Never mind tough, this notebook is really light

When I received Panasonic’s CF-Y7 for review I was looking forward to pouring water over the keyboard to see if it lived up to its Toughbook brand, but what impressed me most about this notebook was its how little it weighed and its long battery life.

Aimed squarely at the business market, the Y7 is indeed ideally suited for the business traveler. It accompanied me on a recent business trip to Europe and performed admirably; the wireless worked like a breeze, battery life was never an issue and when it was in my backpack I had to double-check to make sure it was there.

My demo unit was running Windows Vista Business and featured an Intel Core 2 Processor with a 4MB L2 cache and 1.60GHz processor speed with 1GB of RAM expandable to 2GB. It also came with an 80 GB shock-mounted hard drive. I found the memory and processing power to be adequate for my needs, word processing and Web browsing, although I didn’t test any more memory-intensive applications. The Y7 also comes with a DVD Multi Drive that loads via a pop-up lid below the keyboard, for an interesting and economical use of space.

Weighing-in at just 3.5 lbs, the Y7 still manages to include a full-sized keyboard and a 14.1” screen. The keyboard would probably be one of my few complaints with this notebook, I didn’t like the feel and when typing at full-speed it gets rather loud. I had a few complaints from fellow conference-goers during my keynote note taking. And I’m rarely a fan of notebook mouse interfaces, but I found the circular Panasonic interface particularly uncomfortable.

Perhaps owing to its lightweight constriction the Y7 feels a little plasticy and almost cheap, although it is constructed with a durable full magnesium alloy case. The on/off button glows and is located at the front of the notebook, along with a dedicated on/off wireless switch. I prefer this to having to hunt for a software switch. It features two side-by-side USB switches on the right side along with fax and LAN ports, and on the right side is a PC Card slot, an SD card slot, a mini dock box replicator port, an external video port, and headphone and mic jacks.

I found the wireless capability to be easy enough to use. The Y7 comes with an Intel wireless card offering 802.11 a/b/g, and is also Bluetooth compatible.

To live up to the Toughbook moniker, in addition to the shock-mounted hard drive which the vendor says makes it drop resistant up to about one foot (which I didn’t test) the Y7 also boasts a spill-resistant keyboard that did indeed pass my water test. It’s not exactly up to military standards, but no need to have a heart attack if you spill a little coffee or give it a little bump.

What pleased me most about the Y7, though, besides its lightness, was the impressive battery life. The 10.65v, 5700mAh lithium ion battery is good for 5 hours of life according to Panasonic, but without using the wireless and by keeping the screen brightness down I was able to add at least an hour to that figure. A useful suite of power management tools help, including automatically powering-down the CD-ROM when not in use.

The one problem with the Y7 is its price point, which is $2599. While this notebook offers great capabilities for the business traveler, I fear Panasonic may have priced it out of the market. While you likely won’t get this kind of battery performance or weight, or the ruggedness, in the ever-growing sub-$1000 notebook market, the performance and memory specs are similar making trading-down a viable option for many users.

If you have the money to spend the Y7 is an ideal and resilient travel companion, but if the ruggedness isn’t a necessity you can get the job done for a lot less money.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras
A veteran technology and business journalist, Jeff Jedras began his career in technology journalism in the late 1990s, covering the booming (and later busting) Ottawa technology sector for Silicon Valley North and the Ottawa Business Journal, as well as everything from municipal politics to real estate. He later covered the technology scene in Vancouver before joining IT World Canada in Toronto in 2005, covering enterprise IT for ComputerWorld Canada. He would go on to cover the channel as an assistant editor with CDN. His writing has appeared in the Vancouver Sun, the Ottawa Citizen and a wide range of industry trade publications.

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