Panasonic ToughBook CF-30 Is One Tough, Fast Rugged Notebook

By Frank Ohlhorst  |  Print this article Print


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Panasonic makes substantial improvements to components and performance in the newest version of the ToughBook CF-30, adding greater processing horsepower and extended Wi-Fi range. While it’s built for punishment, the ToughBook CF-30 is still short of features that many users will miss in the field.

When evaluating a ruggedized portable system, it’s pretty hard to stay away from hackneyed expressions such as"battle tested," "takes a licking" and "tough enough." Panasonic makes avoiding those phrases even tougher. After all, the CF-30 ToughBook is battle tested, can take a licking and is tough enough for the most extreme conditions.

Make no mistake, the ToughBook CF-30 model has been around for some time and has already been a proven performer and durable enough for most any industrial use. Panasonic is constantly refining the product and adding new features or capabilities, enhancing the CF-30 as time goes on. Some would argue that a model designation change is in order, while others (especially volume buyers) like certain things such as SKUs and model numbers to stay the same to ease long-term purchasing arrangements.

Our test unit came with an Intel Core 2 Duo L9300 (1.66 GHz) CPU, 4 GBs RAM and a 149 GB Hitachi hard drive. These components are a significant step up from the original CF-30’s specifications of a L2400 CPU, 80 GB hard drive and 1 GB RAM.

Not everything has changed in this ToughBook. The new CF-30 still sports a magnesium alloy case, weatherproof access ports and a super-bright 13.3-inch touch screen display. Buyers will still find a heavy-duty carry handle and the same weatherproof keyboard and track pad. For the most part, those are good things – with the exception of the track pad, which is still not sensitive or responsive enough for most users.

Of course, keeping some elements does involve sacrifice. In the case of the ToughBook CF-30, the sacrifice amounts to the lack of an integrated webcam and optical drive – two items found on most any notebook computer today. At a cost that approaches $3,200 and a travel weight of more than 8 pounds, one would expect Panasonic to offer the same features as others in the durable notebook arena. While one can argue that those options could reduce the ruggedness of the unit, other toughed notebooks do sport those features.

Those minor complaints aside, the unit proves to be an excellent performer, scoring a Passmark Rating of 635.3 using Performance Test 7.0 from Passmark software. This is pretty speedy for a unit that is built to exceed the U.S. military’s 810F standard for rugged portable PCs.

The unit ships with Windows Vista Business Edition and a downgrade to Windows XP is available, an option that most government buyers will take. Integrated wireless rounds out the feature set and the unit’s high-gain antennas help to extend Wi-Fi range and speed. All of the ports, ranging from USB to external video to PC cards are hidden behind hinged doors around the perimeter of the machine. Those doors use rubber gaskets and positive locking mechanisms to keep out water and dirt, a job that they perform well.

For solution providers looking to sell Panasonic ToughBooks, the ideal target markets include law enforcement, major utilities, local government, construction firms and other businesses that demand mobile computers that can withstand punishment of harsh environments.

Frank Ohlhorst Frank J. Ohlhorst is the Executive Technology Editor for eWeek Channel Insider and brings with him over 20 years of experience in the Information Technology field.He began his career as a network administrator and applications program in the private sector for two years before joining a computer consulting firm as a programmer analyst. In 1988 Frank founded a computer consulting company, which specialized in network design, implementation, and support, along with custom accounting applications developed in a variety of programming languages.In 1991, Frank took a position with the United States Department of Energy as a Network Manager for multiple DOE Area Offices with locations at Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL), Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPL), Argonne National Laboratory (ANL), FermiLAB and the Ames Area Office (AMESAO). Frank's duties included managing the site networks, associated staff and the inter-network links between the area offices. He also served at the Computer Security Officer (CSO) for multiple DOE sites. Frank joined CMP Technology's Channel group in 1999 as a Technical Editor assigned to the CRN Test Center, within a year, Frank became the Senior Technical Editor, and was responsible for designing product testing methodologies, assigning product reviews, roundups and bakeoffs to the CRN Test Center staff.In 2003, Frank was named Technology Editor of CRN. In that capacity, he ensured that CRN maintained a clearer focus on technology and increased the integration of the Test Center's review content into both CRN's print and web properties. He also contributed to Netseminar's, hosted sessions at CMP's Xchange Channel trade shows and helped to develop new methods of content delivery, Such as CRN-TV.In September of 2004, Frank became the Director of the CRN Test Center and was charged with increasing the Test Center's contributions to CMP's Channel Web online presence and CMP's latest monthly publication, Digital Connect, a magazine geared towards the home integrator. He also continued to contribute to CMP's Netseminar series, Xchange events, industry conferences and CRN-TV.In January of 2007, CMP Launched CRNtech, a monthly publication focused on technology for the channel, with a mailed audience of 70,000 qualified readers. Frank was instrumental in the development and design of CRNTech and was the editorial director of the publication as well as its primary contributor. He also maintained the edit calendar, and hosted quarterly CRNTech Live events.In June 2007, Frank was named Senior Technology Analyst and became responsible for the technical focus and edit calendars of all the Channel Group's publications, including CRN, CRNTech, and VARBusiness, along with the Channel Group's specialized publications Solutions Inc., Government VAR, TechBuilder and various custom publications. Frank joined Ziff Davis Enterprise in September of 2007 and focuses on creating editorial content geared towards the purveyors of Information Technology products and services. Frank writes comparative reviews, channel analysis pieces and participates in many of Ziff Davis Enterprise's tradeshows and webinars. He has received several awards for his writing and editing, including back to back best review of the year awards, and a president's award for CRN-TV. Frank speaks at many industry conferences, is a contributor to several IT Books, holds several records for online hits and has several industry certifications, including Novell's CNE, Microsoft's MCP.Frank can be reached at frank.ohlhorst@ziffdavisenterprise.com

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