Panasonic ToughBook CF-30 Rugged Notebook Review - Panasonic ToughBook CF-30 Review

When you look at the specification inside the CF-30 there are two things that you need to remember. First, the prime reason that anyone buys a notebook like this is that they need a mobile computer that can survive anything, not necessarily one that’s sporting the latest processor. Second, ToughBooks are pretty much infinitely configurable – ok, so the processor type is often static, but stuff like the amount of memory, size of hard disk, type and amount of network connections and optical drive are all configurable by the buyer.

Driving the CF-30 is an Intel Core Duo L2400 CPU. This is the low voltage version of the Yonah chip that was introduced in January 2006 and has since been superseded by two revisions of the Core 2 Duo Merom CPU. However, as already mentioned, ToughBooks aren’t about raw power, and the 1.66GHz dual core L2400 with 2MB of Level 2 cache shared across the cores, should be more than powerful enough to run anything you’re likely to throw at it, while the low voltage aspect of the chip helps the CF-30 continue the ToughBook tradition of great battery life.

More concerning is the meagre 512MB of system memory, especially since the Intel integrated graphics chipset eats up some of that. Thankfully Panasonic has configured the CF-30 to only give over the minimum 8MB to the graphics chipset, but it’s still worth specifying more memory at the point of purchase – after all, you can never have too much memory.

The 80GB hard disk sits at the lower end of the scale when it comes to capacity these days, but I generally don’t think that masses of storage is necessary in a notebook, especially one that’s strictly a business tool. When I was chatting to the ToughBook engineers in Japan I asked them if we’d be seeing a machine with a solid state drive instead of a hard disk, they said that this was definitely on the road map, which means that high capacity isn’t as important as robustness to ToughBook users.

Looking around the chassis of the CF-30 you’ll see a plethora of water and dust proof doors, flaps and hatches. On the right are two rubber sealed flaps which hide the power socket and a USB 2.0 port. Next to this is a large door with a sliding catch – in here you’ll find a network port for the integrated Gigabit Ethernet adapter, along with a modem socket, a four-pin FireWire port and an SD card reader. There’s also an empty space below the SD card reader which can be configured to house a smart card reader.

The last door on the right side is probably the most important, since this is where the hard disk lives. Panasonic is obviously keen to keep the hard disk safe since this particular door has a sliding lock, which secures a rising latch, which then allows the door to be folded down. After you’ve completed this Mission Impossible type feat, you can then pull the protruding tag and release the hard drive caddy.

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