The Panasonic Toughbook range is best known for its fully-ruggedised industrial laptops. However, the CF-52 (£1551 inc. VAT) takes a slightly different approach.

Its semi-rugged casing can be used on building sites and site maintenance, but won't offer the same degree of protection as some more specialised laptops.

The main difference is a lack of bulk and, while the ports have rubber stoppers to protect from dust and water, this isn't a sealed unit. You'll find exposed elements, such as the optical drive and SD card reader lacking protection.

Handy carrying handle

The design is simple and looks like a standard issue briefcase. The body is made from magnesium-alloy and is incredibly sturdy.

The carrying handle is securely attached to the main body and a metal latch holds the screen in place.

The handle makes it easier to carry, which is an advantage, as the 3.4kg weight makes it less appealing to carry around all day.

Hardy laptop

Open it up and you find a standard 15.4-inch TFT screen. It lacks any enhanced protection, so images are crisp and sharp, but you won't want to use it in damp conditions.

The keyboard is splash-proof and is of a good size. The keys are well spaced and, while they have a short amount of travel, we found them comfortable to use.

One of the advantages of having air-vents is that Panasonic doesn't need to be as cautious with its specification. Instead of a ULV processor, you'll find a standard Core2 Duo T7100, which runs at 1.8GHz.

Coupled with 1024MB of memory and an 80GB hard drive, this isn't the most powerful of laptops, but it's quick enough to handle multiple office tasks simultaneously.

Great battery

When it came to portability, we managed to get 336 minutes from our test machine, which at over five hours is more than acceptable for a laptop of this size.

The choice of Windows XP over Vista helps keep power consumption down, but if you need Vista, it can be specified at the time of purchase, as can a host of accessories and upgrade options.

Being a laptop designed for outdoor business use, cutting-edge features are rather limited in favour of support for older and proven legacy ports.

To this end, while you'll find an ExpressCard slot, there is also support for Type II PC Cards. Mixed in with four USB 2 ports, you'll also find PS/2 and VGA-out ports for connectivity to many older peripherals.

Highly practical

The Panasonic Toughbook CF-52 combines a clutter-free design with a high level of rugged protection.

This isn't a machine for the casual user, but for those who need to work in less conventional areas, it's highly practical and more than user-friendly.