Business travelers who tend to bang up their notebooks will appreciate the road-ready Panasonic Toughbook-W4, a semi-rugged ultraportable that's designed to take a few knocks. Thanks to its long battery life, the W4 should make a fine road companion, provided you can get used to its cramped keyboard.

The W4 is encased in magnesium alloy, enabling it to handle the bumps and bangs of travel, and its hard drive is shock-mounted to protect your data. I looked at a shipping model of the W4, and though I didn't conduct any major torture tests, the unit felt durable and well made.

Because the W4 weighs just 2.8 pounds, it's a breeze to tote or stow in a bag. Its 12.1-inch standard-aspect XGA screen is bright and easy to read, and its ports and connectors conveniently line both sides of the notebook.

The W4 has a 1.2-GHz Pentium M ULV 753 CPU. Though its WorldBench 5 score of 63 indicates that it's far from speedy, it should suffice for basic tasks. And the unit's battery life of just less than 6 hours enables you to work away from an outlet for a sizable stretch.

Unfortunately, I had a hard time typing on the keyboard. Most ultraportables have small keyboards, but the W4's unusually small spacebar and odd key layout had me hunting and pecking.

That drawback aside, the Toughbook-W4 should please users who need a sturdy notebook capable of handling a long flight on a single battery charge. And while it's a tad pricey (£1764.95) compared with most notebooks, the premium might be worth the extra cost if you ever accidentally drop the W4.

OUR VERDICT

It's a bit pricey and the keyboard is cramped, but it could be worth it if you are likely to drop your laptop.