Panasonic Lightens up Toughbook 53

Geoff Duncan
May 10, 2011
Panasonic Lightens up Toughbook 53
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Panasonic Toughbook 53

Panasonic has taken the wraps off its new Toughbook 53, the latest edition to its semi-rugged line of notebook computers. Although the durability built into these systems is perhaps more than most consumers need, anyone who has to take a notebook out into the real world for field work—whether that’s audio or video production, contracting, construction, emergency response, or any number of other activities—knows there’s no substitute for a notebook that can handle falls, moisture, dust, and heat. The Toughbook 53 sports second-generation Intel Core i3 and i5 processors for computing power, 3G and 4G LTE mobile broadband connectivity options, 2 to 8 GB of RAM, USB 3.0, and a lighter build than its predecessors—and, for the super-sneaky, a “stealth mode” that dims or turns off the screen and all LEDS. You know, so you don’t scare the wildlife.

“The next-generation Toughbook 53 was designed with a substantial amount of customer input and is the result of Panasonic’s goal to offer the most functional and reliable devices for today’s mobile workforce,” said Panasonic Solutions Company’s director of product management Kyp Walls, in a statement. “Panasonic has added enhanced features to this new device providing added flexibility for professionals who spend a significant amount of time working from the road.”

The Toughbook 53 sports a 14-inch 1366 by 768 display and either a second-generation Intel Core i3 (2.1 GHz) or Intel Core i5 processor (2.5 GHz with boosts up to 3.2 GHz). The system can handle 2 to 8 GB of RAM—the Core i5 model comes with a minimum of 4 GB and an option for a touchscreen display. The system meets MIL-STD-810G certifications for ruggedness: it can handle drops of up to 30 inches on six sides, has a spill-resistance keyboard, has a shockmounted HDD with quick-release, and there’s even a hard drive heater available for working in extremely cold conditions. The system also sports two USB 2.0 ports and one USB 3.0 port, 1.3 megapixel webcam, and SDXC card slot, a PC Card slot, Smartcard reader, fingerprint reader, trusted platform module, HDMI and VGA video output, and built-in gigabit Ethernet. There’s an option for a second LAN card, along with FireWire, modem, or dual-antenna pass-through. Users can opt for traditional hard drives, or a 128 GB SSD.

Panasonic says the Core i5 model can get up to 10 hours runtime on a long-life battery back; a Lightweight battery pack will run the Core i3 model for 6 hours. The units are lighter than their predecessors, but still hefty by mobile gear standards: the Core i3 unit starts at 5.6 pounds, with the Core i5 unit coming in at 5.8 pounds—add the touchscreen and it jumps to 6.5 pounds.

The Toughbook 53 comes with 802.11a/b/g/n and Bluetooth wireless networking, along with optional Gobi 2000 mobile broadband for connecting to Sprint or Verizon 3G mobile broadband networks, and—this summer—an option for connecting to Verizon’s 4G LTE network.

Panasonic says the Core i5 unit will be available in June with prices starting at $1,899; the touchscreen version should come in July with an estimated street price of $2,449. The Core i3 model will land in August for a starting price of $1,599.