Its screen is the weakest element to this Toughbook. Not literally mind you, but the 10.1-inch transflexive display doesn’t look great and its low resolution is quite limiting. Mind you, its transflexive-ness means it’s very readable in sunlight and its matt finish prevents annoying reflections. However, combined with the TN panel at its heart it also provides poor contrast, mediocre viewing angles, and a general lack of punch to colours even with the backlight turned to its insanely high maximum brightness.
While these flaws are easy enough to forgive – after all, the Toughbook CF-19 is not an entertainment laptop – the screen’s 1,024 x 768 resolution is what really pulls it down. Some software refuses to run at this sub-HD res, and system windows or web-pages might not be completely viewable. We’re not asking for a Retina Display here and are aware that again, the transflexive aspect of the screen might well be the reason for this limitation, but we’re not absolutely sure the pay-off is worth it.
Below the screen you’ll find a 3MP camera for HD video chatting and taking the occasional snap. It’s certainly a better effort than on most laptops, and is adequate for its intended usage.
Surprisingly enough, the front-facing mono speaker found in the screen bezel of this tough 10-inch convertible is really rather good, pumping out impressive levels of volume even if it is a bit lacking on detail and subtlety. It’s great for alerts and video conferencing though, which is primarily what is expected of it.
With this 10-inch convertible tablet/laptop, you don’t need to compromise on processing power. The Toughbook CF-19 comes with your choice of Intel Core-i processors, though on the standard config it sports a Core i5-3320M. This dual-core CPU runs at 2.6GHz by default but can turbo clock all the way up to 3.3GHz, and it will happily handle most everything you might throw at it in the field. It’s backed by 4GB of RAM though you can increase this to 8GB.
Storage, meanwhile, comes courtesy of a 500GB hard drive. That’s right, a moving parts drive rather than an SSD with no fragile moving bits. This seems like a rather odd choice in an ultra-tough laptop, as hard drives are far more susceptible to shocks, temperature, motion, etc.
However, the HDD in the Panasonic Toughbook CF-19 is housed in a protective hot-swap cage that insures it can withstand 180cm drops, just like the laptop itself. Indeed, we tried dropping it repeatedly on concrete even with the laptop turned on, and the hard drive was still spinning merrily afterwards. The best news is that you can easily open the drive cage and just install an SSD yourself, rather than adding even more to the CF-19’s impressive price tag. You can also swap out drives effortlessly (though not with the machine turned on).
Gaming is probably the last thing prospective owners will want to do with this ToughBook, but thanks to its Intel integrated HD 4000 chip, it will just about cope with a few 3D titles in between work. Once again, screen resolution is the biggest annoyance as many games demand at least 1,280 pixels across.
While our test sample came with Windows 7, the Toughbook CF-19 is also available with Windows 8 which should make the most of its touch screen - though the screen resolution will cause a few annoying limitations.