Full reviewPanasonic's ToughBook CF-29 comes closer to an indestructible notebook than anything we've seen. This big, ruggedised laptop not only absorbs the abuse of the clumsiest executive or a foot soldier in the field, it also provides phenomenal battery life and good performance. Unfortunately, at more than £3,100, it's also twice as expensive and twice as thick as your everyday business laptop.
The Panasonic ToughBook CF-29 weighs 3.58kg and stands a tall 64 by 302 by 273mm. Still, it's smaller and lighter than a competing rugged notebook, Itronix's GoBook II, which has a smaller screen and slower components. With its 369g AC adaptor, the Panasonic ToughBook CF-29's travel weight rises to 3.99kg.
Panasonic builds this laptop for military personnel, police departments, and a certain breed of traveller who inflicts damage on laptops. The laptop lives up to its rugged name, with a hardened magnesium-aluminium case, shock-mounted hardware, a waterproof keyboard, and rubber seals over the openings.
To test Panasonic's claims, we dropped the ToughBook CF-29 three times from one metre on to concrete, then sprayed it with water. This would've reduced most laptops to a pile of wet parts, but it had no effect whatsoever on the Panasonic ToughBook CF-29.
The laptop features most of the major connection technologies, although it lacks a FireWire port and unfortunately has only one USB 2.0 port, which will be a problem if you have more than one USB peripheral. The Panasonic ToughBook CF-29 includes the following ports and slots: Gigabit Ethernet, built-in Wi-Fi wireless networking, parallel, serial, audio, external monitor, PS/2, and a pair of PC Card slots.
The ToughBook CF-29 has mostly up-to-date specs, including a 1.3GHz Pentium M processor, a 40GB hard drive, and a floppy drive that you can swap with a DVD/CD-RW combo drive. Based on Intel's Extreme Graphics accelerator, the system uses up to 64MB of its 256MB of memory for video. The ToughBook tops out at a paltry 768MB of memory, which is less memory than most new laptops.
With an antireflective, 13.3-inch XGA touch screen, the display is bright both indoors and out, and the nicely balanced writing stylus works well on the display. Unfortunately, there's no place to stash the stylus.
In our performance tests, the ToughBook scored ahead of similarly configured laptops, but in the grand scheme of things, its performance is merely good -- not great. Battery life was another story: the laptop cranked for 6 hours 55 minutes on one battery. This is an incredible score and one of the best we've seen for a laptop running on one battery.
||BAPCo MobileMark 2002 performance rating|
||BAPCo MobileMark 2002 battery life in minutes|
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Additional editing by Nick Hide