We put our devices, especially laptops, through a lot, asking them to survive spills, bumps, knocks, dust and even falls. Your standard clamshell or hybrid can survive some minor brushes with death, if you're lucky, but for more extreme situations there's a specialized category of PCs we call "rugged." The long-time leader in this market is Panasonic -- the company has sold its rugged Toughbook laptops since 1996.
Panasonic's latest, introduced at the MWC 2017 show and arriving in the US in May, is the Toughbook CF-33, which is a detachable two-in-one that boasts a number of firsts. Panasonic says it's the world's first rugged hybrid laptop with a 3:2 aspect ratio display.
Most laptops have 16:9 displays, the same as an HDTV, but a few, includingline, have 3:2 displays. According to Panasonic, many current Toughbook users work with legacy software that isn't formatted for a widescreen, so the 3:2 aspect ratio results in more vertical space for those older programs. It's also closer to the dimensions of an 8.5x11 piece of paper, resulting in less vertical scrolling with documents.
The 6.1-pound (2.77 kg) CF-33 is available as a tablet-plus-keyboard combo, or just as a standalone tablet. Its 12-inch, 2,160x1,440-pixel touchscreen works with gloves on or even in the rain with your fingers or the included digitizer stylus. And with a brightness of 1,200 nits, you won't struggle to see what's on screen outdoors.
A pair of hot-swappable batteries means you can keep it running, as long as you have extra batteries and a charging dock. An extended-life battery pack is also available, doubling battery life to 20 hours. Plus, for those using the Toughbook 31 and its dock, a dock adapter will be available to make the 33 backward-compatible.
Windows 10 Pro is the default OS, but like many professional laptops, a Windows 7 ($28 at Amazon) downgrade option is also available. While ports are quickly vanishing from consumer laptops and hybrids, the 33 has USB 3.0, HDMI, Ethernet, microSD-XC and audio ports on its tablet half. The keyboard dock adds two more USB 3.0 ports, a USB 2.0 port, and even serial and VGA ports. In true Toughbook style, the ports are all covered by waterproof doors.
A rugged laptop like the Toughbook 33 probably isn't for you -- Panasonic says it's targeted at "police, emergency services, government agencies, defense, field service workers, maintenance and service technicians," so it's overkill if you're just worried about coffee spills.
But if you're looking for an extreme hybrid for your extreme lifestyle, the Toughbook CF-33 will be available in the US in May starting at $3,649 for the two-in-one laptop. In the UK pricing is set at £2,630 for the full hybrid, or £2,210 for the standalone tablet. Pricing and availability for Australia has not been announced, but the UK prices convert to approximately AU$4,270 and AU$3,200.