I had my first encounter with Panasonic's business-ruggedized Toughbooks when I reviewed it in 2007. The model in question was the 14.1-inch CF-Y5 which succeeded the CF-Y4 predecessor soon after. In many ways, I must say I am impressed with the way Panasonic engineered the acclaimed laptop series. Some aspects include a slim yet durable and light form factor, a spill-resistant keyboard, a matte screen which meant less annoying reflections, laser-etched lettering, and a top-loading optical drive which made it easy to plug in a disc when I wanted to. Best of all, Panasonic has retained most characteristics of their winning formula to date.
I was at the Toughbook launch earlier on where Panasonic showcased three of their latest mobile computing solutions aimed at business users. The CF-C1 is essentially a 12.1-inch convertible tablet PC with a feather weight of 1.4kg. Its keyboard is supposed to tolerate up to 0.2 liters of water while its magnesium-alloy cage is said to withstand drops from heights up to 76cm. Sounds awesome? On top of that, the C1 packs a mid-range Core i5-520M processor as well as a capacitive screen which comes with an electronic stylus. Of course, you can use your fingers if you feel like it since the screen supports multi-touch. Moving on, we have another 12-incher in the bag aimed at white collar folks and frequent travelers. The 1.37kg CF-S9 is unable to turn its head (display) around like its C1 sibling, but it still has much to offer such as an enduring 6-cell battery and an identical Core i5 processor. The 12.4 ampere-hour battery is touted to last up to a whopping 11 hours on a single charge. That's really neat if it holds true.
Lastly, I rather fancy the CF-F9 out of the three consumer models. Folks who have seen or handled the former CF-F8 might notice that the two actually bear a similar design. Truth is, little changes were made to the notebook's aesthetics although the hardware within is largely dissimilar compared to their previous iteration. Panasonic has retained the handy briefcase-like handle with the 14-inch F9, but the handsome notebook now houses a Core i5 workhorse and Gobi 2000 wireless module which should be a boon to mobile wanderers. The Gobi chipset is capable of HSUPA data rates of up to 5.76 Mbps and offers assisted GPS functionality as well. Interestingly, I noticed Panasonic has snipped retail prices for their Toughbooks by a slight margin with their latest wave. The CF-C1, CF-S9 and CF-F9 would cost you $3199, $2799 and $2999 respectively. If you care to remember, the CF-F8 actually sets you back about $3899 when it was launched two years ago. All said, the new Toughbooks are still undoubtedly pricey nonetheless, but hey, who says quality comes cheap?
Andy Sim / Former Senior Tech Writer
Andy is a self-made geek with a penchant for good music and a hearty pint. His domain includes swanky TVs, notebooks and networking gizmos.
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