Panasonic beefs up memory, enhances keyboard in semi-rugged Toughbook 54

8GB memory is now standard, up from 4 GB, with the high end model moving from 8GB to 15 GB. The keyboard is now backlit with red rather than white for better nighttime use.

The Panasonic Toughbook 54

Rugged notebook vendor Panasonic has announced the new version of their Toughbook 54 notebook, a thin and light 14” semi-rugged device.

“The Toughbook 54 is our semi-rugged machine, in contrast to the Toughbook 33, which is fully rugged,” said Anthony Mungiello, Senior Product Manager and Laptop & 2-in-1 Specialist at Panasonic. “The 33 is also fully detachable, while the 54 is more like a traditional laptop, in that you can’t take apart the screen.”

Both the 33 and 54 tend to sell to the same verticals  – military, law enforcement, utilities, people working in the field, and health care – but they fit different use cases within them.

“For instance, the Toughbook 54 would sell to law enforcement, the same as the Toughbook 33, but the 54 would more likely be deployed where it isn’t taken out of the vehicle,” Mungiello said. “Unlike the Toughbook 33, it isn’t water resistant, for example. It has been tested to survive 26 three-foot drops by an independent third party lab following MIL-STD-810G.

The Toughbook 54 comes in four models – Lite, Prime, Touch and Performance models, with i5 processors at the low end and i7 – as an option –  at the high. The Performance is designed for professionals who need a semi-rugged machine with high end graphics.

All four models come with a tactical red backlit keyboard, which is a change from the previous version.

“This was a response to customer feedback,” Mungiello said, “We changed the colour of the backlit keyboard from white to red. Federal and law enforcement and fire department customers who used the product at night wanted a better colour for nighttime use.”

Another change is that RAM has been increased across the board

“8 GB of memory is now standard,” Mungiello said. “Before, 4 GB was standard, except Performance, which was 8 GB. Now it’s 8 GB in all the ones except Performance, where 16 GB is standard.”

Except for the entry level Lite machine, a 256 GB SSD drive is now standard, rather than a traditional hard drive. A 1080p webcam, which used to be an option, is again now standard, except again, on the Lite model.

Optional features include a DVD drive, a second battery, an insertable SmartCard  reader, PC card or stylus pen holder, a contactless SmartCard reader, fingerprint reader, dedicated GPS, antenna pass through, and a 4G LTE Advanced module.

“Some of these have been improved as well,” Mungiello said. “For instance, we made the SmartCard reader more ergonomic. It is now flush with the edge, in response to customer feedback.

The Toughbook 54 has a standard battery life of 10 hours [17 with the optional second battery].

Mungiello also emphasized that Panasonic markets the Toughbook 54 as the thinnest and lightest semi- rugged device on the market.

“Half a pound in weight can make a big difference for some markets like nurses,” he said. “Many workers increasingly have thin and light expectations from the consumer side, and carry that into their work space.”

All the devices come with the Windows 10 Pro OS, but for customers who don’t plan to migrate to the new OS anytime soon, the Toughbook 54 will continue to be available on Windows 7 Professional through a downgrade right from Windows 10 Pro on models with the Intel Core i5-6300U and i7-6600U processors.

While Panasonic remains a tiny player in the PC market overall, they remain the leader in the rugged space. They go to market entirely through channel partners, divided into two tiers. There are 218 general resellers. Those who sell Panasonic PCs exclusively are designated as Prime Partners, and there are only 34 of those.

The new Toughbook 54 will be available in October from Panasonic resellers at an estimated starting street price of around $USD 1599.