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The Panasonic ToughBook W4

The Panasonic ToughBook W4

Though it doesn't have a huge share of the market, Panasonic can usually be relied upon for innovative and distinctive laptop designs. Its remarkable ToughBook Y2 features a 14.1-inch display, a full-size keyboard, an optical drive, and really good battery life--and somehow weighs only 3.3 pounds. It was first released in 2004; to this day, no other laptop its size weighs as little as the Y2.

Extending its tradition of featherweight laptop design, Panasonic has just updated the U.S. version of its more conventional ultraportable ToughBook W2 model, now called the W4.

At 2.8 pounds, the ToughBook W4 has modest specs that include an ultra-low-voltage 1.2GHz Pentium M processor, integrated graphics, 512MB of DDR2 RAM, and a 40GB hard drive. You also get a 12.1-inch standard-aspect display; contrary to the specs currently listed on Panasonic's site, the W4 does not have a touch screen. It does have a PC Card slot (Type II), an SD card reader, 10/100 Ethernet, a 56K modem, and Intel 802.11a/b/g Wi-Fi. Panasonic says it gets more than six hours of battery life.

Based on these specs, the ToughBook W4 sounds somewhat similar to the ToughBook R4, available only overseas or from gray-market distributors such as Icube and Dynamism. We took a look at the R4 this summer and found its keyboard and 10-inch display too tiny to use for anything but sending short e-mail messages or watching a DVD on a plane. The W4, which has a larger screen, may be just big enough to be more useful. We're expecting to get one in the Labs any day, so keep an eye out for our full review.

The Panasonic ToughBook W4 is available now for $2,149.