Panasonic Toughbook CF-53 review
We often talk about build quality when it comes to laptops, but Panasonic’s Toughbooks are a breed apart. Put simply, the semi-ruggedised CF-53 is the laptop equivalent of an army all-terrain vehicle: a 54mm magnesium-thickened chassis weighing 2.6kg; rubber seals over all interfaces; and a hard disk mounted in shock-absorbing polymers. You can drop it from up to 76cm and splash water over the keyboard, safe in the knowledge the Toughbook won’t even blink.
Using it feels like puzzling over a retro toy, with one flap on the right edge hiding a USB 2 and USB 3 port, and another masking ExpressCard/54, PC Card and SD slots, and a switch for the dual-band 802.11agn Wi-Fi. A third slides down to provide access to the removable battery – which we’ll come to later – while the rear has doors hiding two more USB 2 ports, Ethernet, HDMI and D-SUB outputs, and even a serial port.
A DVD drive sits on the left edge, with a 320GB hard disk in an easily removable SATA caddy; there's even a heated alternative available for use in extreme environments.
Then there’s the retractable carrying handle on the front edge, which minimises the impact of the weight, and the connector on the base that accepts Panasonic’s port replicator. Whether it's back at a desk or being slung around with its integrated carry handle, the CF-53 is ready for anything.
The 14in 1,366 x 768 display is matte and more than a bit grainy compared to the pin-sharp glossy screens we’re used to, but the screen is perfectly usable - we measured its brightness at 276cd/m2 - and it has a protective layer over it. If a traditional display just doesn't cut it, Panasonic also sells the CF-53 with a touchscreen.