Tough notebook a life-saver

Everything about Panasonic's Toughbook CF-30 feels high quality but you certainly wouldn't buy it unless you had a good reason for it

If Toshiba's shiny, black and white Portege R400 laptop — reviewed last week — is among the supermodels of laptops, the Panasonic’s Toughbook CF-30 would be the notebook equivalent of a bushman, a dirty hunter dragging home a dead deer or the toughest of rugby players.

When I turned this little beast on and started using it I instantly felt like a fearless reporter, filing stories from the Gaza strip, the mountains of Afghanistan or somewhere in the Middle East, while under fire. It sure does look like it could stop a bullet, and in fact it can. A Panasonic Toughbook laptop allegedly saved a life when it took a bullet for a US soldier in Iraq.

I was a bit disappointed, though, to discover that the one sent to me for review didn’t have that funky little extendable antenna at the top of the screen (that I had seen in pictures).

Panasonic’s CF-30 weighs around 4kg mainly due to the robust magnesium alloy casing, the battery pack and the shock-mounted and removable hard drive, contained in a stainless steel case.

The laptop has a handle which makes it easy to carry around. The stylus for the touchscreen is stored in the handle, by the way. It took me a little while to figure that one out.

The CF-30 ships with Windows XP Professional and a 1.66GHz L2400 Core Duo processor. The base model comes with 512MB of RAM and a 60GB hard drive. It has integrated 802.11 a/b/g wireless LAN. Enhancements like EV-DO and HSDPA connectivity and a GPS receiver are optional.

The 13.3-inch XGA touchscreen has a brightness of 1000 nits (or candela per square metre), which should make use and viewing in full daylight a piece of cake.

I tried it with the screen facing our floor-to-ceiling office windows and had no problems reading the screen.

I love the battery life. When I tested the laptop it was showing five hours at full speed. The word is that it lasts for up to seven hours.

Everything about the CF-30 feels high quality — the little latches, the strong shell and hinges, the ultra-bright screen and the sealed keyboard and ports.

But it is chunky and heavy and you certainly wouldn’t buy it unless you had a good reason for it. However, it does make you feel like your job is really important — in a life-saving kind of way.

The CF-30 with touchscreen will set you back $6699, while the non-touchscreen model costs $5599.

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