Adding to the CF-19’s industrial feel is the solid metal catch that secures the lid – there are no small plastic hooks here, there is no way that this notebook will open up unless you want it to. Lifting the lid reveals that 10.4in touch screen which is surprisingly bright – touch screens tend to be a bit dull due to the membrane that is needed for the touch functionality, but the screen on the CF-19 is so bright that I actually had to turn the brightness down a couple of notches when writing this review. Again, this is testament to the environments that a machine like this will be used in, where it’s vitally important to be able to see the screen clearly no matter what the lighting conditions. The screen is protected by a magnesium alloy housing, although the screen itself can survive a fair amount of abuse, in fact when we torture tested the CF-18 we dropped it with the screen facing out and it survived without a scratch.
Below the screen is a Release catch that allows you to twist the display through 180 degrees and then slap it shut against the body creating a tablet form factor. With the touch screen this makes it possible for field engineers, warehouse admin staff or just about anyone to use the CF-19 as a data logging device that’s tough as nails. In most corporate roll outs ToughBooks will be running bespoke applications that will take advantage of their unique attributes. Panasonic even offers a custom build option where corporate clients can submit their own image of applications to be loaded onto each machine at point of build. If you need the functionality of a full Tablet PC device, the CF-19 can be specified with Windows Tablet PC Edition and a digitiser screen instead of a touch screen.
It’s a fair bet that the CF-19 will be used with bespoke applications, since the keyboard sports very small keys. I can function reasonably well on this keyboard, as can be seen by the fact that I’m writing this review on it, but anyone with larger hands would find it very difficult to type for extended periods. As with the CF-18, my biggest issue with the keyboard is the fact that Panasonic has changed the layout of the cursor keys, making keyboard cursor manipulation unintuitive to say the least. Below the keyboard is a touch pad with two selector buttons below it. This worked very well, but I found myself using the touch screen most of the time instead.
Being a fully rugged notebook, every port and connector is covered by a waterproof/dustproof flap. On the right side of the chassis you’ll find two hinged doors which are secured by a sliding catch for extra piece of mind. Behind these you’ll find the removable battery and the removable hard disk enclosure. The latter is one of the key elements to the ToughBook range – the shock resistant hard disk enclosures ensure that your data stays safe even if you bash or drop your notebook from a significant height.