04. 26. 2006
Panasonic W5- the ultimate laptop
Since I get to review a lot of very nice, expensive electronics, I try very hard not to get attached, since I know they'll have to be boxed up and returned within a few weeks. I have a rule, kind of like the one Julia Roberts' hooker character had in Pretty Woman where she refused to kiss any john on the lips, lest she develop any sort of emotional attachment. My rule is never to personalize or buy any accessory for any product which I know I'll have to return. As much as I've liked some of the items I've reviewed, I've never broken my rule. That went out the window when I was allowed to play with a Panasonic W5 from Dynamism, the shop that imports the newest and greatest gadgets from Japan, and adapts them to work effortlessly as English-language machines. Not only does the W5 now have a photo of my dogs as desktop wallpaper, all my bookmarks, and programs, but I even bought it a tiny little laptop bag that would only work as a hat or a tea cozy for my current behomoth Toshiba. The tiny size of the W5 is almost unreal. Take a look at it next to a standard issue of Forbes- it's not only no longer or wider, but only a tiny bit thicker. And yes, that's a gratuitous cuteness shot of my new puppy Ozzie (or Yuki, we can't decide on his name).
When I bought my last laptop, I was torn between the power of the desktop replacement I eventually chose, and the convenience of a tiny subnotebook. I used a Flybook for a little while, and I admittedly enjoyed its flashy looks and was able to carry it in my regular handbag, but the Transmeta processor was underwhelming, and there wasn't a big boost in battery life to make up for it. Also, in the subnotebook class (generally somewhere in the 3 lb. range), it's unusual for there to be a built-in optical drive so if you need to install software or want to watch a DVD, you usually need to connect an external drive via USB, and often those drives don't work unless they're powered via AC adapter, which sort of defeats the purpose of having such a small notebook.
The W5, has the brand-new ultra low-voltage Intel Core Solo 1.06 GHz processor, so it runs cool and has unbelievable battery life. The quoted battery life is 12 hours, which as always, is a bit overstated, but you can expect 8-9 hours, easy, as long as you're not using the optical drive the entire time. And about that built-in drive? DVD-RAM/R/RW so there's no current format you can't read or write to. As for watching DVDs, the built-in speakers don't get great volume, but the sound quality is pretty good, so it's a great little portable player. You can get through two full-length movies, no problem, on one charge.
As for performance, there's nothing I haven't been able to do on this laptop, and it continues to run silently (it's a fanless design), with no overheating or shutdown problems. The keyboard is slightly smaller than standard but I've had no problems with typing. There are a few keyboard differences as the W5 is directly from Japan (don't worry, it has the English alphabet in standard QWERTY), it's just a matter of a few re-located symbols like the "@" sign. I got used to it quickly.
For such a small machine, the screen size is decently sized, at 12.1". Most of the other notebooks in this class are under 10". How much does it weigh? 2.6 lbs, including the battery. There's built-in wireless (802.1 B/G), ethernet, v.90 telephone modem, and an SD card reader.
The Panasonic W5 also looks great. The one I'm using is a great purple-blue called "blueberry" but there's purple, pink, silver, white, green, red, almost anything. Stylish but simple and elegant looking, not too flashy.
The documentation is good, service is great, and blast it, I'm going to have to buy this thing. I just can't give it up. The W5 is actually competively priced (when compared to the Sony VAIO TX-series, the only laptop available in the US which is similarly featured), starting at $2129. If you want the perfect balance of power, amazing battery life, extreme portability, all in a unique, stylish package, then the W5 is the model for you.
Available now from Dynamism.