Toughbook 73 has a sensitive side

Have you seen any executives in the middle of a battlefield lately? No? We haven't either. That's why they don't need fully ruggedized notebook computers.

But you've probably seen them rushing through airports and hopping in and out of taxis, which calls for something a little tougher than standard equipment.

A semi-rugged notebook such as Panasonic's Toughbook 73 is an excellent but expensive computer for such executives.

With a full magnesium-alloy case, shock-mounted hard drive, sealed ports and water-resistant keyboard, this notebook can withstand the bumps and bruises that come with frequent travel.

It weighs 5.7 pounds and has a thin, sleek design, with enough features to make it a viable replacement for desktop computers.

However, all of this comes at a cost. Our review unit cost $3,085 on the General Services Administration schedule. But in the long run, the price might well be worth it if you're saving money on repairs and replacements.

Executives will appreciate the security features, which include a supervisor password, password on boot and a Secure Digital Card security function that lets you insert an SD Card instead of entering a password.

In addition, the computer ships with a hard disk lock that prevents reading and writing to and from the hard drive if it's removed and placed inside another machine. Other hard drive security features include a data-erase utility and a backup function that creates a backup area on the hard drive itself so you don't have to bother with external media or peripherals.

It also shines on the wireless front. You can have two of the following wireless connectivity types installed simultaneously: Bluetooth, 802.11a/b/g wireless networking or Wide-Area Wireless.

It came with a 1.86 GHz Intel Pentium M Processor 750, a 60G hard drive and 256M of double data rate synchronous dynamic RAM. The unit can accept two USB 2.0, serial, VGA, Gigabit Ethernet, modem, headphone, microphone, and one Type III or two Type I or Type II card devices.

What you don't get are PS/2 or parallel ports. Instead, there's a connector for an optional I/O box you can use to connect a parallel device, an external mouse or keyboard, and an additional serial device.

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