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Enter the ToughBook


Zen And The Art Of ToughBooks

If you’re a regular reader of the TrustedReviews notebook section, you will have seen coverage of Panasonic’s ToughBook range. The ToughBooks differ from most other notebooks by being, well, tough. Panasonic has built a reputation for itself by creating notebooks that can function in the most inhospitable environments.

Ever since I’ve been reviewing ToughBooks I’ve heard stories about the rigorous testing regime that goes on at Panasonic’s R&D facility in Osaka and at the ToughBook factory in Kobe. I never really doubted those reports, since the end products certainly lived up to the hype, but even so, there’s nothing quite like seeing something first hand. I therefore jumped at the chance to nip over to Japan and see Panasonic’s setup in person.

Panasonic manufactures all of its notebooks (bar the CF-51) at its plant in Kobe, Japan. Unlike the vast majority of notebook vendors, Panasonic doesn’t buy base hardware from manufacturers in Taiwan. Instead each ToughBook is created from scratch at the Kobe plant, allowing Panasonic to maintain its exacting quality control. It’s this quality control that makes the ToughBooks harder than your average notebook. In fact, I was slightly shocked to find out that between the R&D and Q/A departments, over 1,000 ToughBooks are damaged every year in Panasonic’s quest for the near indestructible notebook!

The ToughBook line is split into two sections – Fully Rugged and Semi-Rugged, or as the guys out in Japan referred to them, Field Mobile and Business Mobile. The fully rugged notebooks are pretty hardcore devices that can work virtually anywhere, like the CF-29 and the CF-19 which I reviewed recently. These machines can take an excessive amount of abuse and keep coming back for more. The semi-rugged notebooks are very different – these can take a few knocks and bashes, but can’t withstand the serious abuse of their big brothers. Machines like the CF-W5 fall into this category and used to come under the ToughBook Light umbrella, but this branding has now changed to the ToughBook Executive line.

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