Panasonic R4 Review (pics, specs)

by alex10247 Reads (39,814)

by Alex Adam, New York USA

The Panasonic R4 is the smallest and lightest notebook of Panasonic’s Let’s Note lineup. Weighing only 2.2lb it is also one of the lightest notebooks on the market. The prior model, the R3, was recently updated to the R4. The update included moving to a 1.2 GHz Pentium M processor, the more recent 915GM Intel Chipset, and upgrading to DDR2 ram. Besides the R4 badge, the units casing remained the same. The unit also features an extra long 9 hour claimed battery life.

The Panasonic R4 lined up next to an iPod and power adapter (view larger image)

Panasonic R4 specs:

  • CPU: Intel Pentium M 1.2GHZ L2
  • Cache: 2MB CPU integrated
  • RAM: 1 GB Max
  • HDD: 80GB Ultra ATA100 Graphic / Video Features
  • Chip: Intel 915GMS VRAM: 128MB (shared with main memory)
  • Display: 10.4″ XGA TFT
  • Resolution: up to 1024 x 768 pixels @ 16M colors Sound system
  • Sound Card: 16 bit stereo PCM Sound Generator, monaural speaker Interface
  • PCMCIA: Type II x 1 Card Bus compatible
  • Modem: 56K flex V.90 mini PCI fax/modem
  • Ports: 802.11b/g Wireless LAN; v.90 modem (RJ-11) x1; LAN x1 (RJ-45); USB2.0 x 2 (R2: USB2.0 x 1); USB 1.1 x1; VGA x1; microphone x1; headphones x1; SD Memory Card x1
  • Keyboard: 85 key OADG, 17mm pitch, 2mm stroke
  • Battery Life: Standard Battery: 9 hours Features
  • Size: 9.0(W) x 7.2(L) x 0.9-1.6(H) [inch]
  • 229 x 183.5 x 24.2-41.6 [mm]
  • Weight: 2.2 lbs / 999g
  • Other Package contains: A/C adapter; standard battery; English manual; Telephone cable Operating System:
  • Windows 2000 Professional (English)

Reasons for Buying:

I set out looking for a notebook to use in addition to my desktop pc. I was searching for a notebook portable enough to bring back and forth from class, everyday, without becoming burdensome. Because this would not be my primary computer, I was willing to sacrifice the luxuries of other notebooks (large screen, powerful graphics card, optical drive) in exchange for an extremely ultraportable notebook I could carry in my backpack without noticing. I would also be using it to travel often, so a descent battery life was crucial. All my criteria have been met with Panasonic’s Let’s Note R4. Initially I considered the IBM X41, Dell X1 or Samsung Q30, and Fujitsu P7100D. The Fujitsu had the optical drive which added weight and was unnecessary. The screen, 10.4in, is plenty for what I do most – word processing and browsing the web, and coming to this conclusion after much deliberation eliminated the other notebooks. For me battery life, weight, and size were most important.

Where and How purchased:

Unfortunately the R4 along with the rest of Panasonic’s Let’s Note lineup are not currently for sale in the United States. I searched the various online Japanese Importers and decided to purchase the notebook through Dynamism.com, mainly because I needed the laptop as quickly as possible. I ordered the notebook over the phone and did not have any problems. Less then two weeks later my notebook arrived in the mail. The notebook is expensive, but it offered a set of features I could not find in any other notebook, and I was willing to pay a premium for them.

Build and Design:

Panasonic claims 110lb of weight can be applied to the case safely, however I have not verified these claims. The case is plastic but sturdy and well built. Pushing on the lid does not affect the LCD whatsoever. The left hinge moves slightly when I twist the screen, however it is not noticeable during use, and otherwise the hinges seem sturdy. The LCD clips into place when shut, however the seal around the case is not air tight, and dust can blow into the area between the keyboard and the LCD.

The design is similar to the no frills look IBM is famous for. The notebook comes in 11 different colors, which cost extra. Mine is the standard silver. When it arrived I was astonished how small the unit actually was. The unit lacks a fan and thus is virtually silent; unfortunately this causes the case to heat up. It becomes noticeably hot just by being turned on (I will come back to this later). Besides this I am very happy with the design and build of the case. The entire notebook with battery attached weighs just over 2.2lb, which puts it in the same category as the Sony x505 and Fujitsu u100. However this notebook has higher battery life and larger screen respectively.

Panasonic R4 Right side view (larger image)

Panasonic R4 Back side view (larger image)

Panasonic R4 Left side view (larger image)

Panasonic R4 Above view (larger image)

Panasonic R4 front side view (larger image)

Screen:

The screen, 10.4in, is relatively small. The resolution is 1024×768. It is a straightforward XGA LCD screen without any special XBrite or TruBrite features. I would not recommend it for watching lots of movies, but this is obvious because someone who wants a TV replacement from their notebook would not buy this computer. The screen is great for what it was meant to do. My unit does not have any dead pixels or uneven backlighting. Before buying I doubted whether the screen would be large enough for browsing the web and other everyday tasks. After using it for a few months not once has the small screen bothered me.

Speakers:

The built in speakers on this notebook are not good. There is one speaker found beneath the unit. The sound is muffled and I need to slightly raise the front of the unit to hear music more clearly. The speakers were not meant for listening to music. I prefer to plug headphones in anytime I need to listen to something important and separate speakers are a must if one plans on listening to music in a room.

Processor and Performance:

The processor is a 1.2Ghz Pentium M. The unit boots very quickly, under 15 seconds. My unit came with 1 GB of DDR2 RAM, and I have no trouble running six applications at once. I do not play any real demanding games nor have I tried. However I would imagine that it would not run very well. Occasionally I play an online flash game and it runs smoothly on the highest graphics level.

Benchmarks:

Time to calculate the number Pi to 2 million digits of accuracy:

Notebook Time to Calculate Pi to 2 Million Digits

Panasonic R4 (1.2GHz ULV Pentium M)

2m 22s
IBM ThinkPad X41 (1.50 GHz Pentium M) 2m 02s
IBM ThinkPad T43 (1.86 GHz Pentium M) 1m 45s
Fujitsu LifeBook N3510 (1.73 GHz Pentium M) 1m 48s
IBM ThinkPad T41 (1.6GHz Banias Pentium M) 2m 23s

Dell Latitude X1 (1.1 GHz ULV Dothan Pentium M)

2m 39s
Dell Inspiron 600m (1.6 GHz Dothan Pentium M) 2m 10s
Dell Inspiron 8600 (1.7GHz Banias Pentium M) 2m 28s

HD Tune Benchmark Results

Test IBM ThinkPad X32 Panasonic R4 (Toshiba HD)
Minimum Transfer Rate 11.9 MB/sec 2.0 MB/sec
Maximum Transfer Rate 34.6 MB/sec 27.5 MB/sec
Average Transfer Rate 38.1 MB/sec 22.7 MB/sec
Access Time 17.7 ms 19.1 ms
Burst Rate 67.5 MB/sec 65.7 MB/sec
CPU Usage 5.8% 5.5%

Keyboard and Touchpad:

Keyboard and touchpad (larger image)

Before purchasing this notebook, one of my major concerns was keyboard size. I was worried that I would not be able to comfortably write papers without becoming frustrated at the small keyboard. I was relieved when I found this to not be a problem. The noticeably smaller keyboard and individual keys did take a few minutes to become acquainted with but it did not prove difficult.

Websites that import this laptop in the United States change the keyboard to an English version, however some Japanese symbols remain on the new keyboard. They do not bother me at all and are fun to look at. The keyboard is basically the same except for different locations for a few symbols such as the apostrophe, @, and quotation marks. There is a keyboard shortcut to raise the speaker volume and screen brightness. There is also a button to move into presentation mode, and to check battery life. Overall the placement of the buttons is great and very straightforward. The keyboard has almost zero flex, comparable to any IBM notebook I have typed on.

Earlier I mentioned the heating problem, which can become bothersome while typing. The case heats up where I place my wrists while typing. It can become pretty hot, and there is no fan to cool it off.

The touchpad is in the shape of a circle instead of the usual rectangle. The touchpad buttons make up to outer ring of the touchpad, the design is nice and original. They work well and I have no complaints.

Input and Output Ports:

This is one section I feel this laptop could be improved. The notebook lacks firewire, and s-video out, two ports I feel are important. On the left side it has two USB 2.0 ports, and Ethernet and modem ports, and a parallel port. On the right there is a SD card slot and PC card slot.

Wireless

Since I have had this computer I have used wifi quite a bit and it works well. The unit as an Intel Pro Set 802.11b/g wireless LAN. Unfortunately the notebook lacks both Bluetooth and infrared.

Battery:

One of the highlights of this machine is the battery life. The manufacturer claims 9 hours. Compared to other notebooks the battery charger is extremely lightweight and portable. There is only one battery size available for this notebook, and there are not extra battery packs to attach to extend battery life. The units’ battery charger is also very portable. It is no bigger than the charger for my digital camera.

Operating System and Software:

The operating system is Windows XP Pro. The only disk the unit came with was the Windows disk. I am glad the notebook did not come with extraneous software, which I would rarely use. I purchased an external optical drive to install Office and a few other programs I purchased separately. External optical drives are pretty cheap these days so I didn’t mind buying one.

Warranty and Support:

So far I have not needed to contact the manufacturer or retailer with warranty or support issues. If I have any problems I call dynamism, which offers unlimited toll free support. If necessary I send the notebook to dynamism and they honor manufacturer’s warranty for three years after the purchase is made.

Pros:

  • Highly portable
  • Lightweight
  • Quality keyboard
  • Extra long battery life
  • Sturdy, well built

Cons:

  • No Firewire
  • Heating problem on left palm wrest due to no fan.
  • No Bluetooth
  • Expensive
  • Low Quality speakers
  • No optical drive


Conclusion:

All summed up I am very happy with this notebook. I would NOT recommend it to someone shopping for a primary computer who is not planning on taking it with them often. One could buy a notebook with many more features and luxuries for much less money. However for the person looking for a no frills ultraportable with a long battery, lightweight, and compact design this notebook is perfect. I cannot stress enough how small and lightweight this machine is, while still being extremely practical for everyday use.


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