Semi-rugged Panasonic Toughbook 54 loses the fat

A lightweight laptop with heavyweight potential

If you've ever found yourself wanting a thinner and lighter rugged notebook, Panasonic's new $1499 ((£974 or AU$1936) Toughbook 54 may be just the ticket. A complete redesign of the popular Toughbook 53, the Toughbook 54 delivers the power of Intel's 5th Generation Core i5 vPro Broadwell processor in a slimmer and lighter semi-rugged package.

The Toughbook 54 ships later this month and comes with a three-year standard warranty.

As a semi-rugged notebook, the Touchbook 54's competitors include the $1590 (£1033 or AU$2053) Dell Latitude E6430 ATG, a device that weighs 5.52 pounds (2.5kg) and the $1400 (£909 or AU$1808) 6.4-pound (2.9kg) Getac S400. The competing device that most closely resembles the Toughbook's design with a carrying handle is the 7.5-pound (3.4kg) Durabook SA14 priced at $1600 (£1039 or AU$2066).

Given its classification as a semi-rugged laptop, the Toughbook 54 isn't fully sealed like a rugged notebook to protect against all environmental hazards, like salt, dirt, water, and other components. Those looking for a fully rugged notebook could choose the $3699 (£2404 or AU$4776) Toughbook 31.

Design

Measuring 10.7 X 13.6 X 1.2 inches (21.18 X 34.54 X 3.05 cm) and weighing 4.2 pounds (1.9kg), Panasonic claims that the Toughbook 54 is two pounds lighter and 0.5 inch thinner than the competition.

The Toughbook 54 is MIL-STD-810G and IP5x tested. Using independent third-party tests, Panasonic says the notebook can survive 3-foot drops on 26 faces.

According to the International Protection (IP) Code, the IP5x rating means the Toughbook 54 is resistant against dust but not liquid. Despite the tests, Panasonic claims that the Toughbook is spill-resistant with a sealed keyboard and trackpad.

Toughbook 54

The Toughbook 54 comes in four different models: Lite, Prime, Gloved Multi Touch, and Performance.

For customers who are regularly in the field under harsh sunlight, the Gloved Multi Touch offers an impressive display to improve readability of the screen outdoors. While most notebook screens go up to 350 to 400 nit, the Gloved Multi Touch features a screen that's rated at 100 nit brightness. The display is a 14-inch full HD IPS panel that offers 10-point capacitive touch input, stylus support, and the ability to use the touchscreen with gloves on.

The Lite and Prime models have a lower resolution 768p HD display.

Performance without compromise

Despite being a product for the vertical market, the Toughbook 54 delivers Ultrabook-class performance. Panasonic promises an exceptional 11 hours of battery life, and an optional hot-swappable battery increases the total runtime to a full 18 hours.

All models of the Toughbook 54 ship with Intel HD Graphics 5500 while the Performance model comes with a discrete AMD FirePro M5100 GPU. Citing 3DMark Fire Strike benchmarks, Panasonic claims that the AMD GPU delivers twice the graphics performance of the Toughbook 53.

Enterprises also have a lot of flexibility in configuring options for storage, RAM, and optional mobile wireless connectivity.

Panasonic provides SSD options up to 256 GB or a 1TB 7200rpm HDD. The Toughbook 54 is the first in the series to offer customers optional dual drives. For a rugged environment, Panasonic drives are shock-mounted and come with a drive heater for use in cold climates.

The drive heater ensures that the drive won't degrade by heating the drive cavity at or above the threshold temperature, typically set at 10 to 15° C (50 to 59 Fahrenheit).

All models can be configured with 4 to 16 GB of RAM, and the Toughbook ships with Windows 8.1 Pro Update 64-bit edition.

Panasonic says that a backlit keyboard is now standard on all models except the Lite version.

Enterprise-ready

Enterprises will be happy to know that the Toughbook 54 is built with security in mind. The Toughbook supports TPM 1.2, Computrace theft protection, multiple forms of dual-form authentication, optional fingerprint reader, and a SmartCard reader.

Those who need mobile connectivity while in the field can opt for the optional with multi-carrier LTE mobile broadband support for wireless connectivity.

Toughbook 54

For ruggedness and to keep the Toughbook 54 free from dust or water damage, the ports are sealed. The device comes with a 24-pin docking connector, HDMI port, optional VGA port, integrated headphone and microphone jack, optional serial port, 3X USB 3.0 ports, Intel WiDi, an HD webcam, and WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac connectivity.