Panasonic's Toughbook line isn't made up of delicate little shrinking violets. They're the industrial jackboots of the computer world, made tough and designed to look the part. This gives them something of a brutal chic, but it's not a design that anybody sane lays money down to specifically acquire, especially at the kind of price point that the Toughbook CF-19 commands.
At 271x49x216mm and 2.3kg, the tablet-convertible CF-19 isn't all that small and light for a tablet, either, although this isn't a tablet in the iPad 2 sense; this is a work machine built specifically for tough environments.
The CF-19's innards include an Intel Core i5 vPro 1.2GHz, 2GB of RAM (upgradeable to 4GB) and a 160GB internal hard drive. Windows 7 Professional 32-bit is the preinstalled operating system. Under a number of rubberised flaps you'll find 2 USB 2.0 ports, 1 serial port, RJ-11 modem port, RJ-45 Ethernet ports, headphone jacks and even the AC adaptor socket.
By modern specifications, the CF-19 carries quite a light set of components, but then this isn't a machine that's likely to be playing too much Call Of Duty. Rather, it's a machine with a specific call to duty, namely servicing environments where a normal off-the-shelf laptop would expire rather quickly, such as mining and industrial services. As such, the important specifications are those that relate to exactly how tough the CF-19 is. This isn't the first CF-19 unit that Panasonic's shipped, but in this configuration, the major upgrades have been in durability — and that means it's time to dip into the wacky world of military specifications once again. Panasonic rates the CF-19 as compatible with MIL-STD-810G and IP65. For those of you who don't snuggle up at night with specifications manuals, you're missing out, you really are. In any case, the MIL-STD-810G rating covers a variety of environmental test factors. For those who love specifics — and to Panasonic's credit — it supplies a PDF of its exact testing of the CF-19 model from its website for you to peruse before you go to sleep at night. Possibly if you're having trouble sleeping.
The IP65 specification relates to the CF-19's ingress protection rating, with the first digit relating to the ingress of solid objects and the second to liquids. IP65 suggests that the CF-19 is entirely dust-proof, and that it can stand up to low pressure water jets while retaining functionality. We'll leave why you might use low pressure water jets on an AU$5499 tablet up to your imagination.
The CF-19's moderate internal specifications don't lend themselves to spectacular performance. Its PCMark05 score of 3133 and 3DMark06 score of 517 back that up. In fact, the recently reviewed business-grade CF-C1 outscored it in both tests, despite being nearly half the asking price. Then again, the CF-C1 is nowhere near as tough as the CF-19.
Tough is also a good way to describe using the CF-19. This isn't a machine that's comfortable to use to for extended periods, with cramped keyboard spacing, an odd layout for the cursor keys and a touchpad that works through gloves — but at the cost of being rather slow and unresponsive. Again, it's the balance between the sacrifice for durability and utility, and durability has clearly won.
Battery life for a portable tablet such as this is a key concern, and here the Toughbook gave us two hours and 49 minutes of playback of a full-screen XviD file, with all battery saving measures disabled. That's a deliberately tough test; most users should expect more in real world usage with battery saving enabled, although usage of Wi-Fi might see it dip a bit. Still, this isn't an all-day notebook by any means.
Panasonic's tagline for the CF-19 is that it's for when "failure is not an option". We agree; if you desperately need a notebook that can stand up to some brutal punishment and can afford both the asking price and the compromises in functionality that it brings, it's a good offering. That's a somewhat small niche outside certain business cases, but then those businesses are exactly the ones that should be able to afford and desire this kind of durability.