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Panasonic’s Toughbook 54 is the smallest semi-rugged notebook yet

Let’s face it, most, if not all rugged laptops nowadays look like something Fred Flintstone would be comfortable using while hauling rocks. The only reason non-cavemen tolerate 12-pound or hunks of technology is they get the job done, no matter the environmental conditions.

But in a few weeks, construction workers, military pros and extreme outdoor enthusiasts will be able to purchase a “semi-rugged” notebook that perfectly blends robustness and elegance.

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While nowhere near as muscular as the recently announced Toughbook 31, Panasonic’s Toughbook 54 can still withstand drops from up to three-foot altitudes, as well as spills, humidity, temperature shock and severe temperatures.

Much like all its Toughbook brothers and sisters, the all-new 14-incher can disguise itself as a suitcase. For once, though, you won’t be lugging around a lot of unnecessary bulk, as this model barely tips the scales at 4.2 pounds in the “Lite,” standard configuration.

That’s a whopping 1.4 pounds less than last year’s Toughbook 53, and two pounds lighter than the competition, according to Panasonic. In fact, the manufacturer is adamant this is “the world’s lightest and thinnest semi-rugged laptop,” as it also measures half an inch thinner than its main rivals, at a surprisingly slender 1.2 inches.

Of course, none of that would be possible without Broadwell, Intel’s slim fifth-generation architecture. All Toughbook 54 models will be offered with Core i5-5300U vPro inside. Intel integrated graphics is the only option.

Clearly, this isn’t a machine meant for hardcore gaming, albeit the rest of the specifications are pretty hot, including up to 16GB DDR3 RAM, and two storage slots which you can fill to the brim with a one terabyte mechanical disk and 256GB solid state drive.

Screen resolution starts at a mundane 1,366 x 768 on Prime and Lite versions, and caps off at 1,920 x 1,080 (aka Full HD) on Performance and Gloved Multi-Touch configs. Buyers have the choice between Windows 7 Professional and 8.1 Pro. Connectivity and security are taken care of by HDMI, USB 3.0 support, multiple Ethernet ports, optional 4G LTE, an SD card, Kensington cable lock slot, optional fingerprint reader and TPM security chip. Man, that’s a lot of goodies!

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It goes without saying we’ve saved the best for last, as Panasonic promises 11-hour autonomy on the Toughbook 54’s primary battery, with a secondary, optional unit capable of raising the ante a further 7 hours.

That’s unbelievable endurance, even by rugged laptop standards, and the starting price doesn’t feel excessive, at $1,499.