At the rear is a plastic flap hiding a serial port, while a long latched door hides a parallel port, a D-SUB port, a USB port, headphone and microphone sockets and a docking connector. There’s a sliding section to this door which reveals the docking port, saving you the trouble of having the door flapping open when your docked.
You can add optional modules to the CF-29 as well, like a GSM/GPRS module for constant communication while you’re out in the field, while a GPS module can also be fitted. Panasonic offers a bespoke build programme, allowing you to specify exactly what you want inside your ToughBook. Of course you have to buy in volume to be able to specify a bespoke build, but you only have to order 100 units, which isn’t a massive amount from a corporate point of view.
Under the hard exterior of the CF-29 is a reasonably robust specification.The 1.6GHz Intel Pentium M processor should be fast enough for most tasks, although I would probably opt for 1GB of memory, rather than the 512MB that was supplied in this review sample. It’s also worth remembering that some of the system memory is allocated to the Integrated Intel graphics chipset. The CF-29 is Centrino branded, so it comes as no surprise that there’s an Intel wireless adapter installed – thankfully Panasonic has gone for the full 802.11a,b,g module. The 80GB hard disk isn’t massive by today’s notebook standards, but it should be large enough for pretty much anything you throw at it – plus, I imagine that Panasonic chooses hard disks for their reliability rather than their capacity.
With a machine like the CF-29 that’s designed to be used out in the field all day, battery life is a vitally important consideration. You don’t want your engineers to be halfway through a job when the battery runs out on their notebook in the middle of nowhere. Thankfully this shouldn’t ever be an issue, since the CF-29 turned in the best battery life I have ever seen on a notebook. Running Mobile Mark 2005, the ToughBook turned in battery life of over seven hours! OK, so it was only one minute over seven hours, but that is still a staggering achievement.