ToughBooks for Tough Jobs

By Lauren Simonds | Posted November 22, 2005
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Toughbook W4
Working outside the confines of a standard business office adds a certain element of risk when it comes to your computer. In the face of bumps, falls, the weather and other environmental hazards, a notebook PC's life expectancy seems precarious at best, which is why Panasonic offers a line of rugged and semi-rugged notebooks.

"Ruggedized" notebooks have tougher cases, reinforced hinges, cushioned hard drives and other features designed to protect their delicate components — and your data.

The newest members of Panasonic's semi-rugged line are the Toughbook T4 and the Toughbook W4, two ultra-thin and light notebooks that weigh 3.3 and 2.8 pounds respectively. Both models come standard with a magnesium alloy case, shock-mounted hard drive, integrated wireless LAN, removable hard drive, 12.1-inch anti-glare LCD, wireless on-off switch and a docking connection.

The products differ in that the T4 comes with a touch-screen LCD and image rotation software while the W4 includes a built-in DVD/CD-RW combo drive (but no touch-screen LCD). The T4 does not offer an integrated combo drive,

Sheila O'Neil, the director of computer solutions at Panasonic points out the strengths of each model. "The T4, with its carry strap and ability to view in either portrait or landscape view, is ideal for anyone who needs touch-screen applications or for any type of field service like repair companies, insurance adjusters and health care workers such as visiting nurses. The W4 is designed more for mainstream use — for people who travel a lot and need a lightweight yet durable notebook."

The company has been building its own rugged notebooks for 13 years — it doesn't OEM any part of the process. O'Neil says that these years of experience result in a better product. She references IDC and Gartner studies that show the standard failure rate for notebooks ranges from 20 to 35 percent.

"The failure rate numbers start at 20 percent, and those are for notebooks that stay in the office on someone's desk. The rate increases to the 35 percent range once you're outside the office. Our failure rate is less than five percent. That means less down time for your business."

T4 Tech Specs
Features for the Panasonic Toughbook T4 include:

  • Processor: Intel Pentium M, ULV 753, 1.2GHz speed
  • Memory: 512MB SDRAM (DDR2-400) Standard, expandable to 1024MB
  • Hard drive: 40GB HDD, shock-mounted and removable
  • LCD: Touchscreen LCD, 12.1-inch; 1024 x 768 XGA resolution
  • Network: Intel PRO/Wireless 2915ABG 802.11a/b/g
  • Operating system: XP Professional SP2
  • Dimensions: 1.1"/2.7" (H) x 10.6" (W) x 8.3" (D)
  • Weight: 3.4 lbs
  • Battery life: 9.5 hours
  • Plus: Docking Box Replicator, Wireless LAN on-off switch

Toughbook T4
Tough Love: Panasonic's T4 and W4 notebooks offer a sturdier approach to working outside the office.

W4 Tech Specs
Features for the Panasonic Toughbook W4 include:

  • Processor: Intel Pentium M processor ULV 753, 1.2GHz speed
  • Memory: SDRAM (DDR2-400) Standard, expandable to 1024MB
  • Hard drive: 40GB HDD, shock-mounted and removable
  • Combo drive: Integrated
  • LCD: 12.1-inch, 1024 x 768 XGA resolution LCD
  • Network: Intel PRO/Wireless 2915ABG network connection 802.11a/b/g
  • Operating system: XP Professional SP2
  • Dimensions: 1.0"/1.8" (H) x 10.6" (W) x 8.3" (D)
  • Weight: 2.8 lbs
  • Battery life: More than six hours
  • Plus: Docking Box Replicator, Wireless LAN on-off switch

Pricing and Warranty
Both the T4 and W4 sell for $2,149. Panasonic sells its products through resellers only. You can find a reseller in your area by calling 800-662-3537.

Panasonic provides a three-year warranty and offers depot repair service, i.e., you return the product to a Panasonic repair service center. The company will pay shipping both to and from the center. Typical turn-around time is less than two days.

Lauren Simonds is the managing editor of SmallBusinessComputing.com

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