Panasonic Lightens Up Toughbooks

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Panasonic has introduced updated versions of some of its ruggedized Toughbook computers, and the new units all share one surprising trait: they’re each under 4 pounds. Although these business-oriented Toughbooks aren’t designed to meet military toughness specs for enduring shock, moisture, and dust, they’re designed to handle strain, bumps, and surprises better than your typical consumer notebook—a must for people who life by lugging notebooks around.

“Reliability is an issue that is coming into the mainstream with a lot of talk about computers being ‘rugged.’ While many vendors appear to be making moves in the direction of improved durability, most business notebooks are still seeing annual failure rates in the double digits,” said Panasonic Computer Solutions director of product management Kyp Walls, in a statement. “Panasonic leads the industry in reliability by engineering and building our notebooks to be durable from the inside-out.”

At 3.7 points, the new Toughbook F8 claims to be the world’s lightest 3G-ready notebook with a 14.1-inch 1,280 by 800-pixel screen and an internal optical drive. The F8 supports up to 4G of RAM (2 GB standard), sports a 2.6 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, internal DVD Multi drive, and a 160 GB shock-mounted drive. The F8 also offers an integrated briefcase-style handle built to the same ruggedness standards as the thicker handle in the Toughbook CF-52.

The new Toughbook W8 offers a 12.1-inch anti-glare screen, a Core 2 Duo processor, 1 GB of RAM (expandable), a 12 GB hard drive, a total weight of about 3 pounds, and roughly seven hours of battery life. Meanwhile, the Toughbook T8 aims to be an alternative to tablet PCs, with a touch screen, stylus, and screen rotating software. The T8 offers a 12.1-inch touchscreen LCD and a rubber hand strap for balancing the computer securely on one hand while using the touchscreen or stylus with the other. The 3.3-pound T8 offers a 120 GB hard drive, an Intel Core 2 Duo processor, 1 GB of RAM (expandable, of course) and up to 7 hours of battery life. The T8 doesn’t support an optical drive—which is actually a security feature in industries like healthcare—and includes a Trusted Platform Module and CompuTrace theft protection.

The new Toughbooks should be available in November, with the W8 and T8 starting out at $2,099 and the F8 starting at $2,499. All three of the new Toughbook computers will support the Gobi 3G mobile broadband system from Qualcomm, which in theory enables the systems to connect to high-speed mobile Internet services offered all around the world…with the appropriate data plan, of course.

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