At the rear you’ll find headphone and mic sockets, a USB 2.0 port, a D-SUB connector and a serial port. All of these are hidden behind waterproof flaps. The left side is most feature rich with sealed flaps hiding the power socket, another USB 2.0 port, a four-pin FireWire port, a modem socket and an Ethernet port. There’s also a large hinged door, complete with locking catch behind which hides a Type II PC Card slot, an Express Card slot, an SD card slot and a hardware switch for the integrated Wi-Fi adapter.
At the front is a sliding power switch and an array of buttons – here you’ll find controls to adjust the screen brightness in case you’re in tablet mode, a left mouse button, a screen rotate button, a button to logout of Windows and a button to bring up a virtual keyboard. The latter didn’t appear to work, but I’m assuming that it’s a feature for the Tablet PC Edition of the CF-19.
Unlike the CF-18 before it, the CF-19 benefits from a dual core CPU albeit the older Core Duo version. This isn’t really an issue since the ToughBooks are more about reliability and battery life than they are about performance. That said, the Core Duo chip is still a damn good CPU, even in its Ultra Low Voltage guise as seen here – the CF-19 is equipped with a U2400 Intel Core Duo running at 1.06GHz, which is fairly modest by power notebook standards, but I didn’t have any problems running all the applications that I needed. More concerning is the modest 512MB of system memory, especially since the Intel integrated graphics chipset eats up a chunk of that. My advice would be to specify at least 1GB of memory at point of purchase, or even 2GB if you can stretch to that.
The well protected hard disk provides a modest 80GB, but the target buyer isn’t going to be dumping a load of music and video files on this machine, so that’s probably quite adequate. Having recently seen a 32GB solid state disk out at CES I’m wondering how long it will be before Panasonic employs this kind of technology into its ToughBooks, making them even more robust. Conspicuous by its absence is an integrated optical drive, but in a corporate roll out, machines like these are likely to be configured over a network and end users installing anything themselves will probably be frowned upon, if not altogether forbidden. Of course it’s easy enough to plug a USB optical drive into the CF-19, which is exactly what I had to do to get the benchmarks loaded.
The CF-19 is well catered for when it comes to wireless communication. There’s integrated Bluetooth for connection to a mobile phone or Bluetooth enabled camera, while the Intel PRO/Wireless 3945ABG Wi-Fi adapter provides 802.11a, b and g support. It’s also worth noting that Panasonic was offering wireless WAN modules in its ToughBooks long before the rest of the notebook world had even thought about it. I can still remember when a couple of BT engineers turned up to my home to install my ADSL back in 2000 – they were both equipped with ToughBooks complete with GSM modules built-in for wireless data communication from anywhere. Of course now that 3G and HSDPA integrated modules are all the rage, Panasonic has added an HSDPA module to its option list for the CF-19.