Panasonic Announces Smaller, Tougher Laptops

SAN FRANCISCO -- Recognizing that the lifestyle of an executive can be just as hard on a notebook as the lifestyle of a police officer or a utility worker, Panasonic today unveiled two new ultraportable notebooks designed to better withstand travel hazards.

The Toughbook T4 and W4 notebooks are a bit of a departure from other Toughbook models because they weigh about 3 pounds. Panasonic's other Toughbook models tend to weigh around 8 pounds and contain special materials designed to protect the system from shock, vibration, spills and other hazards of the road.

Those so-called "rugged" notebooks are popular at construction sites and with service technicians who make house calls. Panasonic hopes that mobile professionals who log countless hours in the air and on the ground will recognize the benefits of shock-mounted hard drives and other rugged features assembled in a lightweight package that fits onto the tray mounted on the back of an airplane seat.

External Wi-Fi Cutoff Switch

The T4 and W4 come with an external switch for turning off the notebooks' built-in Wi-Fi chips. Many airlines--particularly those that don't offer wireless services--require that wireless notebooks be switched off during much or all of the flight.

Both models cost $2149, and are available immediately through Panasonic's resellers. The 3.4-pound T4 has a 12.1-inch touchscreen display, Intel's Ultra Low Voltage Pentium M 753 processor, 512M bytes of SDRAM (synchronous dynamic RAM), a 40GB removable hard drive, and Intel's Pro/Wireless 2915ABG wireless chip; and it's rated for around 9.5 hours of battery life. The 2.8-pound W4 comes in a similar configuration, but it carries an integrated DVD-ROM/CD-RW drive and is rated for 6 hours of battery life.

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