Toughbooks are known for their built-to-last quality and based on the target audience, Panasonic has released three different versions of these Toughbooks, namely business-rugged, semi-rugged and full-rugged. The CF-53 model is part of their semi-rugged series and its got the look and feel of a hitman’s briefcase. Let’s have a look if it’s worth the bucks.
Tough design and build
Design and Build Quality
The CF-53 is a fat notebook. If you’ll just look at it from the outset, it looks like a briefcase in which you can safely put in your netbook or tablet. And with the handle at the top, not many of you will differ on opinion. It has a crystallised silver finish on the exterior and with visible screws around the notches on the side; it definitely looks like an industrial grade notebook built for rigorous usage. But the question is, is it?
Crystallised silver design
Panasonic has mentioned that this notebook is part of their ‘semi-rugged’ series. It’s not a full-rugged beast so let’s make it clear on what it can and what it can’t do. Firstly, it’s MIL-STD-810G certified, which means it can survive a three-inch drop along with shock, vibration, dust, altitude, high/low temperature, temperature shock and humidity resistance. It also comes with a spill resistant keyboard, but the spill resistance doesn’t extend to the side panels, the battery section, speakers and the DVD drive. Panasonic have also categorically stated that in case something does go wrong, users will be charged a fee for the repair service.
All the connectivity options and ports have been hidden under ‘auto-shut’ flap, which is a seemingly irritating part of the design, considering you’ll actually have to hold the flap with one hand and then connect the cables. The right side of the laptop consists of the removable battery pack, the SDXC card reader and the Express slot, along with a USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 port. The back consists of the Ethernet port, HDMI, VGA port, Fischer grade USB slot, COM port, and two standard USB 2.0 ports, whereas the DVD drive is slotted onto the left. The headphone and mic jack slots are located on the front next to the handle. The hinges are extremely sturdy and the CF-53 can do a similar 180 degree collapse as the models in Lenovo’s ThinkPad series. The build of the laptop feels extremely rugged, like the type of laptops you would drop a number of times and still not get worried about, but with a tag of ‘semi - rugged’, you’ll always be a tad bothered about it at the back of your head. Also, the LCD screen doesn’t seem to be reinforced in the same way as the rest of the notebook and feels quite fragile.
The keyboard comes in a dual tone silver and black colour and is located quite high up on the body, so there’s plenty of hand rest. The layout isn’t standard, though. Firstly, the Ctrl and Windows keys next to the directional keypad have been replaced by the Delete and Insert key. The Windows key isn’t often used in that position, but we’re not too sure about the replacement of the Ctrl key. Key sizes are normal, but there’s no dedicated numpad. If there was a choice, we’d have loved to see a similar key placement as the E420.
At 2.6 kg, the laptop looks and feels like a sturdy and strong briefcase, err...notebook and we’re positive that it’ll be able to take a few occasional falls and tumbles.
The Toughbook is powered by an Intel Core vPro i5 CPU running at 2.5 GHz. It’s got 4GB of RAM and 320 GB HDD space. Graphics aren’t going to be one of the required or important points of a toughbook and the notebook unsurprisingly comes with the integrated Intel HD Graphics Card. It runs on the 32-bit version of Windows 7 Professional. Panasonic have bundled in a battery recalibration and backup and restore software. As part of connectivity, there’s Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, but our review unit came without a webcam.
Key feedback is quite good with the ample hand rest that they’ve provided and the trackpad is brilliant as well in terms of both button feel and feedback. However, we weren’t big fans of the delete key being placed next to the directional keypad and more often than not, it led to quite a few errors, while using the keyboard. Speakers are as loud as your average notebook and viewing angles are quite good as well. Shutdown times clocked at seven seconds, while boot up times clocked at an average of twenty one seconds, which is pretty quick, at least when you compare it to the E420. Absolutely no heating was present, and considering the body is quite massive, they’ve taken good care of the heat dissipation issues that laptops quite often face. We performed a drop test on the Toughbook from a height of three feet and the notebook booted up perfectly after the fall.
Del key could have been better placed
We put the laptop through our synthetic benchmark tests and the scores are charted below. It performs similarly to the Acer Timeline 5830, which we reviewed earlier.
The notebook is powered by a removable 6750 mAh battery. We cranked up the brightness and performance settings and put it through our Battery eater test. The laptop battery ran for a total of two hours and 30 minutes before giving way. On normal usage, you’ll easily get more than five hours of usage on this beast and the battery is definitely more optimized than your average laptop.
The Panasonic Toughbook CF-53 is priced at Rs.99,000 (MOP). It’s a fairly spec’d laptop, but the unique feature of the CF-53 is its build quality. If you’ll simply go for performance, a Rs.45,000 laptop will perform similarly, but as mentioned earlier, with the Toughbook it’s more about the build than the performance. It’s targeted to give mobile workers, engineers at construction sites and technicians, reliable and secure access to their data and application in challenging environments. However, bearing in mind that it’s semi-rugged, it caters to a very limited audience, because if you’re investing in a laptop that needs to work under all the stress it undergoes, it better be fully-rugged.