Notebook PC doesn't live up to its rugged image

Notebook PC doesn't live up to its rugged image

When it comes to giving presentations on the road, however, the Panasonic Toughbook CF-37 excels

By John Breeden II

GCN Staff

The Panasonic ToughBook CF-37 might not be a superspeedy multimedia notebook, but it's no slouch. Its light weight suits it to a crowd other than macho road warriors.

The ToughBook CF-37 withstands no more punishment than other similar notebooks; Panasonic should market it as a thin presentation device.

I would classify the CF-37 as an executive presentation notebook. Although it's in Panasonic's rugged PC line, don't run over it with a car'or even a moped. It isn't powerful or fast enough to handle high-end applications on the road. But it does one thing very well: presentations. Put that with a thin design, and it's a nifty package.

The CF-37 weighs only 4 pounds and is just shy of an inch thick when closed. At 11.7 inches wide, it easily fits in nearly any notebook carrying case with room to spare.

At first glance, it looks like a Microsoft Windows CE device, but the CF-37 runs full Windows 98. My test unit had a 366-MHz Celeron processor, 64M of RAM and 4M of video memory for extra oomph on Microsoft PowerPoint presentations. The built-in 56-Kbps modem lets you check e-mail on the road.

The 12.1-inch display is smaller than average but adequate with a 90-degree viewing angle. The 800- by 600-pixel resolution is good enough for presentations though a bit low for much else. With an external monitor, the unit can go up to 1,024-by-768 resolution.

Box Score '''''

ToughBook CF-37
Small notebook PC

Panasonic Personal Computer Co.; Secaucus, N.J.; tel. 800-622-3537

Price: $2,699

+ Small and lightweight for presentation

' Lacks floppy drive

Usability - A

Features and configuration - A

Benchmark Performance - B

ZD's Business Winstone 99: 15.3

About 53 percent faster than a 233-MHz Pentium MMX

The overall grade comprises scores for three factors: usability (60 percent), features and configuration (20 percent), and performance (20 percent). The lab used ZD's Winstone 99 Version 1.1. The baseline for 10.0 Winstone units is a desktop 233-MHz Pentium MMX. For benchmark information, go to

A plus for presenters

There's a big boon for presenters: The display image can flip upside down. The screen bends backward just beyond 180 degrees, so you can sit across from someone who has a full view of the screen. Flip the screen to normal view for a quick glance if you need to see what part of the presentation is showing.

The CF-37 is the first notebook with a touch screen I have used. I'm not certain how valuable it is except for presentations, but it does make navigation more intuitive. Instead of wrestling with a touch pad or a little eraser-tip pointer, simply tap the screen to open a file.

The downside is that the LCD quickly gets smeared with difficult-to-clean fingerprints. A stylus would help reduce that.

Tiny speakers at either side of the monitor deliver stereo sound, but they don't rotate with the monitor. When the monitor image is flipped, you might have to turn the sound up.

Lithium-ion battery life was long'just under two hours on the GCN Lab's maximum-drain test. The battery took about three hours to recharge. An optional second battery doubles unplugged operation.

Keys were wide and flat, not like the quirky keyboards on most notebooks. There was no floppy drive, however'a detriment for users who need to load presentations or accept documents from others while on the road. You pay extra for a floppy drive, which swaps into the CD-ROM location.

Because this notebook incorporates some of Panasonic's rugged features, I dropped it a few times from a 12-inch height. Except for a magnesium case, it has a tolerance level similar to any other notebook's. Panasonic ought to remove the ToughBook designation and market the CF-37 as a thin presentation device.

As a thin notebook for e-mail and presentations, the CF-37 is a good choice at a fair price. The low cost of its Celeron processor is offset by the fact that the CF-37 is part of Panasonic's more expensive rugged line.


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