On the left there are two Type II PC Card slots, two USB 2.0 ports, a four-pin FireWire port and the power socket. Surprisingly, the rear sports the most features, despite the fact that most notebooks these days are pretty sparse at the back. Here you’ll find serial, parallel and D-SUB ports, a modem socket, an Ethernet port and a PS/2 port. Clearly Panasonic feels that legacy support is important to ToughBook users, who may have specialist equipment that needs to be connected via archaic methods such as serial ports.
Performance wise the CF-51 turned in some pretty good results. Running MobileMark turned in a battery life of over three and a half hours – not the best I’ve seen but definitely respectable. Running a DVD movie turned in a time of just over three hours, but I doubt that too many ToughBooks would be used for such duties. The overall SYSmark 2002 score of 225 isn’t too far off the 241 scored by the similarly specified Samsung X50, which isn’t a semi-rugged device. Ultimately, the CF-51 will handle pretty much anything you’re likely to throw at it, which it good since the high resolution screen lends itself to multi-tasking.
This version of the CF-51 is so new that it’s not actually on sale yet, but Panasonic has quoted me a street price of £1,551 from 24 Store. That’s not a bad price considering what you’re getting, but it’s obviously more expensive than a similarly specified non-semi-rugged notebook. With machine like the CF-51 you’ve really got to ask yourself if you’re willing to pay for the comfort of knowing that your notebook can withstand the odd knock, or even drop. If you are worried about both your investment and your data security, then the CF-51 will look attractive.
If you’re worried that you might damage your notebook, the idea of a semi-rugged device makes sense. The ToughBook CF-51 has a lot going for it, especially the excellent 1,600 x 1,200 display, although the bizarre shrunken Return and Backspace keys are a concern. Also, the lack of integrated Bluetooth is a real disappointment these days, especially for a brand new model. Of course you can find a regular notebook with a better specification for less money, but it comes down to your priorities – and how clumsy you are I guess.