Panasonic's latest ruggedized Toughbook laptop computer, the Toughbook CF-33, features a 2-in-1 design for laptop or tablet use and a 3:2 aspect ratio which puts more information on-screen at one time to reduce scrolling.
The new machine, which can be purchased as a tablet alone or with a choice of lite or premium detachable keyboards, starts at $3,499 with 8GB of memory and 256GB of SSD storage for the tablet version or starting at $4,099 with a premium keyboard, 8GB of memory and 256GB of SSD storage.
The premium keyboard includes a variety of ports for connections to peripherals and other devices, while the optional "lite keyboard" weighs less to make it easier to carry. Prices with a keyboard will start at about $3,649.
Featuring a 12-inch quad HD touch-screen display (2160 x 1440 resolution), the CF-22 Toughbook can be configured with the Windows 10 Pro 64-bit operating system and a choice of Intel Core i5-7300U vPro or Intel Core i7-7600U vPro processors.
Buyers can also choose a Windows 7 Professional 64-bit downgrade and an Intel Core i5-6300U vPro or Intel Core i7-6600U vPro processor.
The Windows 7 models are available to offer improved compatibility with existing Toughbook deployments inside companies, enabling a smoother transition to Windows 10 in the future, according to Panasonic.
The machines can be configured with 8GB to 16GB of SDRAM LPDDR3 memory and SSD drives of 256GB or 512GB. An Intel HD Graphics 620 chip is included on the Windows 10 machines, while an Intel HD Graphics 510 chip is included in the i5-6300U and i7-6600U models.
Like other Toughbook computers, the new CF-33 meets MIL-STD-810G and IP65 standards to work reliably in wet, dusty or humid environments. It can also survive falls and impacts in challenging work environments.
The hybrid, which is also equipped with WiFi (802.11a/b/g/n/ac) and Bluetooth connectivity, can also be configured with optional dedicated GPS and 4G LTE-Advanced cellular capabilities.
Mobile carriers AT&T, Sprint and Verizon will support the devices. Twin hot-swappable five-hour batteries give the machine 10 hours of combined battery life, while an optional larger battery offers 20 hours of battery life on one charge.
The Toughbook Cf-33 also includes an 8-megapixel rear-facing camera, a 1080p webcam and a several user authentication capabilities, including facial recognition, iris scanning and fingerprint scanning. The infrared camera in the machines support the Windows Hello facial recognition feature.
The machines can be used in existing in-vehicle Toughbook docks with an adapter, or can be used with two recently-released in-vehicle docks—a tablet vehicle dock or a 2-in-1 vehicle dock which uses the premium keyboard and can be mounted either in laptop (clamshell) or convertible modes.
Brian Rowley, the vice president of marketing and product management for Panasonic System Communications Company of North America, told eWEEK that much of the design and features of the latest Toughbook CF-33 came from customer input obtained through advisory council meetings. The largest markets for the machines are the public sector, utility companies, federal government agencies, manufacturers, the transportation and logistics industry and the hospitality sector, he said.
Customers told Panasonic they needed a hybrid computer to provide three things, flexibility, efficiency and productivity, he said. Customers were often asking for the 3:2 display, which reduces scrolling for greater productivity, he said.
The CF-33 is 12.3 inches long, 11.4 inches wide, 1.8 inches thick and weighs about 6.1 pounds. It also comes with a choice of a 1D/2D capable barcode reader, a serial port or a second USB 2.0 port on the tablet. Ports on the tablet include a 25-pin docking connector, one USB 3.0 port, a microSDXC slot, an HDMI port, an Ethernet jack and an audio mini-jack port.
Also included is a waterproof IP55 stylus pen with an integrated stylus holder, tether and cleaning cloth. The touch-screen display can be operated while a user is wearing gloves.
Panasonic celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Toughbook line, in September 2016. Panasonic introduced the first model—the Toughbook CF-25—in 1996. That first machine was essentially a laptop computer built into a bulky briefcase with a handle. Today, the Toughbook line has grown to include a wide range of rugged models, including Toughpad tablets, a detachable notebook and more.
The path to the Toughbook line actually began in about 1987, when Panasonic began gaining experience in building portable PCs and realizing that there was also a market for ruggedized machines that could be used by workers in the field, according to the company. With that idea in mind, the company built a plant in Kobe, Japan to specifically build such devices.