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Panasonic Toughbook CF-30

Panasonic's flagship gets a make-over
(by Conrad H. Blickenstorfer)

Few computers have the history and pedigree of the rugged Panasonic Toughbooks, and among those the CF-27/CF-28/CF-29 and now CF-30 holds a special place as perhaps the most popular rugged notebook computer ever made. With this design, Panasonic essentially pioneered the concept of a ruggedized mobile computer that is tough enough to be used in the field while still remaining affordable. Panasonic's superb industrial design certainly helped, as did their trademark use of highly visible magnesium that lowered weight and provided extra strength and protection. Panasonic also kept its flagship Toughbook model updated over the years, with constant improvements. As a result, it won several Pen Computing Magazine "Editor's Choice" Awards and has long been a favorite in law enfocement and numerous other vertical market applications.

The 4th generation Toughbook, now called the CF-30, did not need a redesign as it was pretty much perfect as it was. Its basic shape and styling remain as attractive and functional as they have been since its inception. However, time has not stiid still, and under the hood the CF-30 has undergone a massive technology update. The last CF-29 that underwent a full test here at RuggedPCReview.com still had a comparatively sedate 1.3GHz Pentium M processor. The new model runs a much speedier 1.66GHz. There are now 60 and 80GB hard disks instead of the 40GB unit, shock-mounted of course; Maximum RAM went from 1.5 to 4GB, and there are now an Express Card/54 slot and a SD Card slot. The new model also added an Ethernet port, has faster wireless (802.11a/b/g), Bluetooth, and a significantly more powerful main battery (91 watt-hours!).

Perhaps the biggest news is the availability of an incredibly bright 1,000 Nit LCD in the touch screen models (those wiithout touch screen are still nice and bright at 500 Nit). That's quite ann accomplishment and, combined with Panasonic's advanced low-reflection coatings, makes for superb outdoor readbility.

Another area where Panasonic applied some muscle is in wireless flexibility and performance. There are a number of integrated wireless options available to take advantage of UMTS/HSDPA-based services from AT&T/Cingular and EV-DO rom Sprint and Verizon. The CF-30 can also accommodate an integrated GPS receiver. Thanks to a multimedia pocket, users can opt for either an optical Combo or Multi Drive, or a second battery that extends the six hours the CF-30 runs on its primary power pack.

Security is playing an ever larger role, and Panasonic offers an optional fingerprint scanner and SmartCard reader. This in addition to software-based security measures as welll as TPM v.1.2 implementation.

With a base price of USS$4,699, the CF-30 remains a very attractive option applicable to numerous field force and mobile applications.

Added 11/2006
Processor Intel Core Duo L2400
CPU Speed 1.6g GHz
Standard/Max RAM 512-4096MB
Disk/drive 60 or 80GB HD, shock-mounted and removable
Optical drive Multimedia pocket accepts combo or multi drive or 2nd battery
Card slots 1 Type II PC Card, SD Card, Express Card (54mm), SmartCard (opt.)
Display type Daylight-readable transmissive TFT (500/1000 Nit)
Display size/res 13.3" XGA (1024 x 768)
Digitizer/pens touchscreen optional (1000 Nit display)
Keyboard/scale integrated 87-key, 100%-scale
Housing Magnesium alloy
Operating Temp semi-rugged
Sealing IP54
Shock semi-rugged
Size (WxHxD) 11.9 x 11.3 x 2.8
Weight 8.2 pounds
Power 91 Watt-Hour Li-Ion (10.65V, 8.55Ah), "over 6 hours"
Interface RS232, 3 USB 2.0, RJ11, RJ45 gigabit, port replicator, audio in/out, Firewire, Fingerprint reader (opt.)
Wireless 802.11a/b/g, Bluetooth, optional: EVDO, HSDPA, GPS
List price US$4,699 (base model)
Contact www.panasonic.com
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