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Meet the toughest Windows 10 laptop: the Panasonic ToughBook CF-20

We go hands on with Panasonic's lightweight and fully-rugged laptop

Meet the toughest Windows 10 laptop you can’t afford to buy: the Panasonic ToughBook CF-20. When I first got my hands on the CF-20, I wanted one. I’m fairly familiar with the elevated price points of Panasonic’s top-end, ‘fully-rugged’ devices, but in my head I’d imagined this 10.1in hybrid costing around £1,500. How wrong I was: the base price of this machine is over £2,100.

And yet, I still want one. Powered by a 1.1GHz Intel Core m5-6Y57 vPro processor, this passively-cooled machine weighs just 1.8kg all-in, and around 900g for the tablet portion. It’s a wonderful piece of engineering. This pre-production sample felt right on the money, with surprisingly thin edges, solid-feeling materials and a perky and responsive keyboard.

It has an IP65 dust- and water-resistance rating, meaning it’s entirely protected from dust and can survive the direct impact of a high-powered jet of water without any liquid ingress. What’s more, it’s rated for a drop onto concrete from waist height, while the tablet portion alone can be dropped from a slightly higher point just below your shoulders. It’s immensely practical, with every connector you could want from a hybrid laptop including USB3, SDXC, HDMI, VGA, Serial and an Ethernet connector. It also comes with 802.11ac Wi-Fi. It also comes with a carry handle.

Panasonic reckons you can get through a full day of work on one battery while a second (optional) battery in the keyboard base can keep you going for another eight hours. Both batteries in the tablet and keyboard are identical, so if the tablet portion runs out of juice, you can easily swap out the keyboard dock’s battery.

The screen is, frankly, outrageous. Panasonic has installed a 1,920×1,200 pixel screen with a maximum brightness of 800cd/m2, which means it’ll be viewable practically anywhere in the world in direct sunlight. Cranking up the brightness does massively decrease battery life, though: Windows 10’s estimate dropped from just under eight down to just under three hours when I set the screen to ‘eye-searing’.

The tablet attaches to the keyboard fairly easily, although you’ll need the base to be on a solid surface to get good contact. Removing the tablet isn’t easy – which is a good thing – requiring you to first flick a switch to allow the tablet to be undocked. It’s a bit fiddly to begin with, but it’s something I can imagine getting used to. 

You also get a stylus, which clips slightly awkwardly into the side of the tablet. Both other journalists and I had trouble removing and subsequently re-attaching the stylus; it requires a deft touch to slide in and out.

Based on my time with the Panasonic CF-20, I’m hugely impressed. Something this light and sprightly should not be this rugged, but it is. It’s incredibly expensive, but this device is going to be sold primarily to huge businesses who will put in orders for thousands of these things. Buying one as an individual will be more of a challenge, but if you see one at a tradeshow, I’d highly recommend giving it a prod.

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