When it comes to rough and ready notebook computers, Panasonic ToughBooks rule the roost. Fully rugged machines like the ToughBook CF-30 really can survive prett much anything you throw at them. In fact when I reviewed the CF-30 I drove a car over it, just to test its hard man credentials. But even that couldn't faze Panasonic's top of the range ToughBook. Now I'm looking at the latest iteration of the CF-74, which has been updated with Intel's Santa Rosa platform.
Although the CF-74 is only classed as semi-rugged, it can still survive its fair share of knocks, bumps and drops. In fact the last ToughBook CF-74 that I looked at didn't seem to have any problem with being dropped from around a metre, as the image below highlights. Panasonic states that the data on the hard disk will remain safe even if the unit is dropped from 90cm, so it's good to see that there's a little headroom in there, in case your desk is a little bit higher than that.
Despite not being a fully rugged model, the CF-74 still looks the part - its magnesium alloy case is finished in brushed silver and the solid metal handle makes it easy to carry, while also adding to the tough aesthetics. One of the best aspects of the ToughBook range is the carrying handle, since it negates the need for a dedicated notebook bag. "But how will I carry the power supply?" I hear you cry - believe me, that's not a problem when you consider the battery life that this machine offers. Panasonic has always managed to squeeze impressive battery life out of the ToughBook range and the CF-74 is no exception. Running Mobile Mark 2005, the CF-74 managed a battery life of seven hours 45 minutes, which is very impressive by anyone's standards. That means that you should be able to leave the power brick at home, without worrying about running out of juice during the day.
The CF-74 also has doors protecting the majority of ports and connectors, while the keyboard is spill resistant. That doesn't mean that you should use this machine out in the pouring rain, as you would a CF-30, but it does mean that you won't have to worry about spilling the odd glass of water on it, or using it in a dusty environment. On the whole, this notebook is close to perfect for the majority of field workers, unless you absolutely, positively need your computer to keep working, no matter how extreme the conditions.