Most people will tell you that Panasonic's Toughbook laptops are aimed at construction workers. But believe it or not, there are some Toughbooks that are aimed at people without hard hats, high-visibility jackets and tight blue jeans.
One of these is the Toughbook CF-W7. Available at the end of February for around £1,500, the CF-W7 is intended for businessmen, so-called road-warriors and the pathologically butterfingered. Its sturdy chassis helps it survive falls, spills and the sort of day-to-day abuse that would render other laptops inoperable.
The Toughbook CF-W7 tips the scales at a Kylie-esque 1.2Kg. Unfortunately, it's nowhere near as attractive as the Antipodean princess of pop -- the bulbous lid gives us the impression that it's the evil offspring of a Hummer H2 and a T100-series Terminator.
The lid has a purpose, though. It lets the CF-W7 withstand considerable crushing forces -- up to 100Kg in fact. If you're the type of person who's prone to accidentally stepping on your laptop -- and you don't weigh more than the average darts player -- then this machine is going to be right up your street.
At the front edge of the lid, you'll find a little flap, beneath which is a SIM card slot. You may have guessed that this enables the laptop to access the Internet as long as you've got cellular coverage. You'd be right -- it supports UMTS/HSDPA connections up to 2.5Mbps.
Open the lid and you'll find a comfortable Qwerty keyboard, which is spill resistant. We tested it by pouring an entire mug of water over it, and the rubber membrane beneath protected the laptop's internal components from damage. We were disappointed it didn't erupt in a flurry of sparks and smoke, but then it wouldn't be a Toughbook, now would it?
Below the keyboard is an odd-looking, circular mouse trackpad. It's far smaller than one you'd get on regular laptops, so expect to use more finger strokes than you might use on laptops with larger trackpad surfaces. The DVD rewriter drive sits to the right of the mouse, and is a rather bizarre flip-up model that is reminiscent of a car bonnet. Why have this design? We're not sure. It does look pretty cool, though.
The Toughbook CF-W7 isn't packing any mean hardware. The Intel Core 2 Duo U7500 CPU is of the ultra-low voltage, so its clock speed of 1.06GHz is modest to say the least. The accompanying RAM is only 1GB as standard, but you can and probably should increase this to the maximum permissable 2GB.
You can forget about games, too. The Intel GM965 graphics controller is only really intended for showing off Powerpoint slides, DVD movies and general day-to-day desktop applications. On a positive note, the 12.1-inch screen isn't reflective so you can actually use it in direct sunlight -- great news for the outdoor types.