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Panasonic’s Let’s Note laptops are pure Japanese business distilled into a brick

Panasonic’s Let’s Note laptops are pure Japanese business distilled into a brick

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If you ever find yourself on a bullet train between, say, Tokyo and Osaka at 5:37PM on a Thursday afternoon, you’ll see a lot of dudes in suits with three things on the little fold-out table: a meticulously arranged bento box, a can of Suntory Premium Malt's beer, and a Panasonic Let’s Note laptop.

Let’s Note laptops don’t look like much. Well, to be precise, they look like laptops from 2002. They have super boxy, inch-thick designs, squared-off screens, giant cooling vents, optical disc drives, VGA ports, and inexplicably circular trackpads. The line dates back to 1996, and hasn’t really changed much this millennium.

The range remains ubiquitous in Japan wherever there’s a need for portable computing, however, and Panasonic is putting a refreshed lineup on sale this Friday — it's built 350,000 for the initial batch. The main appeal of Let’s Note laptops is that they offer tons of versatility and performance in a lightweight yet rugged plastic package.  

The new SV7, for instance, weighs under two and a half pounds even when fitted with an extended battery that Panasonic claims can get up to 21 hours of life. It has a 12.1-inch 1920 x 1200 matte display, can run on up to a Core i7-8650U processor, and has connectivity including Thunderbolt 3, HDMI, VGA, Ethernet, an SD card slot, optional LTE, a headphone jack, and three USB-A ports. And a Windows Hello-compatible webcam. And a DVD burner.

Pricing for that top model starts at 318,800 yen, or about $3,000. Which is a lot for a laptop that looks like it was left behind when the Clinton administration departed the White House. But Japan often isn’t as futuristic as you might think, and there’s no better way to replicate its office environment on the go.