Panasonic Y2 Review

In all, the Y2 makes a great computer for college students, frequent fliers, and others on the go...
In all, the Y2 makes a great computer for college students, frequent fliers, and others on the go...
In all, the Y2 makes a great computer for college students, frequent fliers, and others on the go...

Highs

  • Excellent battery life; attractive and light weight

Lows

  • Slightly washed out screen; confusing power button placement

Summary

The Panasonic Y2 is a nice step up from the W2, offering most of the futuristic looks and features of the W2 plus a larger screen, a speedier processor, and more upgrade options. It’s as light as a feather, durable, and able to last nearly a full work day on a single charge. Panasonic has reignited the custom computer color craze with the Y2, as well as the W2 and R3 lines, with the introduction of custom shells. The unique design, from the hinged screen and custom covers, to the wrist rest optical drive and the circular scroll pad makes the Y2 stand out in a crowd of mostly identical offerings by other companies. The fact that it can’t be found in the States (yet!), gives it certain uniqueness as well. In all, the Y2 makes a great computer for college students, frequent fliers, and others on the go and away from a desk for hours at a time.

Introduction

The Panasonic Y2 is the big brother of the W2 we reviewed last year. The primary difference is the larger 14″ screen and faster 1.3 GHz processor. Also, the Y2 can be upgraded to a full 1GB of RAM, 100GB hard drive, and internal DVD-RW drive – some very impressive specs for a system weighing in at only 3.4 lbs.

Features and Design

Like the W2, the Y2 uses the same ‘under the keyboard’ optical drive design. The right wrist rest pops up to reveal the drive partially under the keyboard. The keyboard uses the same anime-esque paint job we think is cheesy, but fun. The circular mouse pad was held over from the W2, with the mouse buttons mounted in the surrounding bevel area. In place of a scroll wheel, the Y2 uses software to translate circular finger movements much like the iPod touch wheel. Twirling your finger clockwise on the mouse pad scrolls the page down, and vice versa.

Panasonic Y2The housing is a magnesium alloy that feels like glossy plastic, and is designed to help keep the weight down. The Y2, like the W2, is considered a “Toughbook”, which means that in addition to magnesium alloy casing, the hard drive is shock mounted. Unfortunately, like the W2, the power and optical drive eject buttons are identical and located on opposite sides of the front. Nearly every other attempt to eject the CD resulted in the computer shutting down.  Unlike the W2, the port arrangement is a little more intuitive. The right side contains only the PC Card slot. The VGA out, two USB 2.0 ports, network, modem, SD card slot, headphone, and microphone ports are all on the left side. Because the screen folds around the back (note the hinge for the screen in the review images), there are no ports on the back. Again, the ports are all exposed, with exception to the modem and network, making them susceptible to dust and debris.

The unit itself is nicely balanced, with just slightly more weight in the back where the battery attaches. The bottom has several small rubberized feet to keep it from sliding on a desk. Also, the cover housing the RAM socket is easily accessible from the bottom. When ordering your unit, you can opt for several shell designs, including gun metal, red, turquoise, and black. This is the first time we have seen a customization option like this on a laptop, and we applaud Panasonic for the change. The entire line of Panasonic notebooks can be ordered in any number of colors.

Use and testing

We were unable to run MobileMark because of conflicts with Windows XP SP2. We set up some subjective tests to measure battery performance though. We used the system with the default software loaded, the screen at full brightness, and all power saving features disabled. We were able to use the Y2 for 5 hours straight with the internal WiFi enabled and actively downloading. With WiFi disabled, we were able to casually use the system for close to 7 hours. In short, even though the screen is 2″ larger than the W2, the battery performance is nearly identical.

We wish that Panasonic would use a better screen. The backlight washes out much of the bottom of the screen. While the Y2’s display is good, many companies are offering systems with various brightness/contrast boosting technologies, like Sony’s XBRITE or HP’s BrightView technology. For the price point the Y2 occupies, and the appeal to use this Toughbook outdoors where sunlight will wash out the screen more, we hope Panasonic considers changing this in the next generation Y2.

Performance-wise, the Y2 did well in our other tests. 3DMark01 gave it a 1601, and 3DMark03 gave it 93 3D marks. Not very impressive on the 3D front, but expected when you consider it’s running the Silicon Motion Lynx 3DM chip with only 64MB of memory. SiSoftware Sandra had a CPU Dhrystone of 5125 MIPS, and a whetstone of 1784/2308 MFLOPS, as expected, and Integer/Floating Point measure of 12351/13534 it/s, also in line with expectations.

One thing to note is that the native resolution is 1400×1050, which is an excellent choice. 1600×1200 would have been too high for comfortable viewing and 1280×1024 too low for efficient productivity.

Panasonic Y2

As was the case with the W2, the Y2 is currently only available in Japan. But, if history has taught us anything, Panasonic may bring the Y2 to the US market. Our unit was provided by the friendly folks at iCube, which can be found on the web and their California storefront. With imported laptops comes the annoyance of dealing with the Japanese keyboard layout. As we mentioned before, the layout is still QWERTY, but with symbols and punctuation mixed around a little.

Conclusion

The Panasonic Y2 is a nice step up from the W2, offering most of the futuristic looks and features of the W2 plus a larger screen, a speedier processor, and more upgrade options. It’s as light as a feather, durable, and able to last nearly a full work day on a single charge. Panasonic has reignited the custom computer color craze with the Y2, as well as the W2 and R3 lines, with the introduction of custom shells. The unique design, from the hinged screen and custom covers, to the wrist rest optical drive and the circular scroll pad makes the Y2 stand out in a crowd of mostly identical offerings by other companies. The fact that it can’t be found in the States (yet!), gives it certain uniqueness as well. In all, the Y2 makes a great computer for college students, frequent fliers, and others on the go and away from a desk for hours at a time.

Product Review

Controversy has dogged the MacBook Pro lately. Is it still a good purchase?

The MacBook Pro is a controversial laptop these days -- and that's unfortunate. Due to some divisive changes Apple made to the functionality of the MacBook Pro, fans are more split. Does the 8th-gen refresh change that?
Computing

Heal your wrist aches and pains with one of these top ergonomic mice

If you have a growing ache in your wrist, it might be worth considering ergonomic mice alternatives. But which is the best ergonomic mouse for you? One of these could be the ticket to the right purchase for you.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: camera with A.I. director, robot arm assistant

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Computing

Is it worth spending more for the Surface Pro, or is the Surface Go good enough?

The Surface Go versus Surface Pro -- which is better? While the higher price tag of one might make you think it's an easy choice, a deeper dive into what each offers makes it a closer race than you might assume.