If youâ€™re a regular reader of the TrustedReviews notebook section, you will have seen coverage of Panasonicâ€™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 Iâ€™ve been reviewing ToughBooks Iâ€™ve heard stories about the rigorous testing regime that goes on at Panasonicâ€™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, thereâ€™s nothing quite like seeing something first hand. I therefore jumped at the chance to nip over to Japan and see Panasonicâ€™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 doesnâ€™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. Itâ€™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 Panasonicâ€™s quest for the near indestructible notebook!
The ToughBook line is split into two sections â€“ 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 â€“ these can take a few knocks and bashes, but canâ€™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.