A first look at Panasonic's new semi-rugged ToughBook

Panasonic is kicking the year off strong with the launch of a new “semi-rugged” ToughBook - the CF-54 mk1 model - focused on customisation for the business market.

Following the launch of the ToughBook CF-53 mk4 in 2014, Panasonic’s latest update brings more value in a smaller package. The new ToughBook is 50 per cent thinner than the CF-53 mk4 and 39 per cent thinner than the competition, according to Head of European Marketing Jan Kaempfer.

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The thinner design does not mean less ruggedness, as Kampfer claims the new ToughBook is 20 per cent more rugged and features a new Honeycomb magnesium design, capable of holding 20kg of weight and featuring a new handle for easy carrying.

Panasonic has also patched up some of the areas previously susceptible to water damage on the ToughBook, claiming it is now 100 per cent resistant. When inquiring about the water resistance, a representative claimed it would still work under light rain, but it is not advisable to dip the laptop in a bath.

One of the new features Panasonic is pushing is choice. Customers can select a second battery, DVD drive, PC card or smart card reader for the side area. Large customers are able to ask for their own modules, and Panasonic will work on these on a project-by-project basis.

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These project prices were not disclosed as it would depend on how hefty the engineering cost is for the module. Panasonic also offers space inside the GPU and PCI area for business customers to change the Toughbook and remove modules.

On the right side, the customer can choose between various ports including Serial, VGA, 2nd LAN, USB 2.0 or a dedicated GPS signal. The original model comes with 4 USB 3.0 ports, a LAN port, Ethernet port and HDMI port.

Panasonic will start the ToughBook CF-54 mk1 at €1544 (£1144) for the 14-inch HD (1366 x 768) model with 500GB of HDD storage, €1792 (£1328) for the full HD (1920 x 1080) model with optional Intel Core i7, AMD FirePro M5100 GPU and 128GB SSD, and €2247 (£1665) for the full HD model with a capacitive touchscreen, with all of the optional features available on the full HD non-touchscreen version.

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At the press conference, Panasonic showed how the ToughBook was capable of surviving in the harshest environments, keeping it locked in a freezer for a few hours. Upon inspection of the ToughBook, ice had started to form, but the laptop still soldiered on.

Panasonic claims the ToughBook can last in temperatures under -50 degrees, making it perfect for outdoor industry in Russia and other cold climates.

The battery life on the ToughBook is 11 hours with the 4200mAh battery, which features a hot-swap battery port on the back for swapping batteries. Users can also add a second battery as we said before, adding an extra 7 hours of life.

When discussing the limited battery life on the single battery, a Panasonic representative said “People ask for battery life, but when you give it to them they are not satisfied and want a thinner design or better display - this is why we chose a smaller battery size - to work on other features and offer the second battery for those that need more.”

The ToughBook will feature a fingerprint sensor on the front of the device alongside a 1080p webcam. Panasonic did not go into detail on the fingerprint sensor, but did show a Digitizer capable of reading biometric data from handwriting, useful in insurance and law industries for assessing fraud claims.

Oddly, most of the programs involving an industry directed programs were on Windows 7, perhaps showing a lack of integration with the newer operating system Windows 8.

Panasonic will be launching the new ToughBook CF-54 mk1 globally within the next few months through its third-party retail partners.