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Panasonic's ToughBook CF-29 comes closer to an indestructible notebook than anything we've seen. This big, "ruggedized" laptop not only absorbs the abuse of the clumsiest executive or a foot soldier in the field, it also provides phenomenal battery life and good performance. Unfortunately, at more than $3,900, it's also twice as expensive and twice as thick as your everyday business laptop.
The Panasonic ToughBook CF-29 weighs 7.9 pounds and stands a tall 2.7 by 11.9 by 10.5 inches. Still, it's smaller and lighter than a competing rugged notebook, , which has a smaller screen and slower components. With its 13-ounce AC adapter, the Panasonic ToughBook CF-29's travel weight rises to 8.8 pounds.
Panasonic builds this laptop for military personnel, police departments, and a certain breed of traveler who inflicts damage on laptops. The laptop lives up to its rugged name, with a hardened magnesium-aluminum case, shock-mounted hardware, a waterproof keyboard, and rubber seals over the openings. To test Panasonic's claims, we dropped the ToughBook CF-29 three times from 36 inches onto concrete, then sprayed it with water. This would've reduced most laptops to a pile of wet parts, but it had no effect on the Panasonic ToughBook CF-29.
The laptop features most of the major connection technologies, although it lacks a FireWire port and unfortunately has only one USB 2.0 port, which will be a problem if you have more than one USB peripheral. The Panasonic ToughBook CF-29 includes the following ports and slots: Gigabit Ethernet, built-in Wi-Fi wireless networking, parallel, serial, audio, external monitor, PS/2, and a pair of PC Card slots.
The ToughBook CF-29 has mostly up-to-date specs, including a 1.2GHz Pentium M processor, a 40GB hard drive, and a floppy drive that you can swap with a DVD/CD-RW combo drive. Based on Intel's Extreme Graphics accelerator, the system uses up to 64MB of its 256MB of memory for video. The ToughBook tops out at a paltry 768MB of memory, which is less memory than most new laptops. With an antireflective, 13.3-inch XGA touch screen, the display is bright both indoors and out, and the nicely balanced writing stylus works well on the display. Unfortunately, there's no place to stash the stylus.
In CNET Labs' performance tests, the ToughBook scored ahead of similarly configured laptops, but in the grand scheme of things, its performance is merely good--not great. Battery life was another story: the laptop cranked for 6 hours, 55 minutes on one battery--an incredible score, one of the longest we've seen for a laptop running on one battery.
Panasonic offers a world-class, three-year warranty with the ToughBook CF-29. The company also has an excellent toll-free, 24-hour help line staffed with knowledgeable technicians. Service centers handle repairs in Kansas City, Missouri; Cardiff, Wales; and Osaka, Japan, for next-day worldwide coverage.
|BAPCo MobileMark 2002 performance rating|
|BAPCo MobileMark 2002 battery life in minutes|
Windows XP Tablet; 1.2GHz Intel Pentium M; 256MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; Intel 82852/92855 GM/GME graphics controller (up to 64MB shared); Toshiba MK3018GAP 30GB 4,200rpm
Windows XP Professional; 1.2GHz Intel Pentium M; 256MB DDR SDRAM 333MHz; Intel 82852/82855 GM/GME graphics controller (up to 64MB shared); Hitachi DK23EA-40 40GB 4,200rpm
Sharp Actius PC-MV14
Windows XP Professional; 1.2GHz Intel Pentium M; 256MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; Intel 82852/82855 GM/GME graphics controller (up to 64MB shared); Hitachi DK23EA-40 4,200rpm