Panasonic Toughbook CF-51 semi-rugged notebook
The Captain Scarlet of mobile PCs?
The touchpad works well enough and is positioned far enough from the Spacebar to avoid accidental cursor repositioning.
The screen is a superb example, sporting an impressive 1600 x 1200 resolution. This is more desktop real estate than the majority of desktop monitors provide and certainly makes for a very pleasant working environment. There's no fancy high-contrast coating on this screen, but then a Toughbook isn't really meant to be used for gaming or movie watching. As notebook screens go, this is one of the best I've seen, coming second only to the handful of 1920 x 1200 widescreen examples I've encountered.
Inside the CF-51 is a 2GHz Pentium M CPU backed up by 512MB of memory. As already mentioned there's a free SO-DIMM slot, so you can augment the memory post-purchase without the need to discard any modules. There's an 80GB hard drive which should keep you happy for a good while.
Being a Centrino-branded machine there's obviously an Intel Wi-Fi adaptor thrown in, and it's good to see that Panasonic has gone for a top-end card that supports 802.11a, b and g. This complements the integrated gigabit Ethernet adaptor. Bluetooth is conspicuous by its absence, however.
Taking a look around the chassis, you'll see that the right side is dominated by the DVD-ROM/CD-RW combo drive. I don't often see these anymore, with pretty much every notebook I come across fitted with a DVD writer these days. The front is adorned only by the headphone and mic sockets, battery and charge indicator lights, and the modular hard disk caddy.
On the left there are two Type II PC Card slots, two USB 2.0 ports, a four-pin FireWire port and the power socket. Surprisingly, the rear sports the most features, despite the fact that most notebooks these days are pretty sparse at the back. Here you'll find serial, parallel and D-SUB ports, a modem socket, an Ethernet port and a PS/2 port. Clearly Panasonic feels that legacy ports are important to Toughbook users, who may have specialist equipment that needs to be connected via archaic serial ports.