Tiny but tough

The most surprising thing about Panasonic Computer Solutions Co.'s new ultra-light Toughbook CF-W2 notebook is not its size — which is surprising enough.

Even more surprising is that this tiny notebook contains an integrated optical drive. Most notebooks of this size integrate only the hard drive, while all other drives are external.

Panasonic has solved the space problem by placing the DVD-ROM/CD-RW drive under the wrist rest, which opens like a gadget worthy of James Bond and takes the round touchpad with it. We've never seen anything like it.

It all fits into a package weighing less than 3 pounds, including the battery. At its thickest point in the back, where the battery sits, the CF-W2 measures just 1.6 inches high. The unit is 8.3 inches deep and 10.6 inches long.

To keep the size small and the weight low, this notebook is not fully ruggedized. Instead, it falls in a category called semirugged, which means it's tougher than most notebooks but not as tough as models meeting military standards for drop, shock, water, vibration and other factors.

The CF-W2 is protected by a stylish silver magnesium case featuring a scratch-resistant outer coating. Inside, the hard drive and display are shock-mounted, the edges of the display case are reinforced, and the hinges are stainless steel.

The 12.1-inch LCD uses thin-glass display technology that results in a screen almost 25 percent lighter than conventional LCDs of the same size, according to Panasonic.

The notebook features 802.11b integrated wireless capability, 10/100 Ethernet and a 56 kilobits/sec V.90 modem. It is rated for four hours of battery life, depending on usage.

The system is powered by an Intel Corp. ultra-low voltage 900 MHz Pentium M processor and contains 1M of Level 2 Cache, 256M of SDRAM expandable to 512M and a 40G hard drive.

The CF-W2 is available from reseller GTSI Corp. for $2,124 by calling (888) 468-6844.

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