Laptop is one tough traveler

The Panasonic Toughbook W4 makes a nice travel companion with its semirugged features in an ultralight design.

We wish we’d had this little laptop computer on our last business trip. The Panasonic Toughbook W4 combines semirugged features with an ultralight design, making it a great travel companion.

To keep the size small and the weight light, this laptop is not fully ruggedized. The semirugged designation means it’s tougher than most laptops but not as tough as models that meet military standards for drop, shock, water, vibration and other factors.

The Toughbook W4 weighs 2.8 pounds and is slightly smaller than a standard 8.5 x 11-inch sheet of paper. It’s a great size for airplane tray tables yet large enough for comfortable typing, and the 12.1-inch screen is small but doesn’t make the user feel cramped.

We liked the all-silver magnesium alloy case for its looks and durability, and the removable hard drive is shock-mounted for protection against bumps. The display is also shock-mounted with reinforced display case edges. The W4 can withstand a 1-foot drop.

A spill-resistant keyboard would have been a nice addition, though.

The Toughbook W4 comes with an integrated DVD/CD-RW combination drive, which is unusual because most laptops of this size and weight don’t have enough room for an integrated optical drive.

Panasonic solves the space issue by placing the drive under the wrist-rest area. The right side of the wrist rest pops up to allow access.

The speeds and feeds of our review unit were impressive for a laptop of this size. They included a 1.2 GHz Intel Pentium M ultra-low-voltage processor, 512M of memory expandable to 1G and a 60G hard drive.

The computer also features 802.11a/b/g wireless connectivity.

For enhanced security, the Toughbook W4 features a Trusted Platform Module 1.1 chip, which stores passwords and digital certificates.

Our review unit cost $2,394 on the General Services Administration schedule.

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