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The Resilient Ones
By Andy Sim - on 17 Sep 2010, 9:21am

Panasonic might not be well known for their notebook portfolios, but you can count on them to deliver decent laptops when called upon. Ngee Ann City is their chosen venue for the Toughbook launch today.

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. 

The CF-C1 convertible tablet PC is more than what it seems. The C1 actually features a triple-hinge design as well as a locking mechanism which prevents the screen from falling back when you are tapping on it in the conventional clamshell mode.

Some trivia for you. Did you know Panasonic was the first notebook manufacturer to integrate an optical drive with a laptop back in 1994? Anyhow, the 12-inch CF-S9 continues that tradition with a top-loading solution.

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. 

Besides churning out polished notebooks such as the 14-inch CF-F9, Panasonic has been busy rubbing shoulders with Intel which gave rise to the Dynamic Power Performance Management Technology found in the new Toughbooks. Essentially, it reduces the notebook's heat signature while ensuring that overall performance isn't compromised.

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

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.