,200rpm

Panasonic ToughBook T1
Windows XP Professional; 866MHz Intel Pentium III-M; 248MB SDRAM 133MHz, Intel 830M integrated graphics 48MB; Toshiba MK4020GLS 40GB 4,200rpm

Sotec 3120x
Windows XP Home; 1.2GHz Celeron; 256MB SDRAM 133MHz; SIS 630ST 32MB; IBM Travelstar 20GN 20GB 4,200rpm
The Panasonic ToughBook T1, with its 7.4V, 4,400mAh battery, came in a close second in battery-life tests, only 7 minutes behind the Gateway 200 with its 7.4V, 3,600mAh battery. The Sotec 3210x, with its 11.1V, 4,000mAh battery, was left in the dust, trailing the ToughBook T1 by almost 45 minutes.

MobileMark2002 battery-life test
Time is measured in minutes; longer bars indicate better performance
Gateway 200
219 
Panasonic ToughBook T1
212 
Sotec 3120x
168 


To measure mobile application performance and battery life, CNET Labs uses BAPCo's MobileMark 2002. MobileMark measures both applications performance and battery life concurrently using a number of popular applications (Microsoft Word 2002, Microsoft Excel 2002, Microsoft PowerPoint 2002, Microsoft Outlook 2002, Netscape Communicator 6.0, WinZip Computing WinZip 8.0, McAfee VirusScan 5.13, Adobe Photoshop 6.0.1, and Macromedia Flash 5.0).

System configurations:

Gateway 200
Windows XP Professional; 933MHz Intel Pentium III-M; 248MB SDRAM 100MHz; Intel 830M integrated graphics 48MB (8MB shared); Toshiba MK2018GAP 20GB 4,200rpm

Panasonic ToughBook T1
Windows XP Professional; 866MHz Intel Pentium III-M; 248MB SDRAM 133MHz, Intel 830M integrated graphics 48MB; Toshiba MK4020GLS 40GB 4,200rpm

Sotec 3120x
Windows XP Home; 1.2GHz Celeron; 256MB SDRAM 133MHz; SIS 630ST 32MB; IBM Travelstar 20GN 20GB 4,200rpm
A standard three-year warranty is almost unheard of nowadays in the notebook market, so we're pleased Panasonic offers just such a long warranty with the ToughBook T1. The policy features return-to-depot service with free shipping both ways, plus an average 48-hour turnaround time. Equally satisfying is the included toll-free, 24/7 telephone support.

At press time, Panasonic had not yet published support information specific to the T1 on its Web site. In general, the company's Web support is so-so, including a well-stocked downloads center but lacking a handy user forum or the ability to chat with a service rep.

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