The first time I saw #Panasonic #Toughbook, I knew that Toughbooks would be the only computer that could stand up to Marines’ rough treatment. I was assigned to the Marine Corps Tactical System Support Activity (MCTSSA) as an engineer and we put those devices (CF-27s back then) to the test and they kept working. As a deployed CommO years later, I was grateful for the wise choice by some of the program managers and engineers to give the operating units equipment that would hold up. As a result of their proven performance, those Toughbooks have become pervasive throughout our tactical and weapon system networks because of their reliability and durability. As those networks and weapon systems have increased in complexity, demanding more connectivity and performance options, the Panasonic Toughbook line has kept pace. Released in 2019, Panasonic’s CF-33 2-in-1 laptop can run from laptop office computer, mobile tablet, to deployed laptop/tablet. I have not run over it with a JLTV, but I have put it in my pack and traveled with it, had hirsute operators playing with it while I try to explain its features, and it’s taken the beating I’ve given it. Here’s why I love mine:
The first feature I noticed on my CF-33 is its standard, beautiful #4K, 13”, 2160X1440, 3:2, 10-point capacitive glove-touch, rainproof screen. Running WinTak on it, the maps and icons on it are crisp and clear. Photos and videos displayed on it are vibrant and realistic. With a 1080p webcam (with on/off indicator) with dual array mic, video teleconferences are clear and lifelike (bandwidth permitting, of course). The screen comes with an anti-reflective treatment, so during outdoor daytime use the screen is still viewable. If a fingerprint on a screen drives one crazy as it does me, this screen holds out longer than most commercial tablets before needing a wipe, but one can always use the integrated IP55 stylus. Having several other higher end graphics computers and tablets of my own, I find this screen to be every bit as pleasing, and I don’t have to put a protective case around it to keep it working.
The interface and expansion configurations that come with a CF-33 are significant, and they are nearly evenly divided between the tablet portion and the premium keyboard portion. On my tablet configuration, I have an embedded CAC card reader, Ethernet, micro SDXC, USB-A, HDMI, DS-9, and a nano-SIM port (more on this to follow). My premium keyboard has SDXC, HDMI, USB 3.0 X 2, USB 2.0, and DS-9. All the interfaces come with a lockable cover with that satisfying “click” so that one knows it’s closed. Panasonic understands that backwards compatibility to older or highly specialized equipment is still needed, so it has not eliminated those interfaces. Splitting the interfaces between the tablet and the keyboard makes mobility so much easier. With a removable solid state hard drive, one can leave the keyboard docked (it’s backwards compatible with older docking solutions, too) at the desk, move over the required connections to the tablet, and go! There’s a power port on the tablet as well as the keyboard, so make sure one brings a charger (buy a second one). The tablet includes dual, hot swappable batteries that provide 10 hours of work time, but one can get extended life batteries that will give you 20 hours, if needed.
For connectivity, one can implement the aforementioned Ethernet (10/100/1000), or dual band wireless (802.11 a/b/g/n/ac) with a high gain antenna, but that nano-SIM port makes the CF-33 4G/LTE capable via AT&T (including FirstNet), Verizon, Sprint and Panasonic’s P.180 network. The P.180 Network is a great option for those world travelers who don’t have the time, or the staff, to coordinate getting local connectivity at the distant location. P.180 provides end-to-end connectivity for the entire line of Toughbook devices and it works in 180 countries for a set monthly price. Go anywhere in their network and it’s the same monthly bill with no roaming fees. Panasonic has coordinated with carriers in all the countries to provide service to its Toughbook P.180 customers. While one needs to be in an area with a providers’ coverage, it may be a good alternative to constantly buying local SIM chips, or paying high international data fees from the normal carriers. If I were planning global missions again, I’d talk to Panasonic about this capability to determine suitability and security.
There are a variety of features I have yet to explore on my CF-33, but I’m looking forward to finding them and seeing how they work. While I will always love those older Toughbooks, the capabilities and uses of the CF-33 exceed them. I’ve developed college course videos on it, done some Android development on it, and implemented WinTak servers on it and it’s worked flawlessly. It truly can be the desktop to deployed device, as well as the mobility solution. At just over 6 lbs, it’s not designed to be the “business traveler” laptop, unless one’s business is military, law enforcement, or emergency services operations. It’s worth the weight!