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We've reviewed a fair few ToughBook's in our time, from the practically bullet proof CF-29 and CF-30, to the super light semi-rugged delights of the CF-Y5 and plenty more besides. The ToughBook CF-52 I'm looking at today sits very much in the middle of those models, being a semi-rugged machine like the CF-Y5, but with a size and shape similar to those larger and hardier models. It also marks a first for the ToughBook range because, remarkably, it's the first to feature a widescreen display.
Yes, strange as it may seem, Panasonic has long stood as the immovable object against the irresistible force of change. Clearly though, the immovable object has wobbled just a little in this, the follow-up to the CF-51, which Riyad review back in September 2005. So, what's changed since then?
Quite apart from the 15.4in, 1,280 x 800 display, it is clear Panasonic has moved the design of this more budget orientated ToughBook closer to the rest of the range. Whereas the CF-51 resembled a thicker, heavier and stronger version of a normal notebook, the CF-52 looks far more like its more hardcore cousins. Most evident in this respect is the addition of a handle, which is included more or less as standard on all but the ultra-portable ToughBooks. This is a very welcome addition, helping to make the CF-52 fairly portable despite its 3.3kg weight.
Another change comes with the various ports and connections on the CF-52. Whereas on the CF-51 most ports were exposed as they would be on any normal notebook, on the CF-52 the majority are hidden under flaps. Touches like the handle and flaps also lend the CF-52 a far more rugged look, though it must be stressed that it is still only semi-rugged, so you can't drive cars over it and expect it to survive.
What can it survive? Well, the combination of a magnesium alloy frame and shock protected hard drive makes the CF-52 capable of withstanding a fall of 75cm (76.2cm to be precise) on any of the six sides. This may not sound like a great deal on paper, but most ordinary notebooks would baulk at such a fall. Moreover, even if they were to survive, it would be through fortune rather than design.
With the CF-52 you can be safe in the knowledge that it doesn't rely on any such luck, while the 75cm drop distance is a significant improvement over the 30cm the CF-51 could survive. In addition, the keyboard and touchpad are both splash proof, though that doesn't mean you should be taking it in the bath or shower with you - rubber duckies need not apply.