Panasonic Toughbook Y7 Review

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$2649

Pros: Very light weight for screen size; Long battery life; Business-rugged design; Comfortable keyboard

Cons: Small touchpad; ; ; 4:3 aspect ratio screen; ; ; Mediocre Wi-Fi range

Verdict: Panasonic's lightweight and durable upgrade to the Y5 offers road warriors everything they need to get the job done on the go.

An update to the solid Y5, the Panasonic Toughbook Y7 is the world's lightest notebook with a 14.1-inch display and optical drive. It features Panasonic's trademarked rough-and-tumble design, lengthy battery life, and optional built-in mobile broadband. At $2,649, this configuration is definitely not for mobile workers on a tight budget, and we'd prefer a widescreen, but the Toughbook Y7 is a good competitor to the Lenovo ThinkPad X300 and is worth every penny for road warriors who want a notebook that will last.

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Light and Durable Design

Weighing just 3.7 pounds, the 12.2 x 10.0 x 1.4-inch Y7 is far lighter than it looks. Inside the familiar-looking magnesium-alloy body is the 14.1-inch, 1400 x 1050-pixel resolution display, which offers lots of room for shuffling through documents despite its 4:3 aspect ratio. Colors lacked vibrancy when viewing content on the Web and on our Two For the Money DVD, but the anti-glare display made viewing the screen far more tolerable in bright light. Twin stereo speakers cranked our Led Zeppelin tracks to a nice, room-filling volume, but John Paul Jones' bass sounded weak.

The spacious keyboard and springy keys were extremely responsive to touch and conducive to swift touch-typing. Letters and numbers are laser-printed, so they are less likely to rub off with heavy use. The circular touchpad is still too small, but we like the curved mouse buttons that flank it so you don't have to move your fingers as far as you would on traditional notebook layout.

Toughbook Y7 Drop and Spill Test Results

Road warriors will appreciate that the Toughbook Y7 can withstand falls from 2.5 feet, which is about the height of your average desk. While downloading a large file from our FTP server, we intentionally knocked the Y7 from a table 28.5 inches onto the concrete floor, which was covered with a thin layer of carpet. The 80GB shock-mounted hard drive took the hit with ease; we didn't even experience a download interruption.

Additionally, the keyboard is spill-proof, designed to safeguard the system from 6 ounces of liquid. We put the keyboard to the test by emptying a 6-ounce bottle of water onto it. The liquid was quickly whisked away through the built-in channels, and it seeped out of the bottom of the machine with no ill effects; we were able to continue surfing the Web and opening programs immediately afterward. This is impressive, especially since most other semi-rugged notebooks can handle only 3 ounces of water poured on three distinct places on the keyboard.

Durability will only protect your data so much, however. For security, Panasonic includes TPM circuitry, a Computrace theft protection service (which traces lost or stolen notebooks when they're activated), and a cable lock for physically securing the notebook. You can also outfit the system with a fingerprint reader for $50.

Toughbook Y7 Features

This ultraportable features Intel's 1.6-GHz Core 2 Duo L7500 low-voltage processor, which isn't exactly a barnburner but offers more performance than the ultra-low voltage CPU inside the 12.1-inch W7, which runs at 1.06 GHz. For over $2,500 we would certainly like to see 2GB of RAM standard, as opposed to the 1GB included in this configuration, and a hard drive larger than 80GB. You'll find just two USB ports on the Y7, along with VGA, Ethernet, modem, headphone, and mic ports, and a mini dock-box replicator. A Type II PC Card and SD Card slots and 4X DVD burner, which pops up beneath the keyboard, round out the feature set.

Decent Performer

The Y7's 1.6-GHz Core 2 Duo processor is made for endurance--not speed--and that really showed on our tests. While it wouldn't run PCMark Vantage, this Toughbook's MobileMark 2007 score of 113 is 23 points above average for an ultraportable and about 40 points below average for a thin-and-light notebook. As a point of comparison, Lenovo's similarly priced ThinkPad X300, which features a slower 1.2-GHz Core 2 Duo CPU but 2GB of RAM and a faster solid state drive, notched a score of 126.

Likewise, the 1GB of RAM and integrated GMA965 graphics didn't help the Y7's graphics scores; it managed just 1,043 on 3DMark03, less than half the average for the thin-and-light class and still about 350 points below average for an ultraportable. That being said, we had no trouble operating Windows Vista Business. The machine booted in just 41 seconds, and we didn't encounter any hiccups while Web surfing, working in documents, and listening to music in Windows Media Player 11 simultaneously.

Exceptional Endurance

What the Y7 lacks in speed, it makes up for in stamina. It lasted a very nice 4 hours and 41 minutes of battery life with the Wi-Fi connection on, and 5 hours and 29 minutes with it off. The latter score represents a full extra hour of endurance over the average thin-and-light and 36 minutes longer than the average ultraportable.

The 802.11a/b/g radio moved data along at a decent 14.1 Mbps at 15 feet from our access point, and it dropped to a low 5.1 Mbps at 50 feet. This dropoff in performance means you'll want to stay close to your router, but Panasonic also offers built-in mobile broadband via AT&T, Sprint, or Verizon Wireless, which might be a better option for highly mobile users.

Software and Warranty

The Y7 comes preinstalled with Adobe Reader, B's Recorder Gold9 Basic, and WinDVD 8. The system also includes the Economy Mode utility, which extends the notebook's battery life to approximately 7 hours. Panasonic covers the system with a three-year limited warranty and 24/7, toll-free tech support.

Verdict

The Panasonic Toughbook Y7 is expensive, but with the high price tag comes rock-solid durability, excellent battery life, and the largest screen you can get under four pounds. The biggest trade-off is speed, but if you need to tote your notebook cross-country and aren't too keen on squinting, the Y7 is a wise investment.

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Laptop Mag & Tom's Hardware
CPU Intel Core 2 Duo L7500
Operating System MS Windows Vista Business
RAM 1GB
RAM Upgradable to 2GB
Hard Drive Size 80GB
Hard Drive Speed 5,400rpm
Hard Drive Type SATA Hard Drive
Display Size 14.1
Native Resolution 1440x1050
Optical Drive DVD+RW
Optical Drive Speed 4X
Graphics Card Intel GMA965
Video Memory 384MB
Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g
Bluetooth Bluetooth 2.0
Ports (excluding USB) Headphone
Ports (excluding USB) Ethernet
Ports (excluding USB) VGA
Ports (excluding USB) Modem
Ports (excluding USB) Microphone
USB Ports 2
Card Slots Type II
Card Slots SD memory reader
Warranty/Support Three-year limited warranty/24/7 tech support
Size 12.2 x 10.0 x 1.4 inches
Weight 3.7 pounds
Company Website http://www.pansasonic.com