Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Panasonic Toughbooks: Are They Worth The Money

Panasonic Toughbooks tend to be one the most sought after computers for use in the field, particularly for those in first responder fields.  However, many departments are put off by the sheer cost of a Toughbook, as they wonder "is it really worth the extra money?" or "can't a regular laptop do the job?".  To answer those questions:

  • Yes, a Panasonic Toughbook is worth the extra money.  For those departments that don't have the excess funds to purchase them, there are always refurbished Toughbooks and grant funding options available.
  • No, a regular laptop cannot do the job.  While it will be able to run the software and will work when it is initially installed in your vehicles, it will fail...a lot.  The most common issues with standard retail/business line laptops being utilized in a moving vehicle include hard drive failures (due to shock vibrations), hinge failure (again due to shock, vibration, and excess stress on the hinges), and screen failures (due to cables vibrating loose or to significant weather fluctuations).
So, just why is the Panasonic Toughbook worth the extra money?  Simply put, it will last longer as it has a lower failure rate and is engineered specifically for the harsh environments that you will be utilizing it in on a daily basis.

Water Resistant
One of the most common types of spillage on a computer tend to be from the user.  Generally the spillage comes in the form of water, soda, or coffee.  While most computers would suffer a severe electrical shortage in the system board, that is not an issue with the Panasonic Toughbook.  All of the units come standard with a metal plate underneath the keyboard, which keeps any liquid from reaching the system board.  The fully-rugged models of Toughbooks will withstand way more spillage than your average cup of coffee.  Water resistance testing on a Toughbook includes a full thirty minutes of blowing rain 70 mph wind gusts with an average rainfall of 5.8" per hour.  What could simulate a heavy rainfall more than a high-pressure car wash?

Drop Resistant:
Although most people don't set out to purposely drop their laptop, it does happen.  Usually a dropped laptop results in a broken LCD screen or complete hard drive failure.  Panasonic Toughbooks, however, are tested to ensure that they can survive falls up to six feet onto a concrete surface.  Considering the fact that most drops occur from a vehicle, falling from a table, or from while being carried, it is highly unlikely that you will drop it from higher than six feet.  Although it is tested and approved for drops, please don't abuse your Toughbook like this on purpose...

Vibration & Shock Resistant:
Most Toughbooks are used in the field.  A great deal of them are mounted inside of a vehicle.  The Toughbook is designed and tested to withstand the regular vibrations of a vehicle as well as sudden high-force impacts to the protective casing.  Just how shock and vibration resistant are they?  If they can handle this abuse, they can definitely handle being mounted in your vehicle...

Temperature Resistant:
We've previously mentioned how a well a Toughbook can stand up to rain.  What about other significant weather?  A Toughbook that is permanently mounted in a vehicle can see significant temperature variations throughout the year (and depending on the season, even the day).  Lets use a drastic example...Minneapolis, Minnesota's average yearly temperatures range from the low teens in the winter to the upper nineties in the summer.  A standard laptop would never be able to function in the drastic cold of a Minnesota winter.  However, a Panasonic Toughbook is tested to fully function in a temperature range from as low as -20°F to as high as 140°F.  As if that weren't enough, a non-operations Toughbook (such as being powered down or in storage) will still fully function after being exposed to temperatures as low as -60°F or as high as 160°F.

As if that weren't enough, Panasonic Toughbooks are also:

  • Particle Resistant - to items such as dirt, dust, and sand
  • Air-Pressure Resistant - the unit will fully function at 15,000 feet
  • Humidity Resistant - fully functional at up to a constant 95% humidity
  • EMI Resistant - tolerates electromagnetic interference
  • UL 1604 Compliant - safely able to use around flammable and explosive materials
There are multiple stories and testimonials available showing how Toughbooks were the only computers that held up to harsh environments for various fields of use.


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  3. Killed a CF-31 Toughbook's in the rain earlier this year. Water getting in through keyboard or touchpad. Older CF-30's are still going strong, they can handle working in the rain. Clearly there is a design flaw or the quality has gone downhill.

    No warranty on rain damage. I thought the keyboard was sealed? We are going to continue to buy them but carry umbrellas, I think that is pretty lame.

    Pick it up Panasonic.