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Hands-on: Panasonic's new Toughbooks are equally at home in the office and outside

By Kenny Yeo - 28 Jul 2015

Hands-on: Panasonic’s new Toughbooks are equally at home in the office and outside

From the Office to Outside

Along side news of Panasonic’s new configuration center in Johor, Malaysia. Panasonic also announced two new Toughbooks earlier today. The company has been in the rugged notebooks business for the past 20 years or so, and the latest two Toughbooks are a culmination of all that Panasonic has learned from making notebooks that can withstand the stresses of office life and more. To this day, Panasonic still designs and manufactures its Toughbooks in its factories in Japan and Taiwan. And it is in these factories that Panasonic's Toughbooks undergo extreme testing to ensure that they can withstand whatever their users throw at it. But don't just take it from us, here's proof of the extreme testing that Panasonic puts its Toughbooks through from our visits to their factory in Kobe, Japan from last year and way back in 2010.

The two new Toughbooks are the CF-MX4 and CF-54.

The two new models are the Toughbook CF-MX4 and the CF-54. The former is a business rugged notebook, whereas the latter is a sturdier semi-rugged model for use in specialized work environments. What's interesting is that these Toughbooks will be available through authorized Panasonic resellers. What this means is that consumers can, for the first time, actually walk into stores and walk out with Toughbooks in their hands. Previously, they were available only through authorized distributors and had to be specially ordered. Let’s take a closer look at them now.

The Toughbook CF-MX4

The Toughbook CF-MX4 in a 2-in-1 business rugged convertible notebook.

The Toughbook CF-MX4 is what Panasonic calls a “business rugged” notebook. And according to Panasonic, it’s strong enough to withstand drops from 76cm and it also survived a 100-kgf pressurized vibration test. The pressurized vibration test is interesting because it was devised to simulate the sardine can environment of Tokyo’s crowded subway. Apparently, many office workers reported damaging their notebooks while taking the subway, hence Panasonic came up with this test to ensure that their business notebooks can survive the rigors of commuting in Tokyo.

The Toughbook CF-MX4 has a 12.5-inch IPS multi-touch display that supports Full-HD (1920 x 1080 pixels) resolution. It measures 21mm thick and so it looks a little chunky. But don’t be fooled by its looks. Thanks to its magnesium chassis, it actually weighs just 1.14kg. All in all, its fantastically compact and light.

The Toughbook CF-MX4 "folds" to become a tablet.

Inside, it is powered by Intel’s newest fifth generation Core i5-5300U processor (2.3MHz, 3MB L3 cache) that supports Intel’s vPro technology. The vPro platform refers to a collection of technologies that enables a more secure management of devices in a business setting and “Broadwell” processors supporting vPro technology was only announced in early April this year. In standard spec, the CF-MX4 will come up 4GB of DDR3L RAM and a 128GB SSD. It will also support the latest 802.11ac standard.

The ports are all located on the right side. There's also a vintage vibe to the overall design and look of the Toughbook CF-MX4.

Large LED status indicators and a huge power switch adorn the front side of the notebook.

The Toughbook CF-MX4 has a generous offering of ports, including 2 x USB 3.0 ports and an Ethernet port - a rarity these days. The ports are all located on the right of the notebook. These ports, along with the LED status indicators up front and the volume control buttons and power switch, give the CF-MX4 a somewhat retro look. It almost looks as if the CF-MX4 arrived through a time machine from the 90s.

The Toughbook CF-MX4 is available right now and is priced at S$2680.

The Toughbook CF-54

The Toughbook CF-54 a much more rugged beast.

Just by looks alone, it is immediately apparent that the Toughbook CF-54 is a more rugged beast. The Toughbook CF-54 is classified as a “semi-rugged” notebook and can withstand falls from 76cm. It also uses magnesium for its case construction and has a unique honeycomb design for improved strength. On top of that, its keyboard and touchpad is spill-resistant. It even has meets MIL-STD 810G certification, so it’s highly resistant to heat, cold, sand, dust and vibrations. If it's good enough for the military, that's saying something.

You can't really tell from photos, but the new Toughbook CF-54 is significantly lighter and slightly thinner than its predecessor, the CF-53.

The Toughbook CF-54 has an integrated handle for easy portability.

According to Panasonic, the Toughbook CF-54 was designed primarily for use in the automotive diagnostic industry, and it looks the part. Its magnesium case and carrying handle gives it a very industrial look and vibe. It has a 14-inch display that output a resolution of just 1366 x 768 pixels. This is pretty low by modern day standards, but we doubt automotive workers would really mind. And even though this is the thinnest and lightest semi-rugged notebook Panasonic has ever built, it is still a relatively chunky machine, measuring 29.8mm thick and weighing 2.1kg.

To protect Toughbook CF-54 from dust and liquids, the ports are all hidden behind a cover.

The keyboard and trackpad are both spill-resistant.

Like the Toughbook CF-MX4, the Toughbook CF-54 is powered by Intel’s new Core i5-5300U processor (2.3MHz, 3MB L3 cache) with vPro technology. In standard specification form, it will come with 4GB of RAM and a 500GB HDD. It also comes with three USB 3.0 ports, an HDMI port, SD card reader and an Ethernet jack. It also supports the latest 802.11ac wireless standard.

The Touhhbook CF-54 is also highly configurable. There’s a drive bay which can be configured with an DVD drive, PC card slot or even a second battery. Customers can also opt to configure the CF-54 with an integrated smart card reader, fingerprint reader or even a GPS module.

Like the Toughbook CF-MX4, the Toughbook CF-54 is available now and is priced at $3220.

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