Review Panasonic Toughbook CF-W8 Notebook

By Martina Osztovits 09/10/10

Business Ruggedized.

Panasonic wants to collect points from their customers with an especially stable case that allegedly protects the Toughbook CF-W8 against several damages. Of course, the communication alignment doesn't come too short in this ultra-mobile device for business clients. Panasonic has also kept a matt, and in view of this, suitable VDU workstation in mind. To what extent the Toughbook CF-W8 can also convince in our test is clarified in the following review.

Test Panasonic Toughbook CF-W8

Panasonic Computer Products Europe are specialized on manufacturing especially stable and resistant notebooks. These are, according to the manufacturer, tested in elaborate test procedures in extremely true to life circumstances, whereas a special weight is put on "Mobility, technical superiority and convincing resistance".

Panasonic categorizes its notebooks in view of resistance as full-ruggedized, semi-ruggedized, and finally, business ruggedized. The CF-W8 belongs to the last category. What this means in regards to drop, spill and pressure resistance in detail, will be comprehensively described in the following categories.

Case

Opposing the trend to build extremely thin notebooks, the rather massive case for a 12.1 inch device struck us right away after unpacking it. This is also confirmed after measuring it. With this, it belongs to the front runners with a construction height of 48.3 millimeters. Because Panasonic has selected a display in a 4:3 size, the depth of 214 millimeters applies, and the breadth of 272 millimeters turns out accordingly. However, not only the massive size has an influence on the device's stability but also the choice of materials. The manufacturer states that the enabled notebook should be able to swallow drops from a height of up to 76 cm on the its bottom and drops of up to 30 centimeters from other angles in a disabled state, whereas the manufacturer has tested it in 26 different angles, due to the use of a magnesium alloy. Pressure loads of up to 100 kg/f, that correlates to 980 Newton, aren't supposed to be a problem for the CF-W8, either. Because we handle our prototypes with care, we didn't reproduce these strains.

Those who come to the conclusion that the CF-W8 has to make a plump impression already due to its construction, are wrong. Moreover, the silver-colored surfaces give it a certain elegance.

The surface feel is pleasant due to the magnesium alloy. Also, the slightly beveled design with a lower construction height along the front edge makes ergonomical typing possible.

As expected, the torsional stiffness and pressure test turned out by and large to our satisfaction. The only weak point was shown under point pressure on the right wrist rest, underneath which the optical drive is found.

The opening angle is restricted to ca. 140 degrees due to the angled hinges fastened on the display. The hinges may appear small but they do a good job. The display barely teeters after adjusting the opening angle and they handle even shaky work surfaces (train journey) perfectly. Panasonic has omitted a transportation closure but, vice versa, the grip of the hinges is also sufficient to keep the notebook closed. But you shouldn't consider trying to adjust the opening angle single-handedly.

Connectivity

Wie wir testen - Gehäuse

Primarily, the innovative position of the optical drive jumps at you. It's opened upwards via a slider on the front edge and enabled at the same time. Closing the DVD drive without a data carrier, disables it after a few minutes to save power. This solution is pleasing in view of operation. Unfortunately there are disadvantages in regards to the right palm rest's pressure resistance, as already mentioned above.
Additionally found on the front edge are the power slider, which lights up green at activation, the headphone and microphone socket, the WiFi switch and Status LEDs for ECO mode, battery and optical drive.

The left side accommodates a VGA port, a docking port, a PC card slot and a SDHC cardreader. The compatible mini-port replicator can be connected to the docking port, which extends the interface supply by 4 USB 2.0, and simplifies the fast connection to an already existing work surrounding with a VGA and LAN port.

On the right there are three USB 2.0 ports, LAN (RJ-45) and a modem connection (RJ-11). The rear has to kept free from interfaces due to the opening mechanisms. A narrow gap above the keyboard's left becomes visible when the battery is removed.

Basically, the connectivity is, in view of the size, good and the distribution can be called felicitous as all potentially permanently occupied interfaces are found more in the rear of the side edges.

Front: Power switch, headphone, microphone, WiFi switch, status LEDs, optical drive
Front: Power switch, headphone, microphone, WiFi switch, status LEDs, optical drive
Right: 3x USB 2.0, LAN (RJ-45), modem (RJ-11), Kensington lock
Right: 3x USB 2.0, LAN (RJ-45), modem (RJ-11), Kensington lock
Rear: Battery
Rear: Battery
Left: Power socket, VGA, docking, port / fan, PC card slot, SDHC cardreader
Left: Power socket, VGA, docking, port / fan, PC card slot, SDHC cardreader

The Toughbook CF-W8 can be connected to the Intel 82567LM Gigabit Network connection (10/100/1000MBit) LAN via a cable. In places with a poor infrastructure, the modem connection (RJ-11) might just make internet access feasible.
Aside from an Intel Wireless WiFi Link 5100 AGN (abgn) module there is also Bluetooth 2.0+EDR available, for wireless communication.

Optionally, but not in our prototype, the CF-W8 can also be attained with an UMTS/HSDPA (Gobi) broadband modem for fast wireless internet connections. Equally optional, a fingerprint reader can be selected, whereas you have to then waiver on the Bluetooth module.

We found a printed product description, a modem cable, the Panasonic Wireless WAN (HSPA) SW included in the prototype's package. The long standard warranty of 36 months - with exception of expendable items such as the battery - deserves a special mention.

Microsoft XP Professional with Service Pack 2 (in English) was preinstalled on our prototype. But the CF-W8 is also available with Windows Vista Business Service Pack 1. Various preinstalled utilities support the user in the device's setup, operation and maintenance: Battery tools, the PC Information Viewer, electronic manuals, the Fan-Control Utility, the Icon Enlarger (a magnifying utility), tools for the optical drive (drive letter assignment and energy savings configuration) and the Power Saving Utility.

Input Devices

First of all: Because the prototype came to our lab with an American keyboard layout, we needed a certain accommodation period, as we're used to a different language layout. However, afterwards we could touch-type accurately and easily. The keyboard takes up the whole case width, but although the alphanumerical keys with an effective side length of ca. 13 millimeters are very generous for a device with these dimensions, they're still sometimes too small for larger hands. The enter key is only single-rowed and the space bar with an effective width of 45 millimeters a bit too short. The arrow key grouping has been nicely solved, though. Considering the tight space conditions of a 12 incher, the key layout and key size have been well chosen.
You can be satisfied with the mechanical traits of the keyboard, anyway. Not even the slightest deflection is noticed anywhere, typing is pleasantly quiet and the stroke length and pressure point of the single keys are pleasant, whereas individual preferences are decisive here.

The touchpad bids an innovative circular design with an adjustable scroll zone  (rounded along the edge) via software, but which hasn't been visibly marked. The mouse could impress with its gliding traits, precision and response.
The correlating keys also respond over the whole extent perfectly and work quietly.

Once again, a special emphasis has been put on sturdiness of the input devices. Hence, keyboard and touchpad are splash water proof. According to the manufacturer, up to 0.2 liters of liquid can be conveyed outwards and can't damage anything due to a uniquely conceived drainage system - we also didn't check this.

Keyboard
Panasonic Toughbook CF-W8 keyboard
Touchpad
Panasonic Toughbook CF-W8 touchpad

Display

Panasonic has equipped the CF-W8 with a matt display surface, appropriate for a business device. The 12.1 inch LCD supports a maximum resolution of 1024x768 pixels (XGA). With this, we've had the first 4:3 display in our lab in a long time. For office applications, which usually need the vertical height, the somewhat narrower and higher formats sometimes have an advantage. The maximum resolution is, in consideration of size, alright.

Panasonic Toughbook Excellence CF-W8 at outdoor use
Panasonic Toughbook Excellence CF-W8 at outdoor use

The CF-W8 reaches its maximum brightness of 166.1 cd/m2 in the center display sector. From there, the brightness decreases in all directions, whereas we established merely 130.9 cd/m2 in the lower left sector, in the end. A still acceptable illumination of 79% results from both of these values. The display reaches an average brightness of 147.4 cd/m2.
The non-glossy Active Matrix (TFT) color LCD can be worked with comfortably even adverse light conditions... However, at use in direct sunlight, a bit more brightness would be desirable.

Merely an average contrast value of around 109:1 results due to the fairly high black value of 1.52 cd/m2 and the maximum brightness, measured in the center sector.

136
cd/m²
157.9
cd/m²
146.2
cd/m²
149.3
cd/m²
166.1
cd/m²
146.8
cd/m²
130.9
cd/m²
144.9
cd/m²
148.1
cd/m²
Information
Maximum: 166.1 cd/m²
Average: 147.4 cd/m²
Brightness Distribution: 79 %
Black: 1.52 cd/m²
Contrast: 109:1
Distribution of brightness

Looking subjectively at various bright screen backgrounds on the Toughbook CF-W8's display, there were barely any up to only slight shadow building, depending on the viewing angle.

The test for the maximum viewing angles turns out very good horizontally. The optimal tilt and thus viewing angles are considerably lower on the vertical plane. The colors appear saturated and the displayed image focused.

Panasonic Toughbook CF-W8 Viewing Angle Stability

Performance

Wie wir testen - Leistung

Panasonic tries to provide a balanced relation in regards to performance and battery life. In our opinion, they've managed to do this quite well. Let's first take a look at the system components.

Das Toughbook CF-W8 nutzt die Centrino-2 vPro Technologie. Als zentrale The Toughbook CF-W8 uses the Centrino 2 vPro technology. An Intel 2 Duo SU9400 (1.40 GHz, 3 MB L2 Cache, 800 MHz FSB) processor (-> manufacturer's information) is employed as the central computing unit. This two-core processor, which is manufactured in a 45nm lithographic process, has been developed especially in consideration of low power consumption. With only a power loss of 10 watts, it's significantly under the consumption of the comparable Core 2 Duo T5270 (1.40 GHz, 2M Cache, 800 MHz FSB) , which needs 35 watts, in view of performance.

Intel's GMA 4500M HD graphic chip integrated into the GS-45 chip set is responsible for pixel computing. This, however, doesn't have a dedicated graphic memory, but borrows a dynamic part from the main memory instead. The GMA 4500M HD supports DirectX 10.0 and can unburden the processor at HD video rendering with its integrated video decoding capabilities, but it hasn't been developed for 3D-biased applications, such as current computer games. Computer games actually don't really belong to the main application field of a business notebook designed for mobility and stability. For further details about built-in graphic processors, we refer here to our graphic card comparison and for the performance ranking to our benchmark list of mobile graphic cards.
If you would like to play an occasional game now and again, older and less 3D-demanding games aren't a problem for the GMA 4500M HD, though. In return, modern 3D-biased games run smoothly at best in a low resolution and low details. For details, we also refer here to our editorial: "Computer Games on Laptop Graphic Cards".

There were two gigabyte of system memory (RAM) built into the prototype. According to the manufacturer, the Toughbook is available with a maximum of four gigabytes RAM. Principally, the GS45 would support up to eight gigabytes RAM, but however it seem that such an upgrade is less sensible in view of the other built-in components. The preinstalled Windows XP Professional 32 bits were a sensible and balanced choice for the two gigabytes built-in on the prototype.

A MK1655GSX hard disk of 160GB gross capacity from Toshiba is available as the mass memory. It works with a rotation velocity of 5400 rpm and supplies according performance values, established with HDTune. In order to fulfill the demands put on a business ruggedized notebook, the hard disk is naturally protected against vibrations. It's also fairly easy to access over a maintenance cover on the notebook's bottom.
That Panasonic also has found place for a DVD multi-drive in this 12.1 incher is especially pleasing. The built-in optical drive is a DVD-RAM UJE844S from Matchita.

CPU-Z-CPU
CPU-Z-Cache
CPU-Z-MB
CPU-Z-RAM
CPU-Z-SPD1
GPU-U
HDTune

System Information Panasonic Toughbook CF-W8

As to test the performance capabilities, we have used a few synthetic benchmarks and found that the Toughbook can very well keep up with similarly equipped devices in view of efficiency, as a look on our benchmark list confirms. Initially, we wanted to pick out the Acer Travelmate 8371 Timeline notebook, a 13 inch device also with an SU9400, GMA 4500 HD and a 5400 rpm hard disk. It has an additional two gigabyte RAM, so a total of four gigabytes, but can't use this advantage completely – probably because of the resource devouring Windows Vista Business 32 bit, which uses four gigabytes of RAM only inefficiently, due to architecture-specific details.

With the same configuration as the Travelmate 8371, but with an SSD mass memory and preinstalled Windows Vista Home Premium 64 bit, the Dell Adamo Thirteen takes the challenge. First in the Cinebench tests could the Adamo overtake the Toughbook CF-W8 slightly with +17% in single-rendering, +11% in multi-rendering and +13% in shading.

Subjectively, you can altogether be satisfied with the Toughbook CF-W8's application performance. Office and internet applications run smoothly and without big delays so that it can be spoken of a solid, target-group suitable application performance.

DPC Latency Checker
DPC Latency Checker

With the DPC Latency Checker tool, we also checked the latencies under Windows XP Professional. As these always ideally stay within a limit, problems synchronizing external devices, for example sound crackling with external sound cards, shouldn't turn up.

Cinebench R10 Rendering Single 32Bit
1532
Cinebench R10 Rendering Multiple CPUs 32Bit
2918
Cinebench R10 Shading 32Bit
668
Help
PC Mark
PCMark 053097 points
Help
3D Mark
3DMark 2001SE4641 points
3DMark 031714 points
3DMark 051159 points
3DMark 06
 1280x1024
559 points
Help
Toshiba MK1655GSX
Transfer Rate Minimum: 29.5 MB/s
Transfer Rate Maximum: 60.6 MB/s
Transfer Rate Average: 46.1 MB/s
Access Time: 17.3 ms
Burst Rate: 83.6 MB/s
CPU Usage: 2.2 %

Emissions

System Noise

Subjectively, the Toughbook wasn't conspicuous in idle mode or at use with low load. There is only a consistent, quietly singing, whirring sound audible - but only if you move your ear accordingly close to the fan. This applies to the standard fan settings with which the evaluation was executed. We recorded a maximum of 31.2 dB(A) in this operating condition. Selecting the setting "low" in the preinstalled Fan Control Utility deactivates the fan immediately. You get a quieter notebook with this setting but in return, you have to count with a stronger temperature development. The opposite fan control configuration is also possible. The notebook is kept cooler at the expense of noise emissions in "high".

A maximum of 39.2 dB(A) is reached under load in the fan profile "normal". The DVD drive is considerably louder at data transfer with 47.2 dB(A).

Noise Level

Idle 30.4 / 31.2 / 31.2 dB(A)
HDD 31.4 dB(A)
DVD 39.2 / 47.6 dB(A)
Load 35.2 / 39.2 dB(A)
 
    30 dB
silent
40 dB
audible
50 dB
loud
 
min: , med: , max:     (15 cm distance)

Temperature

The case gets quite hot especially on the bottom under load when the fan is set to "normal". The maximum temperature of a high 50.6 degrees Celsius, measured in the center left sector, generally excludes a mobile use on the thighs under high performance demands (for example 3D-biased applications). On the upper side, a peak value of 41.5 degrees Celsius is reached in the center front area (touchpad).

Because this device probably won't be used under permanent full load, we will now look at the evaluations of use in low load. After all, the Toughbook CF-W8 has been optimized for mobile office and internet applications. The temperature development looks a lot better here. Both the upper side, with a maximum of 31.6 degrees Celsius, as well as the bottom, with 36.1 degrees, stay agreeably cool.

Max. Load
 36.1 °C35.1 °C32.6 °C 
 37.2 °C39.2 °C34 °C 
 34.9 °C41.5 °C31.6 °C 
 
35.9 °C42.7 °C49.4 °C
39.2 °C45.2 °C50.6 °C
31.1 °C40.8 °C47.3 °C
Maximum: 41.5 °C
Average: 35.8 °C
 Maximum: 50.6 °C
Average: 42.5 °C
Room Temperature 23 °C

Loudspeakers

On the bottom there is a small round perforated cover for the, according to the manufacturer, built-in stereo loudspeakers. Their sound is clear with good mids and, as expected of systems without a subwoofer, little bass. The maximum volume is okay, too. You are well-served with the built-in loudspeakers for playing movies and undemanding background music. A sound improvement can be achieved by connecting quality headphones to the 3.5mm headphone socket on the front edge.

Battery Life

Maximum Battery Runtime - BatteryEater Reader's
Maximum Battery Runtime - BatteryEater Reader's
Minimum Runtime - BatteryEater Classic
Minimum Runtime - BatteryEater Classic

The included 6 cell lithium ion battery has a capacity of 59 Wh (10.8 V, 5.8 Ah). It's possible to work with it for a maximum of 684 minutes, that is almost eleven and a half hours without recharging. This runtime has been assessed with the BatteryEater Reader's test, that is with activated energy savings measures, dimmed display and disabled wireless modules. However, we have to note that the minimum display brightness isn't working suitable.

A minimum of a bit over three hours are still possible, anyway. We used the BatteryEater Classic test tool to simulate full load. This recorded 187 minutes for us at maximum display brightness with enabled WiFi modules and energy profile "Desktop".

The Toughbook CF-W8 also proved to have endurance in the practical tests. With 288 minutes in the WLAN test, it's possible take care of internet research or important business correspondence via email for five hours remote from the mains, with the energy profile on "Max. Battery" and adjusted brightness.

At maximum brightness and energy profile "Desktop" you can make a DVD presentation for over three and a half hours or relax watching a movie. Even longer movies are possible with the established 218 minutes.

All evaluations apply to the disabled Economy mode (ECO). If this is enabled, the battery is only charged to 80%. The battery life decreases accordingly in ECO mode. According to the manufacturer, a one-and-a-half-fold longer battery life can then be counted with.

Power consumption

Off / Standby 0.2 / 0.5 Watt
Idle 5.5 / 9.9 / 13.6 Watt
Load 24 / 27.3 Watt
 
Key: min: , med: , max:         
Battery runtime
Idle (without WLAN, min brightness)
11h 24min
WiFi Surfing
4h 48min
DVD
3h 38min
Load (maximum brightness)
3h 07min

Verdict

With the CF-W8, Panasonic offers a robust 12 inch subnotebook under the keyword "business-ruggedized" The case made of a magnesium alloy doesn't only have a pleasant feel to it, but also contributes significantly to the torsional stiffness and pressure resistance. With the splash water proof input devices and optical drive, the device should also survive the one or other mishap. The impact resistant hard disk also helps to protect sensitive data against loss due to hardware defects.

With a fairly long battery life, well-considered communication solutions and a good application performance, you're well equipped for working on the go. Moreover, the matt, non-glossy display contributes to work ergonomics in adverse light conditions and is therefore suitable for a permanent professional use. However, the display could be a bit brighter for outdoor use.

Basically, the Panasonic Toughbook CF-W8 accomplishes pairing mobility with good battery runtimes, a suitable display unit and communication options, stability and reliability fairly balanced in one device and focuses especially on mobile business users, such as field representatives, managers and frequent travelers. These qualities are, however, reflected very obviously in the price...

Panasonic Toughbook CF-W8
In Review: Panasonic Toughbook CF-W8
Panasonic Toughbook CF-W8

Specifications

Panasonic Toughbook CF-W8

:: Processor
:: Mainboard
Intel GS45
:: Memory
2048 MB, DDR2-667
:: Graphics adapter
:: Display
12.1 inch 4:3, 1024x768 pixel, glossy: yes
:: Harddisk
Toshiba MK1655GSX, 160 GB 5400 rpm
:: Soundcard
Analog Devices AD1883 @ Intel 82801IB ICH9 - High Definition Audio Controller [A-3]
:: Connections
1 PC-Card, 3 USB 2.0, 1 VGA, HDAUDIO Soft Data Fax Modem with SmartCP Modem, 1 Kensington Lock, 1 Docking Station Port, Audio Connections: Headphone, microphone, Card Reader: SD Card (SDHC), 3G-Mobile-Broadband (HSPA, 7,2 Mbps)
:: Networking
Intel(R) 82567LM Gigabit Network Connection (10/100/1000MBit), Intel Wireless WiFi Link 5100 AGN (a b g n ), v2.0 + EDR Bluetooth
:: Optical drive
Matshita DVD-RAM UJE844S
:: Size
height x width x depth (in mm): 45.3 x 272 x 214.3
:: Weight
1.35 kg Power Supply: 0.41 kg
:: Battery
59 Wh Lithium-Ion, 6 cell (10.8 V, 5.8 Ah)
:: Price
3050 Euro
:: Operating System
Microsoft Windows XP Professional 32 Bit
:: Additional features
Product description, modem cable, Panasonic Wireless WAN (HSPA) SW, 36 Months Warranty

 

In addition, the Panasonic also has a few useful tools: Power Saving Utility in the picture
In addition, the Panasonic also has a few useful tools: Power Saving Utility in the picture
Convenient maintenance cover on the bottom, to upgrade the main memory for instance.
Convenient maintenance cover on the bottom, to upgrade the main memory for instance.
The bottom can get pretty hot under full load though
The bottom can get pretty hot under full load though
A balanced relation of good application performance (SU 9400 CPU, GMA 4500M HD 2 GB RAM)...
A balanced relation of good application performance (SU 9400 CPU, GMA 4500M HD 2 GB RAM)...
... and a reasonable battery life.
... and a reasonable battery life.
A small gap over the keyboard is created when the battery is removed.
A small space over the keyboard is created when the battery is removed.
The 12.1 inch with a matt display...
The 12.1 inch with a matt display...
... that could be a bit brighter for outdoor use...
... that could be a bit brighter for outdoor use...
...is massive, but looks elegant.
...is massive, but looks elegant.
The power slider lights up in green at use.
The power slider lights up in green at use.
The slider for the DVD multi-drive that opens upwards...
The slider for the DVD multi-drive that opens upwards...
and is disabled automatically when it's not needed...
and is disabled automatically when it's not needed...
... is also found on the front.
... is also found on the front.
Considered interface alignment on the left...
Considered interface alignment on the left...
...as well as on the right.
...as well as on the right.
The stable hinges restrict the opening angle.
The stable hinges restrict the opening angle.
Excellent splash water proof input devices: Keyboard and
Excellent splash water proof input devices: Keyboard and
... a round touchpad with...
... a round touchpad with...
...a comfortable configuration tool and...
...a comfortable configuration tool and...
...adjustable scroll field.
...adjustable scroll field.

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Links

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Panasonic Toughbook CF-W8 on Ciao

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Pro

+Robust magnesium alloy
+Low total weight
+Good application performance
+Long warranty of 3 years
+Long battery life
+Integrated optical drive
+Comprehensive communication configuration
 

Contra

-High price
-Fairly dark screen

Shortcut

What we liked

The conclusive overall concept with focus on stability, extensive communication configuration and good application performance. And especially the matt displays 4:3 format.

What we missed

A bit more brightness for the display in outdoor use and a sponsor for this device...

What surprised us

That devices with a 4:3 format can still make it onto the market again.

The competitors

Business notebooks that comply with the "business-rugged" standard in a 12.1 size. The Latitude E6400 XFR, which we were allowed to put to a brief test, even complies with the "full-rugged" standard, but is also more expensive.

Rating

Panasonic Toughbook CF-W8
10/06/2009
Martina Osztovits

Chassis
95%
Keyboard
93%
Pointing Device
90%
Connectivity
92%
Weight
92%
Battery
97%
Display
71%
Games Performance
56%
Application Performance
72%
Temperature
76%
Noise
93%
Add Points
90%
Average
85%
88%
Subnotebook *
Weighted Average

> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > Reviews > Archive of our own reviews > Review Panasonic Toughbook CF-W8 Notebook
Author: Martina Osztovits, 2009-10-15 (Update: 2012-05-26)