Panasonic Toughbooks come with USB port

Panasonic Toughbooks come with USB port

Panasonic's Toughbook 17 features a matte black finish and a foldout handle, which can be used as a wrist rest.

Ultralight portables can run Win9x and NT, but Win 2000 readiness is uncertain

By Mark A. Kellner

Special to GCN

SAN JOSE, Calif.'Billed as the first rugged, ultraportable computers running mainstream Microsoft Windows, the 3.8-pound Toughbook 17 and Toughbook 34 from Panasonic Personal Computer Co. integrate wireless communications.

Panasonic, of Secaucus, N.J., began shipping the rugged units in early December with 8.45-inch SuperVGA active-matrix touch screens, 300-MHz Intel Celeron processors, 4.3G hard drives and 64M of RAM, expandable to 192M.

Feature details

Each model has a built-in 56-Kbps modem, space for an optional LAN adapter, a Universal Serial Bus port and a Type II PC Card slot.

The Toughbook 17 and 34 can run the Windows 9x or Windows NT 4.0 operating systems, but Panasonic officials stopped short of saying the units can handle Windows 2000, which came out last month. Microsoft Corp.'s Windows 2000-ready PC specification, posted on the Web at, indicates it would be possible.

An optional Toughbook upgrade for wireless data communications supports Cellular Digital Packet Data transmission as well as BellSouth Corp.'s Mobitex and Motorola Inc.'s DataTAC wireless networks.

Each model has a built-in 56-Kbps modem and space for an optional LAN adapter.

'The handle makes a nice wrist rest,' said John Harris, a Panasonic marketing vice president. 'Our initial tests with dropping and moisture indicate the units are substantially more rugged than the Toughbook 27, particularly in terms of moisture resistance.'

The company will sell special mountings and adapters for vehicles such as police cars. Harris said a ruggedized port replicator that can be mounted on any standardized pole mount will be ready soon.

The most noticeable difference between the Toughbook 17 and the 34 is only skin-deep.

The Toughbook 17 sports a matte black finish and foldout handle; the Toughbook 34 has a silver-and-charcoal case aimed at office users.

More information appears on the company's Web site at toughbook.

Harris said Japanese production of the units was not affected by the recent earthquakes in Taiwan, where most of the world's notebook PCs are built.

Contact Panasonic at 800-662-3537.

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