Originally, Panasonic put the Intel 1.83 GHz Core 2 Duo processor in this unit, which is plenty fast, but only gave it 512 MB of RAM, which I thought was a little cheap on their part. Now the CF-74 comes with an Intel 2.4 GHz Core 2 Duo processor and a full GB of RAM. They also increased the 80 GB hard drive to 160 GB, and it still comes with some special features to help it absorb shock, but more on that later. The screen is a very brightly lit 13.3 inch touch screen, and a stylus is included. Panasonic says their batteries will last up to seven or eight hours, though I think it’s more like five. You could probably get lucky and pull seven hours out of it if the PC sat idle for most of that time.
The hard drive in this laptop is not actually mounted to anything. In a notebook computer, the most sensitive piece of equipment is the hard drive since it has moving parts and is susceptible to damage from shock. Panasonic packs the Toughbook hard drive in a gel surrounding that lets it safely bounce around inside while the gel softens the blow. I’ve read that this thing can be dropped from a couple of feet in the air while it is still running, and it won’t skip a beat. It probably wouldn’t be wise to try that on your own.
One of the biggest differences I’ve noticed between the CF-30 and CF-74 models is the mouse pad. On the CF-30, which is the toughest of all the Toughbooks, the mouse pad is very sluggish thanks to heavy ruggedization. On the CF-74, it is very smooth and easy to use, like the mouse pad on most any other kind of laptop. The CF-74 is also much lighter and slightly smaller than the CF-30. Both computers also have a big handle on the front that makes them easy to carry. The case of this computer looks like it is made of silver plastic, but it is actually a magnesium alloy that is incredibly tough. It also makes heat a non-issue.
In terms of connectivity, Panasonic loaded this computer down. It supports wireless and Bluetooth, plus it has a regular Ethernet port. For the wireless system that we put up in the city, we went with an outside vendor and use a different kind of wireless system, so I have never tested the Bluetooth or wireless connectivity on these Toughbooks. In fact, we had to disable them in order not to interfere with our own wireless system. This computer also has the standard ports - two USB, external VGA, and so on. They are covered behind some little fold-out flaps that protect the ports, and they aren’t labeled particularly well. You’ll just have to learn where things are located.