Panasonic's Toughbook CF-19 feels tough as nails, but rough on your bank balance

Panasonic's Toughbook CF-19 feels tough as nails, but rough on your bank balance

Panasonic's Toughbook laptops are a common sight at PC Authority, but they usually come in the shape of semi-rugged portables. The CF-19 is an altogether different animal. It's a beast of a laptop, aimed at use in all sorts of extreme environments, from oil rigs to fishing trawlers.

It's certainly one of the most solid laptops we've encountered. And what it lacks in portability - though compact, at 2.25kg this is not the lightest laptop ever - it makes up for in sheer resilience.

To say the chassis resists flex would be an understatement. Our usual efforts at twisting and prodding the CF-19's magnesium alloy case received short shrift and it was only when we stood on the lid that we detected the slightest movement. Needless to say the laptop still functioned perfectly afterwards.

Every port is covered in either a rubber seal or latching and locking flap, and each flap boasts a rubber gasket to prevent the ingress of water and dust. In fact, the CF-19 will stand up to a drop from 90cm, heavy rain showers and can be used in dusty or sandy conditions.

And these claims are as watertight as the laptop: the CF-19 is compliant with the military spec standard MIL-STD 810F for impact and vibration resistance and the IP54 standard for ingress protection.

The first number in the latter rating is a score out of six for protection against dust and particles - it's "protected against dust limited ingress (no harmful deposit)" according to the technical definition; the second, meanwhile, is a score out of eight for protection against moisture. In this case the definition reads: "protection against water sprayed from all directions - limited ingress".

Either way, it stood up to all the abuse we dished out: we dropped it from a metre onto solid ground, poured a glass of water on the keyboard and jumped on it again for good measure.

The CF-19's talents don't end there. It's a tablet, so as well as being used as a laptop, you can unlock the screen, twist it around and lock it into place. A button on the front edge allows you to swap quickly between landscape and portrait screen modes, while a stylus tucked into the screen bezel allows for accurate touchscreen operation.

Other nice touches include an integrated strap on the spine and a transflective screen, which means the CF-19 is just as easy to use outdoors as it is inside (it's bright and surprisingly clear for a touchscreen); plus there are plenty of appropriate upgrade options, including GPS, fingerprint and smart card readers, and an HSDPA modem.

Battery life is just as important as durability for a laptop designed to be used in the field, and here the CF-19 comes up trumps again. In our light-use test our Windows XP-equipped review sample lasted a tremendous 8hrs 33mins - easily enough for a day at work in the great outdoors. Heavy multitasking reduced this to a still remarkable 3hrs 31mins.

It's by no means perfect, however. The keyboard is cramped and uncomfortable to use, with a short spacebar, half-height Enter key and a non-standard cursor key layout. The touchpad is pressure sensitive, which means gloved fingers or the stylus can be used as well as a finger, but it's not very responsive.

The 10.4in, 1024 x 768 resolution screen isn't spacious, there's no integrated optical drive, and we were disappointed to find a mechanical 160GB hard disk, rather than an SSD.

And, to achieve such good battery life figures, the processor is necessarily a little weak. It's a 1.06GHz Intel Core 2 Duo U7500 backed by 2GB of DDR2 RAM - though the presence of XP (Vista is the default option) gives it marginally faster benchmark scores than the Lenovo ThinkPad X301 with its more powerful SU9400.

It's a shame, given all its talents, the CF-19's touchpad and keyboard weren't better. Had these been more usable, we'd have recommended this laptop, despite the high price, to anyone whose job takes them outside the confines of normal office life. As it is, it's only a conditional thumbs up.

Panasonic Toughbook CF-19
4 6
A rough, tough laptop with serious attitude, but its keyboard proves an Achilles heel.
Features & Design
Value for money
• Panasonic:
1.06GHz Intel Core 2 Duo U7500; 2GB 667MHz DDR2 RAM; 160GB hard disk; Intel GMA 4500MHD graphics; 10.4in 1024 x 768 touchscreen LCD; D-SUB out; 2 x USB; 1 x mini-Firewire; PC Card; ExpressCard/54; Bluetooth; 802.11abg + draft-n WLAN; Gigabit Ethernet; SD/SDHC card reader; Windows XP Professional SP2; 3yr RTB warranty; 271 x 216 x 49mm (WDH); 2.25kg
This review appeared in the August, 2009 issue of PC & Tech Authority Magazine
Copyright © Alphr, Dennis Publishing

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