Shortly after we emptied said bottle of still mineral water over the keyboard of the Y5, marvelled at the drainage mechanism and leaving it to one side to dry off, the machine recorded an error: Hardware malfunction: call your hardware vendor for support - NMI: Channel check / IOCHK *** The system has halted ***.
The problem cleared with the reset and the Y5's been chugging along happily since, but some poor technician at Panasonic HQ is going to have to give it a full check-up before loaning it out again. The official marketing gumpf says merely that the keyboard is "splash resistant", though the accompanying press advice says it can deal with 200ml of spilt water.
We thought it wise to let the machine rest before roughing it up again. It's got a 14.1in LCD screen (1,400 x 1,050 pixel resolution) of good quality (active matrix TFT and SXGA+ graphics on an Intel chipset). There's a good selection of slots and sockets: PC Card, SD memory, external monitor, two USB ports, network, modem, port replicator connector and headphone and microphone sockets.
It's got a wireless network adaptor, of course, Bluetooth, high definition sound compatibility and a rewritable DVD drive. The standard-issue 512MB of DDR2 553MHz RAM is a little light and we'd recommend considering an upgrade. The 60 GB hard disk is contained within a protective layer of shock-resistant foam, which is one of the more important protective measures. The keyboard is an impressive size and fills out almost to the edges of the machine and at its heart lies a low-voltage Core Duo L2400 processor running at 1.66GHz with 2MB L2 cache.
When undertaking routine tasks, the battery lasted for an average of around six hours, which is not at all bad, and playing DVDs constantly it averaged at a little over four hours - again, not bad: that's two average-length movies, or one of the Lord of the Rings trilogy and a little work maybe as well.
With an improved display, a dual-core processor and its all-round ruggedness, we took to this Toughbook even more than the earlier CF-W5 model. However, £1,649 for a laptop with a Core Duo L2400 and just 512MB RAM is enough to deter a few that were once-interested in investing in this product. An integrated 3G HSDPA slot for mobile broadband can be added, but then that complete set-up will set you back £1,949. If it were a little less expensive and had a bit more RAM, Panasonic would have a prizewinner.
Panasonic CF-Y5 Toughbook laptop
Twice, I have seen a Thinkpad hit the floor. These were open, in use, and somebody caught the power cable while walking past. Meeting room table, concrete floor coated in thin office carpet.
In both cases, the owner picked up the machine, confirmed it wasn't damaged, and carried on working. The smart hard-drive protection has a lot to do with it, but the stiff screen casing and flexible sytem case helps too.
If it was my money, I'd buy one.
"I envisage a company out there that makes 386-based laptops out of granite, that can withstand a nuclear blast and dunking in acid"
That company exists - or existed - and it was Panasonic! The old ToughBooks were invincible. Feller I know used to have one. Wasn't massively powerful, but he once demonstrated its toughness to me by dropping it on the floor, kicking it across the room, smacking it off the worktop a few times and running a tap over it. He then opened it up and went right back to his letter. Needless to say, I was impressed.
For a ToughBook, or at least the ToughBooks I know and love, this sucker looks rather weedy.
This is a bottom of the range model
Panasonic do make some really tough notebooks, but you'll pay 4 or 5 grand for them.
Check it out
Yes, I know the IBM gimmick, and I've seen it too.
And when our (60? kg) team leader tried it, she cracked the screen. Needless to say, IBM replaced the machine FOC.
Yes, just like with the toughbook, you *can* do it if you position your feet over the edge of the machine. But in the middle, they're still pretty 'bendy', which I assume Panasonic has dealt with.
Out of curiousity, who makes real ruggedised laptops? These "toughbooks" have the air of a sports utility vehicle. I envisage a company out there that makes 386-based laptops out of granite, that can withstand a nuclear blast and dunking in acid - the kind of company we never, ever heard about, but that exists and sells to the government.