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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.