Panasonic’s Toughbook 55 rugged pc has an creative modular design, making it conceivable to take away and substitute maximum of its key parts in seconds. It has got a startlingly brilliant show, a integrated stylus, and a state-of-the-art CPU, too. It is usually slightly sturdy, examined to live to tell the tale Three-foot drops, water spray, and a few mud ingress. It lacks final rugged bragging rights, although. Panasonic refers to it as “semi-rugged,” and its harder Toughbook 31 cousin can resist upper drops (from 6 ft) and a right away hit from a water cannon. Nonetheless, except you wish to have this excessive point of coverage and are prepared to make sacrifices to get it, the flexible, complicated Toughbook 55 (begins at $2,099; $2,499 as examined) is a greater pc, and earns our Editors’ Selection award.
Modular and Rugged
With such a lot of skinny, mild, and durable laptops in the marketplace, it could appear arduous to justify purchasing a “true” rugged one just like the Toughbook 55. With a four.6-pound weight and a thickness of one.Three inches, it dwarfs maximum different laptops that proportion its 14-inch display screen measurement, a lot of which is able to additionally resist on a regular basis injuries like a touch of water or a fall from a espresso desk. Its IP53 score is not in particular spectacular—even mainstream smartphones just like the Google Pixel Three have upper water-resistant rankings. (IP68 is not unusual amongst flagship telephones, signifying the facility to live to tell the tale whole submersion in additional than Three ft of water.) However the Toughbook 55 can do something that all these different gadgets can’t: grow to be into solely new configurations with minimum effort.
A big portion of the Toughbook’s 13.6-by-10.7-inch base is made up of bays that may settle for a dizzying array of modules—the entirety from RFID readers to Blu-ray drives. Panasonic loaned us a complete of 9 particular person modules to check out, along with the modules which might be put in within the Toughbook 55’s entry-level configuration. Even the keyboard can also be swapped out, although doing so does require a screwdriver. That is in point of fact a versatile gadget.
Many of the module bays have quick-release sliding locks that, when launched, can help you come out the module and change in a brand new one. This contains the garage force and the principle battery bay. Others, just like the rear growth house and the GPU bay (sure, there may be even a swappable graphics card module!) have screws along with quick-release levers that stay their parts extra securely in position. Even those bays are simple to get admission to, on the other hand. I changed the placeholder module within the GPU slot with the GPU module (in line with the AMD Radeon Professional WX 4150) that Panasonic equipped, booted the Toughbook 55, and noticed the GPU used to be already enabled in Home windows Instrument Supervisor.
I particularly like how the SSD module is situated in its personal devoted, simply obtainable bay at the backside of the Toughbook 55. The power to take away the boot force can give a boost to information safety, permitting you to retailer the force in a separate location from the pc.
All of those modules come at an extra price, in fact, which can range relying on the place you purchase them. And because they are explicit to this pc, upgrades the use of third-party parts will probably be not likely—be expecting to put in Panasonic’s modules or not anything. At present record costs, which in maximum cases are slightly top, a 2d 512GB SSD is $400, the GPU module is $700, a 2d battery is $150, the fingerprint reader is $125, and the Blu-ray optical force is $400.
Any other rugged laptops have elementary levels of on-the-fly configurability. The Toughbook 31, for one, can settle for as much as two hot-swappable batteries secured with quick-release sliders, or an optical force as a substitute of the second one battery. The Dell Latitude 5424 and Latitude 7424 additionally function twin detachable batteries, and all 3 of those laptops can also be configured with selection connectivity choices put in on the manufacturing unit, equivalent to legacy VGA ports or GPS receivers. However none of them can fit the variety of post-purchase swappable element choices that the Toughbook 55 gives.
This nifty configurability comes along with hallmark Toughbook options, equivalent to its backside docking-slot that is suitable with police-cruiser mounts, the extendable sporting maintain constructed into the entrance fringe of the pc, and the signature silver magnesium-alloy case. Additionally on board: MIL-STD 810G certification for resisting vibration and to verify secure operation at excessive altitudes and temperatures.
A Slicing-Edge Toughbook
But even so its swappable bays, the Toughbook 55 additionally brings important efficiency and compatibility enhancements to the Toughbook line, which incessantly stays a number of generations in the back of the innovative. Not like the Toughbook 31, which makes use of older seventh Era Intel processors, the Toughbook 55 gives way more succesful and environment friendly eighth Era “Whiskey Lake” Core i5 or Core i7 processors. It is usually the primary Toughbook to provide a USB Kind-C port, an HDMI video output, and Bluetooth five.zero. Those are all not unusual on maximum mainstream client laptops, so it is great to peer them sign up for the Toughbook line.
Different state-of-the-art options come with a webcam with each a privateness door and infrared sensors to beef up Home windows Hi face popularity. I particularly admire the webcam’s 1080p decision, because the 720p cameras discovered on maximum client laptops generally tend to provide grainy video high quality in indoor lights prerequisites.
There are 4 microphones at the Toughbook 55 to assist give a boost to audio readability in loud environments, a gigabit Ethernet port, or even a backlit keyboard with—unusually sufficient—programmable colours. I discovered each the keyboard and touchpad to be way more relaxed than their equivalents at the Toughbook 31 when the use of them with naked fingertips. Many rugged laptops have pressure-sensitive touchpads designed for use with a stylus or with gloved fingers, and those incessantly do not serve as neatly with naked hands.
A fingerprint reader can also be put in the use of an non-compulsory module that takes the distance of the second one battery. This turns out like a large number of wasted area, and I would favor if Panasonic had incorporated a fingerprint reader constructed into the keyboard deck. But even so the fingerprint-reader module, you’ll as a substitute select to put in Sensible Card or RFID reader modules instead of the second one battery.
One of the vital highest portions of the Toughbook 55 is its 14-inch show. The unit I examined comes with the upgraded complete HD (1,920-by-1,080-pixel) panel, which is rated for a whopping 1,000 nits of brightness. (For context, many of the brightest client pc presentations best out round 500 nits.) This show is obviously viewable outdoor, despite the fact that direct daylight does create important glare. Panasonic gives anti-reflective and anti-glare display screen therapies as configurable choices.
The display screen additionally has capacitive contact beef up, this means that you’ll engage with it the use of both your hands or the integrated passive virtual stylus, which slides right into a nifty slot at the proper edge if you find yourself now not the use of it. The bottom show possibility is a lower-resolution 1,366-by-768-pixel panel with out contact beef up. I might spring for the improve in a heartbeat, because it gives a ways higher high quality than the washed-out 1,366-by-768 resistive contact show I examined at the Toughbook 31.
The bottom port configuration features a headphone jack, a microSD card slot, USB Three.1 Gen 1 Kind-A and Kind-C ports (one among every), an Ethernet jack, and an influence connector at the proper edge. The rear gives every other USB Kind-A port and an HDMI output. All of those are hidden in the back of protecting doorways.
The left edge accommodates no ports, with its whole house taken up by means of the principle battery and optical force/GPU bay. Configurable port choices come with a module with VGA and serial ports in addition to a 2d Ethernet port, which can also be put in at the rear edge the use of screws.
Along with Bluetooth five.zero and 802.11ac Wi-Fi, which come same old, you’ll additionally configure a Toughbook 55 with GPS and LTE connectivity, provide on our evaluation unit. The latter helps FirstNet, an LTE band on AT&T’s community reserved for emergency communications between first responders when mobile networks are overloaded.
Competent Processing Energy
Our Toughbook 55 evaluation unit is provided with the base-level Intel Core i5-8365U processor with vPro beef up, 8GB of reminiscence, and a 256GB SSD. Panasonic these days plans to promote a configuration just like this one with the exception of for a 512GB SSD, for an inventory value of $2,499. It is going to be offering a variety of energy for elementary duties, like writing experiences or gaining access to databases within the box. As with the remainder of the pc, each the reminiscence and garage are user-upgradable. Two RAM slots settle for as much as 64GB of RAM, and there are two force bays, heated for excessive chilly climate operation, that may every settle for as much as 1TB SSDs.
The best choice you can want to configure whilst you order is the CPU. Panasonic gives a unmarried improve, which is to a Core i7-8665U. This chip additionally options vPro beef up, and it comes with a rather upper most clock pace (four.8GHz as opposed to four.1GHz) and a bigger cache (8MB as opposed to 6MB), although each chips have 4 cores and beef up as much as 8 processing threads. It is an incremental improve, and except you already know your explicit duties will have the benefit of the next clock pace, you can most probably be simply high quality with the Core i5.
I when put next the Toughbook 55’s computing efficiency with a couple of different rugged laptops we now have examined not too long ago, whose specifications are indexed underneath. General, the Toughbook 55 opponents its Dell competition on elementary computing duties, despite the fact that the Latitude 5424 and Latitude 7424 each have extra reminiscence within the configurations we reviewed. On specialised multimedia workflows, the Toughbook 55 a ways outperformed its Toughbook 31 sibling, a distinction considerably influenced by means of the latter’s older CPU era.
The efficiency state of affairs is possibly highest summed up by means of the result of the PCMark benchmark. The PCMark 10 check we run simulates other real-world productiveness and content-creation workflows. We use it to evaluate general device efficiency for office-centric duties equivalent to phrase processing, spreadsheet paintings, internet surfing, and videoconferencing. The check generates a proprietary numeric ranking; upper numbers are higher. With its Core i7 and 16GB of RAM, the Latitude 7424 has an excessively small merit in this check, and the Toughbook 31 predictably carried out the worst.
PCMark eight, in the meantime, has a Garage subtest that we use to evaluate the velocity of the device’s garage subsystem. Lately’s PCI Categorical SSDs all carry out kind of the similar in this check, so there may be little variation amongst those 4 laptops.
Higher 3-d Graphics, if You Want Them
On specialised multimedia duties like rendering a 3-d symbol the use of Cinebench and making use of a sequence of filters to a picture in Adobe Photoshop, the Toughbook 55 carried out really well. Its class-leading Cinebench ranking is a welcome wonder, and its Photoshop time could be very just about that of the Latitude 7424.
The Photoshop check stresses the CPU, garage subsystem, and RAM, however it may well additionally profit from maximum GPUs to hurry up the method of making use of filters, so methods with robust graphics chips or playing cards might see a spice up. Curiously, I ran those assessments with out the Toughbook 55’s non-compulsory AMD GPU put in, so it is conceivable that for those who go for it, your effects on multimedia workflows may give a boost to.
Something the discrete GPU possibility will undoubtedly give a boost to is the Toughbook 55’s 3-d graphics efficiency. With its awesome graphics chip, the Latitude 7424 used to be obviously the most productive on each our Superposition and 3DMark gaming simulations. 3DMark measures relative graphics muscle by means of rendering sequences of extremely detailed, gaming-style 3-d graphics that emphasize debris and lights. Like 3DMark, the Superposition check renders and pans thru an in depth 3-d scene and measures how the device copes, however returns a lead to frames consistent with 2d as a substitute of a proprietary ranking.
When I put in the Toughbook 55’s GPU, I reran the 3DMark Fireplace Strike benchmark and completed a significantly better results of Three,786, suggesting that this configuration will be offering efficiency kind of similar to the Latitude 7424, in addition to to different laptops with entry-level GPUs just like the Nvidia GeForce MX250.
One of the vital facet advantages of the use of state-of-the-art parts is that they are superb at maximizing battery lifestyles. The Toughbook 55 completed greater than 16 hours on our battery rundown check with handiest its major battery put in, and Panasonic touts as much as 40 hours of lifestyles with each batteries put in. If you purchase a 3rd battery and stay it charged and able to change in, you’ll want to probably have sufficient energy to final thru a multi-day shuttle to a faraway location.
Simply Tricky Sufficient?
The Toughbook 55 is essentially the most complicated—if now not essentially the most rugged—Toughbook we now have examined to this point. It isn’t impressively supplied when put next with the newest client laptops, and flagship telephones (and different rugged laptops) are way more water-proof. However the skill to configure the Toughbook 55 with such a lot of other parts provides it a unique power, particularly for patrons searching for a mix of options and ruggedization and prepared to compromise to succeed in them.
In reality, you in point of fact would possibly not in finding a right away selection to the Toughbook 55 in the marketplace at this writing. Some stalwart Toughbook shoppers, particularly police and fireplace departments, have begun switching to smartphones and tablets for lots of duties. However there is no replace for a rugged Home windows-powered pc for lots of different shoppers, and the Toughbook 55 will be offering them a Goldilocks mix of toughness and state-of-the-art options.