GCN LAB REVIEW—Rugged devices

Panasonic Toughbook 30

Laptop PC comes through ruggedness testing with nary a scratch

Pros: Long battery life; fast processor; extremely rugged.
Cons: Heavy; USB port is nearly impossible to access.
Ruggedness: A+
Performance: A
Ease of use: B-
Features: A
Value: A-
Price: $4,849

Panasonic has pretty much set the standard for rugged equipment, and the Toughbook 30 rugged laptop PC is a perfect example of why. We happened to run the Toughbook 30 through our rugged obstacle course first and nothing seemed to phase it. After steam baths, freezing, cooking, vibration and shock, there wasn’t even a scratch on the silvery frame.

We started to think that our Mil-Std 810G test bed was a little too lenient with equipment. Then other devices that followed began to fall apart, and it was clear that the Toughbook 30 was just a nearly impossible act to follow. You can’t beat perfection in terms of ruggedness, but so far, nobody has been able to even tie it.

You can think of the Toughbook 30 as a tank. It’s tough and built to last but might not be the most user-friendly vehicle on the road. There are few creature comforts with the Toughbook 30, which is one of its only negatives. For one, all that protection comes at a heavy price both in terms of dollars and weight. At $4,848, it’s the type of device you only buy if you really need it. And at 8.4 pounds as configured for our testing, it’s also not that fun to carry around for a long time.

The most annoying flaw with the Toughbook 30 is that the single USB port is recessed so far into the protective case that few key drives — and almost no rugged ones — can fit in the hole. Please, Panasonic, if you are going to do anything to fix the 30, make the USB port flush with the edge of the case in future models.

But what you get for all that money and pounds is performance. With a score of 612.2 on the Passmark Performance Benchmark, the Toughbook 30, with its 1.6 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo SL9300 processor, was easily the fastest laptop in the review. But you also get amazing battery life. Even in our worst-case scenario test, where we have a movie running the entire time, the Toughbook 30 lasted for 6 hours, 14 minutes. And with normal use and all the power-saving features enabled, you can make it last even longer between charges.

The Toughbook 30 did extremely well in high-temperature tests. Its shiny silver coating reflected heat away from its internal system components. Although the laptop was nearly burning when removed from the GCN Rainforest environment, it was able to still score 610 on the benchmark, which statistically is the same as its runtime when cool. That says that the laptop can manage even ridiculously high temperatures.

In shock testing, which is done by dropping the computer onto plywood sitting over concrete at various heights up to 36 inches, it was the board at the bottom of the fall that got shattered over time, not the laptop. The Toughbook 30 was the only laptop to come out of that test looking completely pristine and functioning perfectly.

Even though the Toughbook 30 is a bit of an anchor, it’s the most rugged laptop in this roundup, suffering not a scratch in all our testing. As such, it earns a Reviewer’s Choice designation. If you absolutely, positively have to make sure your data and applications survive in almost any conditions, the Toughbook 30 is the way to go.

Panasonic Computer Solutions Company, 888-223-1012, www.panasonic.com/business/toughbook

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