The Panasonic Toughbook CF-19 is tough because it is one of the better ultra-rugged notebooks on the market. Shaped like a paving tile, the magnesium alloy case and rubber shock dampers have an appealing industrial chic. At 2.3kg it’s not particularly heavy given that it’s water-proof, shock-proof and dust-proof. The single-touch touchpad has rubberized buttons and is respectably responsive. Although the keys are solid to type on, the keyboard is weirdly proportioned and typos were frequent. However, the main method of input here is the stylus. It’s extremely precise, and by holding down a small ergonomic button it right-clicks rather than left-clicks.
The Toughbook can be used as a standard notebook, but the 10.4in resistive touchscreen can swivel around and lock in place to turn the CF-19 into a rugged tablet. Even on power-saver mode it was very bright. It also has a good color contrast and reproduction. The CF-19 is designed with portable use in mind, and on power-saver mode it lasted five hours and 43 minutes under regular office-style usage.
While not overly powerful, a low-voltage Intel Core i5-540UM and 4GB of RAM meant that the installed programs ran smoothly. The 160GB hard drive is on the small side, but it’s enough for most business users. There is an extensive array of ports with rubber covers for each one, including 2 x USB 2.0, one serial, one RJ-11 (soft)modem, one gigabit Ethernet, one IEEE 1394, a microphone and headphone jacks. The USB 2.0 ports are heavily recessed and will only fit slim USB devices. The hard drive and battery are both easily accessible beneath locked hatches.
With the exception of the odd keyboard and recessed USB 2.0 ports, the Panasonic Toughbook CF-19 is a proud example of how to take a good notebook and make it almost resistant to damage. It’s enormously expensive, but that’s the price you have to pay to get a portable computer that can’t readily be broken.