Panasonic has announced a refresh for its flagship rugged Toughbook 31 notebook. While keeping the same design, the update brings better battery life and performance improvements thanks to the addition of Intel's fifth generation Core i5 processor.
Like its predecessor, this year's Toughbook 31 maintains its MIL-STD 810G test rating for protection against shock, drop, vibration, extreme temperature, and high altitude. Panasonic claims the Toughbook 31 can survive drops of up to six feet and its IP65 certification means the notebook is protected from dust and water sprayed from any direction from a 6.3 mm nozzle for up to 3 minutes.
The biggest gain delivered by the Core i5-5300U vPro processor from Intel, also known as Broadwell, is improved battery life. Advertised for up to 18 hours of use with Broadwell, battery life is improved from the 14.5-hour rating on last year's model.
Road warriors can add a second battery to bump up battery life to 27 hours on a single charge.
Though last year's model comes with options for discrete graphics, Panasonic is only advertising the Broadwell refresh with integrated Intel HD 5500 graphics.
The Toughbook 31 is available with a Core i5 clocked at 2.3 GHz with Turbo Boost up to 2.9 GHz. Users can configure the notebook with 4 to 16 GB of DDR3L SDRAM. The standard 500 GB 7200 rpm shock-mounted flex-connect hard drive could be swapped out for an optional SSD with 128, 256, or 512 GB capacity; HDD and SSD drive options come with a heater for use in extreme cold conditions.
A hard drive heater heats up the internal cavity of your drive to a threshold temperature so that the drive heads will not degrade over time in cold temperatures. Typically, the threshold temperature is around 10-15° C or 50-59° F. Panasonic claims that the Toughbook 31 can operate in temperatures as low as -20° C.
On-board ports include docking connector, HDMI, VGA, 1 USB 3.0, 3 USB 2.0, RJ-45 Ethernet, serial, headphone, microphone, SDXC card, ExpressCard/54 expansion, and PC card type II. Users can configure the Toughbook 31 with optional integrated 4G LTE mobile broadband and GPS modules. A backlit keyboard is also optional.
The Toughbook 31 now supports faster WiFi ac connectivity. If you have a WiFi ac-compatible router, the Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 7265 chip means that data transfers between your network and the Toughbook 31 will be quicker than before.
The full magnesium alloy case with handle and sunlight-viewable touchscreen is unchanged from previous generations in the Toughbook 31 line, and that's a good thing. Design continuity means enterprises can upgrade to the latest Toughbook 31 without having to re-purchase accessories, like car mounts and docks.
Unfortunately, design continuity also means that size and weight are unchanged. The Toughbook 31 clocks in at a hefty 7.9 pounds (3.58 kg), or 8.2 pounds (3.7 kg) with a second battery in the media bay. The unit measures 11.5 (L) X 11.9 (W) X 2.9 (H) inches, or 29.21 X 30.23 X 7.37 cm.
The bright XGA-resolution touchscreen means that you can use Windows 8.1 Pro or Windows 7 Professional indoors or outdoors. While the average display on laptops is about 300 nit, the Toughbook 31 comes with a 1200 nit screen, making it easier to read when you're in the field under the sun. The 13.1-inch touchscreen comes with a circular polarizer and anti-reflective and anti-glare treatments.
Shipping in February from Panasonic authorized retailers, the Toughbook 31 starts at $3,699 (£2461or AUD$4678). Panasonic offers a three-year warranty with the Toughbook 31.
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