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Panasonic ToughBook W4 review: Panasonic ToughBook W4

The ToughBook W4 lacks the latest component options, but it does offer a remarkably lightweight case and solid performance for basic home and business use.

Michelle Thatcher

Michelle Thatcher

Former Senior Associate Editor, Laptops

Tech expert Michelle Thatcher grew up surrounded by gadgets and sustained by Tex-Mex cuisine. Life in two major cities--first Chicago, then San Francisco--broadened her culinary horizons beyond meat and cheese, and she's since enjoyed nearly a decade of wining, dining, and cooking up and down the California coast. Though her gadget lust remains, the practicalities of her small kitchen dictate that single-function geegaws never stay around for long.

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The bulk of the changes on the W4, priced at $2,199, are inside the case. Panasonic has stocked the laptop with an assortment of previous-generation parts (no Core Solo or Core Duo processors here): a 1.2GHz Pentium M Ultra Low Voltage processor, 512MB of middling 400MHz RAM, a 40GB hard drive spinning at 4,200rpm, and integrated Intel graphics. Those components are nearly identical to the similarly priced Fujitsu LifeBook P7120's, though not quite as fresh as those on the less expensive, Core Solo-based Gateway NX100X. Nevertheless, the W4 matched the performance of both the Fujitsu and the Gateway on CNET Labs' performance benchmarks and should prove sufficient for basic business applications such as e-mail, word processing, and spreadsheets.

6.8

Panasonic ToughBook W4

The Good

Almost six hours of battery life; unique optical drive hidden under wrist rest; very small and light; rugged construction; lifetime phone support.

The Bad

Previous-generation components; small spacebar; expensive; some design quirks.

The Bottom Line

The ToughBook W4 lacks the latest component options, but it does offer a remarkably lightweight case and solid performance for basic home and business use.
Since CNET gave an Editors' Choice award to the Panasonic ToughBook W2 in 2003, Panasonic has renamed the system the W4 and made a few modest enhancements to the laptop. The few case modifications involve adding a handy Wi-Fi on/off switch and a connector for Panasonic's optional port replicator; otherwise the W4's design and features are exactly the same as the W2's.

The W4 also displayed an impressive battery life, lasting 5 hours, 41 minutes in our drain tests. The LifeBook P7120 held out just 7 minutes more, while the NX100X trailed far behind both competitors, lasting an average 3 hours, 6 minutes.

Like its predecessor, the W4 is covered by a lengthy three-year standard warranty (most consumer laptops are covered for only one year). In addition, Panasonic provides paid shipping for repairs, along with lifetime, toll-free, 24/7 tech support--a package that's virtually unheard of these days. The company's support Web site includes troubleshooting guides, FAQs, and driver downloads, as well as the option to contact a support rep via e-mail.

Mobile application performance
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
BAPCo MobileMark 2002 performance rating  

Battery life
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
BAPCo MobileMark 2002 battery life in minutes  

Find out more about how we test Windows laptops.

System configurations:
Fujitsu LifeBook P7120
Windows XP Professional; 1.2GHz Intel Pentium M ULV 753; 512MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; Intel 915GM/GMS, 910GML Express 128MB; Toshiba MK6006GAH 60GB 4,200rpm
Gateway NX100X
Windows XP Professional; 1.2GHz Intel Core Solo U1400; 512MB DDR2 SDRAM PC4300 533MHz; Intel 945GM Express 128MB; Hitachi Travelstar 5K80 80GB 5,400rpm
Panasonic ToughBook W4
Windows XP Professional; 1.2GHz Intel Pentium M ULV 753; 512MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; Intel 915GM/GMS, 910GML Express 128MB; Toshiba MK25GASL 40GB 4,200rpm

6.8

Panasonic ToughBook W4

Score Breakdown

Design 6Features 5Performance 6Battery 7Support 8
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