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Panasonic Toughbook CF-19 Review
By Steve Rhys 05.11.2012
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Panasonic Toughbook CF-19 Review

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Panasonic Toughbook CF-19 Review

Though not great in usability it’s an advanced laptop boasting top-class connectivity and handwriting recognition.  But you’d think it’s a well-built, ‘armour protected’ tool box . . . until you open the lid!

……………………………………………………………………………………….. 

Overview

The ‘Toughbook’ moniker is not precisely apt . . . because it’s an understatement!  This is the laptop the SAS might use . . . and they probably do; after all, the U.S. Army uses Toughbooks.  It is well suited to adventuring, construction, mining – any situation where a laptop has a chance of water or dust ruining it or just plain getting bashed into bits. 

This is not advertising hype, for Toughbook credentials have been tested by independent, self-styled torturers, er, we mean ‘testers’ who have poured water and mud on Toughbooks, dropped them to the floor and stamped on them, without much adverse effect!  Leaving aside indie testers, this rig has been certified by the military to the ‘MIL-STD-810G’ 20-test standard in addition to which it is also ‘IP65’ certified.

 

Panasonic Toughbook CF-19

Panasonic Toughbook CF-19 – Turning Screen

 

First impressions – Appearance & Design //

This one looks less like a laptop and more like an impact-resistant tool case.  Not looking anything like a notebook, it is better seen than described.  The sturdy, built-in shoulder strap reinforces the appearance of an extra-strength case.  This magnesium alloy ‘tool box’ even has a little external design-work that makes it look more like a toolkit and less like a laptop! 

Panasonic Toughbook CF-19

Panasonic Toughbook CF-19 – The Tool Box!

 

It is protected all around the exterior by a grey synthetic material.  The interior has a dash of magnesium alloy in the form of a thick bezel and palmrest.  The keyboard and touchpad are in grey, matching the exterior rubberized material in colour.

 

Size & Weight //

Weighs 4.95 pounds and measures 10.7 x 8.5 inches with a thickness of 1.9 inches.

 

Keyboard & Touchpad //

The keyboard is small as are the keys.  In addition these are not island-style keys but traditional close-set ones because space is at a premium on this padded rig.  The keys work well and have good travel but because the keyboard is so cramped, typing is not comfortable and, we posit, would get progressively uncomfortable for persons with bigger hands.

The touchpad is among the smallest we’ve seen.  Though it is not erratic, it needs a deliberate, firm sliding action to register a gesture.  This makes a heavy chore out of something one usually does routinely and without a second thought so using it for extended periods is tiresome.  The clickpad buttons are very good in operation and comfortable to operate.

You don’t have to rely on the touchpad because the Toughbook has a touchscreen.  Besides operating it with your finger you can use a stylus that is inserted snugly in the lower left part of the bezel.  The screen’s touch recognition is excellent and it even recognizes handwriting.  This touch functionality allows it to double as a tablet device.

 

Screen & Speakers //

The small screen is a backlit LCD panel and has a resolution of 1024 x 768.  It’s so incredibly bright that you would not need to or want to turn it all the way up indoors – Panasonic says its capable of 6000 nits in direct sunlight.  That’s because it is expected to be used outdoors in high-brightness conditions.  The screen’s colours are not the best, seeming a little light and dull.  However it is glare free and the picture is fully visible under all conditions.

 

Panasonic Toughbook CF-19

Panasonic Toughbook CF-19 – Screen & Speakers

 

This extremely rugged laptop’s display performs the very delicate manouevre of swivelling on its single central hinge all the way to 180 degrees.  It can then be closed against the chassis with the screen facing outward, thus creating a (super-thick) table device.

 

Software //

It comes with Windows 7 Professional (64-bit).  It can be ordered with Windows Tablet PC Edition to take full advantage of the touchscreen.  Organizations ordering this rig in bulk may provide their in-house software for Panasonic to pre-load them on each Toughbook so that it’s ‘ready to go.’

 

Battery life, Noise and Heat //

The battery provides a mediocre 3:30 hours of intensive use.  This is not an acceptable battery life for a notebook designed for the outdoors and stress conditions.  Interestingly this is the same battery life, give or take a few minutes, shared by a host of kits: Toshiba Satellite Z830, Lenovo IdeaPad, Acer Aspire V5 U410, and Samsung Series 9.

The Toughbook CF-19, among other things, is advertised as withstanding temperature extremes.  As far as high temperature extremes are concerned, it generates some of its own: this rig gets truly hot under heavy use to the extent that it is downright uncomfortable to touch and one may feel concerned about the rig.

 

Processor, Memory & Performance //

It is powered by a Intel Core 2.5 GHz i5-2520M, 4 GB DDR3 SDRAM with integrated Intel HD 3000 graphics.  The 320 GB hard disk is protected internally by a shock-proof padded cage.

Panasonic Toughbook CF-19

Panasonic Toughbook CF-19 – Touch Screen

 

This rig is not about performance; it is about survival in harsh conditions.  As a result an intermediate Sandy Bridge processor has been used and there is no dedicated graphics card.  This particular combination powers many an intermediate-class business laptop and is more than sufficient for demanding productivity tasks such as music encoding.  Considering that this rig’s home is not going to be a radio station or photographer’s studio but and outdoor locale where it will be used for data capture, messaging, location-fixing and the like, it has all the muscle that will be necessary.

 

Others //

It has two USB 2.0, FireWire, Gigabith Ethernet, a VGA/D-sub connector, a serial port, and modem socket.  It also has Type II PC Card, Express Card, an SD card readers.  Wireless connectivity is by way of WiFi 802.11 a/b/g and Bluetooth.

Every port and slot is securely covered and protected by a thick’ish flap that requires some pressure to pull back.  Flaps are imprinted with the symbol of the port/slot beneath so you can locate the precise one you need.

This rig also contains a relatively unusual mobile broadband module so that it can also get online using the same microwave band as a mobile phone.

 

Who is it for?

Persons working in the Military, Mining, Construction, Wildlife, Travel & Adventure Sectors, and others where exceptional and special robustness and ruggedness are required. 

 

Value for money?

It depends.  It’s not remotely a value for money for the regular user.  But for anyone in the above-mentioned sectors it is a clear-cut value for money because under extreme conditions that would subject a kit to exposure, heat, dust, water, drops, mud, impact, etc. you can either buy one Toughbook or keep replacing a string of regular kits as they bite the dust – taking your data along with them.

 

Final thought

If there was ever a niche in the laptop business, this is it.  Considering that the U.S. Military contracts for Toughbooks it is self-evident that Panasonic has done an admirable job in making this laptop a mini tank.  Its advanced features are eye-catching to the extent that even a techie may take a shine to this rig.  For example, though keyboard usability is poor, the touchscreen – which doubles as a tablet computer with a simulated keyboard – compensates for it to the extent of recognising handwriting.  Another example: it has a built-in module so it can be used just like a mobile phone.  However, for the Toughbook, it’s the armour-plating that takes the spotlight.

Panasonic Toughbook CF-19 Review

Though not great in usability it’s an advanced laptop boasting top-class connectivity and handwriting recognition.  But you’d think it’s a well-built, ‘armour protected’ tool box . . . until you open the lid!

……………………………………………………………………………………….. 

Overview

The ‘Toughbook’ moniker is not precisely apt . . . because it’s an understatement!  This is the laptop the SAS might use . . . and they probably do; after all, the U.S. Army uses Toughbooks.  It is well suited to adventuring, construction, mining – any situation where a laptop has a chance of water or dust ruining it or just plain getting bashed into bits. 

This is not advertising hype, for Toughbook credentials have been tested by independent, self-styled torturers, er, we mean ‘testers’ who have poured water and mud on Toughbooks, dropped them to the floor and stamped on them, without much adverse effect!  Leaving aside indie testers, this rig has been certified by the military to the ‘MIL-STD-810G’ 20-test standard in addition to which it is also ‘IP65’ certified.

 

Panasonic Toughbook CF-19

Panasonic Toughbook CF-19 – Turning Screen

 

First impressions – Appearance & Design //

This one looks less like a laptop and more like an impact-resistant tool case.  Not looking anything like a notebook, it is better seen than described.  The sturdy, built-in shoulder strap reinforces the appearance of an extra-strength case.  This magnesium alloy ‘tool box’ even has a little external design-work that makes it look more like a toolkit and less like a laptop! 

Panasonic Toughbook CF-19

Panasonic Toughbook CF-19 – The Tool Box!

 

It is protected all around the exterior by a grey synthetic material.  The interior has a dash of magnesium alloy in the form of a thick bezel and palmrest.  The keyboard and touchpad are in grey, matching the exterior rubberized material in colour.

 

Size & Weight //

Weighs 4.95 pounds and measures 10.7 x 8.5 inches with a thickness of 1.9 inches.

 

Keyboard & Touchpad //

The keyboard is small as are the keys.  In addition these are not island-style keys but traditional close-set ones because space is at a premium on this padded rig.  The keys work well and have good travel but because the keyboard is so cramped, typing is not comfortable and, we posit, would get progressively uncomfortable for persons with bigger hands.

The touchpad is among the smallest we’ve seen.  Though it is not erratic, it needs a deliberate, firm sliding action to register a gesture.  This makes a heavy chore out of something one usually does routinely and without a second thought so using it for extended periods is tiresome.  The clickpad buttons are very good in operation and comfortable to operate.

You don’t have to rely on the touchpad because the Toughbook has a touchscreen.  Besides operating it with your finger you can use a stylus that is inserted snugly in the lower left part of the bezel.  The screen’s touch recognition is excellent and it even recognizes handwriting.  This touch functionality allows it to double as a tablet device.

 

Screen & Speakers //

The small screen is a backlit LCD panel and has a resolution of 1024 x 768.  It’s so incredibly bright that you would not need to or want to turn it all the way up indoors – Panasonic says its capable of 6000 nits in direct sunlight.  That’s because it is expected to be used outdoors in high-brightness conditions.  The screen’s colours are not the best, seeming a little light and dull.  However it is glare free and the picture is fully visible under all conditions.

 

Panasonic Toughbook CF-19

Panasonic Toughbook CF-19 – Screen & Speakers

 

This extremely rugged laptop’s display performs the very delicate manouevre of swivelling on its single central hinge all the way to 180 degrees.  It can then be closed against the chassis with the screen facing outward, thus creating a (super-thick) table device.

 

Software //

It comes with Windows 7 Professional (64-bit).  It can be ordered with Windows Tablet PC Edition to take full advantage of the touchscreen.  Organizations ordering this rig in bulk may provide their in-house software for Panasonic to pre-load them on each Toughbook so that it’s ‘ready to go.’

 

Battery life, Noise and Heat //

The battery provides a mediocre 3:30 hours of intensive use.  This is not an acceptable battery life for a notebook designed for the outdoors and stress conditions.  Interestingly this is the same battery life, give or take a few minutes, shared by a host of kits: Toshiba Satellite Z830, Lenovo IdeaPad, Acer Aspire V5 U410, and Samsung Series 9.

The Toughbook CF-19, among other things, is advertised as withstanding temperature extremes.  As far as high temperature extremes are concerned, it generates some of its own: this rig gets truly hot under heavy use to the extent that it is downright uncomfortable to touch and one may feel concerned about the rig.

 

Processor, Memory & Performance //

It is powered by a Intel Core 2.5 GHz i5-2520M, 4 GB DDR3 SDRAM with integrated Intel HD 3000 graphics.  The 320 GB hard disk is protected internally by a shock-proof padded cage.

Panasonic Toughbook CF-19

Panasonic Toughbook CF-19 – Touch Screen

 

This rig is not about performance; it is about survival in harsh conditions.  As a result an intermediate Sandy Bridge processor has been used and there is no dedicated graphics card.  This particular combination powers many an intermediate-class business laptop and is more than sufficient for demanding productivity tasks such as music encoding.  Considering that this rig’s home is not going to be a radio station or photographer’s studio but and outdoor locale where it will be used for data capture, messaging, location-fixing and the like, it has all the muscle that will be necessary.

 

Others //

It has two USB 2.0, FireWire, Gigabith Ethernet, a VGA/D-sub connector, a serial port, and modem socket.  It also has Type II PC Card, Express Card, an SD card readers.  Wireless connectivity is by way of WiFi 802.11 a/b/g and Bluetooth.

Every port and slot is securely covered and protected by a thick’ish flap that requires some pressure to pull back.  Flaps are imprinted with the symbol of the port/slot beneath so you can locate the precise one you need.

This rig also contains a relatively unusual mobile broadband module so that it can also get online using the same microwave band as a mobile phone.

 

Who is it for?

Persons working in the Military, Mining, Construction, Wildlife, Travel & Adventure Sectors, and others where exceptional and special robustness and ruggedness are required. 

 

Value for money?

It depends.  It’s not remotely a value for money for the regular user.  But for anyone in the above-mentioned sectors it is a clear-cut value for money because under extreme conditions that would subject a kit to exposure, heat, dust, water, drops, mud, impact, etc. you can either buy one Toughbook or keep replacing a string of regular kits as they bite the dust – taking your data along with them.

 

Final thought

If there was ever a niche in the laptop business, this is it.  Considering that the U.S. Military contracts for Toughbooks it is self-evident that Panasonic has done an admirable job in making this laptop a mini tank.  Its advanced features are eye-catching to the extent that even a techie may take a shine to this rig.  For example, though keyboard usability is poor, the touchscreen – which doubles as a tablet computer with a simulated keyboard – compensates for it to the extent of recognising handwriting.  Another example: it has a built-in module so it can be used just like a mobile phone.  However, for the Toughbook, it’s the armour-plating that takes the spotlight.

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