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Panasonic Toughbook CF-F8 review

Verdict

Combines light weight, with good looks, speed, good battery life - and a belligerent resistance to hard knocks.

Review Date: 10 Dec 2008

Reviewed By: Sasha Muller

Price when reviewed: (£1,747 inc VAT)

Panasonic's Toughbooks have always occupied a narrow niche in the laptop market. From the fully-ruggedised, stop-a-bullet likes of the CF-19, right down to the dainty but resilient business series, Toughbooks are for people who can't afford a laptop breakdown, but can afford to pay a premium for the privilege.

Its latest model, the CF-F8, marks a departure from its predecessors in that it boasts a widescreen-aspect display. Previous models have eschewed widescreen displays, largely seen as unnecessary for a business audience, but it seems that that Panasonic's customers have finally demanded a change. And, in a highly impressive party trick for a 14.1in laptop, the CF-F8 also manages to squeeze an optical drive into its headline-grabbing weight of just 1.64kg.

Beauty and the beast

What's even more surprising is that the CF-F8 is both light and tough. As one of Panasonic's business-ruggedised models the CF-F8 isn't capable of being submerged in water or run over by a truck, but it nevertheless boasts a range of hard-knock features designed to help it outlast its comparably light rivals.

The foremost of these is the 76cm drop resistance. Absentmindedly tip your average laptop off a desk, or just let your laptop slip from the crook of your arm, and once the slow-motion shock has turned to horror, you can wave goodbye as your portable limps back to the repair centre. Not so the CF-F8.

In fact, the integrated handle along the laptop's front edge encourages you to do away with a laptop bag altogether. Should you find yourself dashing for a meeting or diving for a closing train door, it's easy to keep a firm hold of the CF-F8.

Should you manage to spill your morning cup of coffee all over the CF-F8, its keyboard is spill-resistant too. We poured a cup of water all over the keyboard while the Toughbook was running our benchmarks, and the water simply trickled through the drainage port on the underside.

And, thanks to a hard drive which is mounted with rubber grommets and a reinforced chassis which is effortlessly capable of shrugging off unexpected thumps and bumps, this is one laptop designed to survive the rough and tumble of the working day.

Of course, there are limits to the CF-F8's resilience. Unlike the semi- and fully-ruggedised models in Panasonic's range, the CF-F8's ports and connectors aren't covered with flaps to prevent the ingress of dust or water. Spill liquid on the Toughbook's surface and you'll probably be fine, but splash it a little too liberally and you'll still find your laptop winging its way back to the repair centre.

Hey, good looking

It's a reasonably attractive laptop too, at least by Toughbooks' usually dour standards. The fact that the car bonnet-style lid comes in a businesslike matte black is a bit of a departure for the range, but it looks good and feels immensely stout. It doesn't just feel strong though, it is strong; Panasonic's rigorous tests certify that it will withstand 100kgs bearing down on it.

In the rare occurrence that the laptop finds itself sat on, stood on or just crushed awkwardly in the confines of an airplane baggage compartment, it's likely to survive the ordeal.

Tilt back that rugged feeling lid and you're back on well-worn Toughbook territory. The signature Toughbook grey is in abundance along with other unmistakable touches such as the circular trackpad and the DVD writer integrated into the right-hand portion of the wristrest.

Toughbooks really are a love-or-hate-it affair, rather like Lenovo's ThinkPads, and the same goes for their usability. Some will find the circular trackpad drives them quite literally round the bend, and there are those who will hate the keyboard's feather-light feel.

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