October 24, 2007

When the going gets tough, the tough get going by Danny Gorog

If you've ever let your young child play around with your laptop you'll know how fragile they are. I've seen kids flick keys off keyboards, snap screens off their hinges and try to insert more than a CD into a slot loading drive. And so it was with great excitement that I received Panasonics latest Toughbook, the CF-19 to test.

If you haven't heard of the Panasonic Toughbook range of laptops that's probably because you don't work for the military. You see, the Toughbook line is designed to be rugged and durable, and means you can take your laptop pretty much anywhere and expect it to work. The trend towards rugged laptops is now filtering down to large corporations who are realising the rigours of moving around consumer grade laptops eventually costs them more than they expect. IDC proved this in a recent study that found the failure rate of non-ruggedised laptops was twenty five percent per annum over a four-year period compared with a failure rate of just one and a half perfect for ruggedised devices. With those kinds of numbers, businesses are now sitting up and taking notice of the Touchbook product line.

So what makes a laptop rugged? For one, all Toughbooks come with a Magnesium alloy case that is twenty times stronger than ABS plastic. Add to that water-protection for fifteen minutes (military certified no less) and dust protection. If that's not enough Toughbook's are also certified for operation in extreme temperatures, and are tested to operate from -51° to 60°C. They also come with shock mounted hard drives and LCD screens, which means that when the unit is dropped the shock absorbing dampeners absorb up to seventy percent of vibration. So, there's a good chance that even your child couldn't damage one of these.

Normally in a tech review the specs of the unit are presented in the first paragraph. Yet in writing this review I've just realised I'm at paragraph four without a mention of gigahertz or megabytes. And there's good reason why that's happened. In this day of modern, disposable PCs there really isn't too much to get excited about when a new model is released. You know the latest release will come with a faster processor and more memory. But the selling proposition of the Toughbook line isn't that you'll get the biggest and best, but you'll get a laptop easily capable of coping with the stress of a corporate lifestyle. Perhaps that's why some of Australia's leading businesses, like Coca Cola Amatil, Telstra, Mitsubishi Motors Australia and BlueScope Steel are Toughbook customers.

Although the Toughbook is the most rugged laptop on the market it still manages to pack a punch in terms of computing power. The CF-19 comes with a 1 Ghz Core Duo processor, 512MB of RAM and an 80GB hard drive. It's also got the standard assortment of networking and connectivity ports as well so it will cooperate nicely with all your peripherals. The CF-19 also incorporate a “wireless-ready” design that allows users to purchase, or upgrade to, embedded access to next-generation 3G data networks.

In my testing the CF-19 performed flawlessly. Everything from its long eight hour battery life to the bright 10.4" TFT Active Matrix Colour worked well. I even gave it to my son to see if he could destroy it (sorry Panasonic!) but alas the CF-19 won every round.

So, what's not to like about the CF-19? The only glaringly obvious problem is the price. At $6249 the CF-19 is one of the most expensive laptops on the market. For that money you could by nearly four 'regular' laptops. But as I stated earlier, the value in the Toughbook is in its longevity and reliability. If those two things are critical to you or your business, then the Toughbook line is worth a closer look.

CF-19 At a Glance.

Manufacturer: Panasonic
Model: CF-19
Price: $6249
Phone/Web: 02 9986 7418 or www.toughbook.com.au

Part of Panasonics Toughbook line of super strength laptops. Clad in Magnesium alloy so you know it will take whatever you can give it, which includes computing underwater or in the Kalahari desert. It's no slough on performance either. With a Core Duo processor, 80GB hard drive and 8 hour battery life this is a computer that keeps on computing. No matter what or where.