Panasonic makes hybrid computers even tougher

Need computers a little tougher than what you find at your local electronics store? Put through over 500 tests, Panasonic’s latest Toughbook may fit the bill.

The first thing the Panasonic team did to introduce GadgetGuy to its new computer was to pull it from a bowl of melting ice and then drop it onto the ground, exacerbating things by allowing falling planks of wood to hit the tablet once it had crashed onto the hard cement floor we happened to be standing on.

Sure, it was a situation few would ever have to worry about, except of course those carrying large pointless bits of wood in their backpack that is also resistant to the massive blocks of ice they’re carrying, but it was still cute, and vaguely terrifying if you don’t like to break computers.

Few of us do like to break computers, and the thought of a gadget falling to an untimely death is one that frustrates and concerns GadgetGuy staffers, but it happens.

Panasonic picked up on the need for ruggedisation early on, producing the first ruggedised computers a good 15 years ago or so, with 11 of those years selling them in our part of the world, Australia. It’s not the only ruggedised technology from Panasonic, as Panasonic tough cameras have always been quite resistant to the outdoors, but making a computer tough is a very difficult task.

“Every single unit must pass over 500 tests through the manufacturing process before it goes in the field,” said Stuart Buxton, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Panasonic’s Toughbook division.


These tests are pretty strenuous, and range from excess heat and temperature testing to push the machine past its limits, litres of water sprayed over every aspect of the computer and not just the screen or keyboard, large amounts of vibration, drop tests from a metre of height, and even the crushing force of 100 kilograms pushed agains the computer.

If the machine doesn’t survive, it doesn’t pass — it’s as simple as that — and these are tests virtually no consumer machine would ever have to worry about.


And that’s part of the problem, Panasonic’s people say, with businesses relying on machines made for consumers to survive the workload, usually in an effort to save money.

But that doesn’t always work, and if you put gadgets into heavy situations, you shouldn’t be totally shocked when they fall to pieces faster than they should. Panasonic has even done some research on the issue, with 7 out of 10 devices failing in the field even in a protective case, a problem which will pop up as more employees work remotely than ever.

To deal with that, Panasonic is updating its super ruggedised computer to be more useful in an age where modern computing is both a laptop and a tablet, with the Toughbook now being a proper detachable hybrid.


That’s the way laptops are going, as portable computers straddle both sides of the fence — slate tablet and portable keyboard-equipped computer — and so Panasonic has updated the Toughbook to join this style, while also making this generation the toughest hybrid yet.

This generation is the Toughbook 20, and Panasonic is calling it “the world’s first fully rugged detachable laptop”, telling you that it is both a laptop and a tablet, and it can survive a beating. A good and proper beating.

“We use our own designs, designers, materials, Panasonic’s own robotics, [and] Panasonic’s own plants,” said Buxton to GadgetGuy. “It’s built from the ground up to be rugged.”


How rugged you ask?

The new Toughbook include a magnesium alloy chases that can survive temperatures below zero to some tolerable heat extremes humans work in within Australia, while the whole system is rated IP65 for liquid and dust ingression as well as being military rated at the “MIL-STD 810G” specification.

Helping this is a fanless build with Intel’s Core M5 processor working with 8GB RAM and 256GB solid state drive, while Windows 10 sits on both. Intel’s mobile processors have helped over machines slim down thus far — Apple’s super-slim MacBook included — and this computer is no different in that respect.


The screen is a little smaller than many other computers, sticking with a 10.1 inch touchscreen display, though arriving with an impressive high resolution display for 10.1 inch laptops, adopting the Full HD resolution of 1920×1280.

A handle is built into the system to make it easy to carry around, and the tablet weighs under a kilogram (950g) while the whole system with the tablet integrated weighs 1.76 kilograms.


One neat feature beyond that of the extreme durability occurs on the battery side of things, with a hot swappable battery system, allowing you to replace the battery in the keyboard section of the unit without powering down the whole computer, thanks to the battery already in the tablet.


About the only area that might hold you back is the pricing, because yowza, Panasonic’s Toughbook 20 (CF-20) is definitely not wallet friendly, starting at $5399.

That’s not a cheap computer by any stretch of the imagination, though it is one that will survive the rigours of every day life, especially if you’re thrust into situations where durability is key, or you’re just super clumsy and loaded.


Availability is in May, however, so if you’re always dropping computers or in situations where danger and potential breakages are literally around every corner (not just figuratively), you have some time to save.