Over the past few years, all the ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ about laptops have been over how thin, light or fast they have become. But the fact remains that not everyone is looking for size zero. In fact, for many consumers, a flimsy chassis on their computing device may be the worst possible scenario. What they need are rugged, street smart devices that can hold up in their rigourous work days. This is where the Panasonic Toughbook series has been holding fort for long. Now, it’s upped the game with the Panasonic Toughbook CF-33, the first “fully-rugged” 2-in-1. The Panasonic Toughbook CF-33 looks like no other computing device you have seen. Yes, there have been similar Toughbooks before, but none with a click mechanism that releases the screen to give it a life of its own as a 12-inch tablet with stylus. Weighing 2.7 kg, the Panasonic Toughbook CF-33 is actually lighter than some of the heavier laptops we are used to these days. It has all the ports you may need, perhaps a few more too, but all protected by flaps as this device has a IP65 rating. Also, you will see that the chassis is heavily padded with thick plastic just in case it takes a fall. In fact, Panasonic claims the device can withstand up to a four-feet fall.
It would be wrong to consider this a laptop. Actually, this is a very powerful tablet with a keyboard. Yes, looks can be deceiving. But Panasonic has packed enough processing power into the device for those buying it to not be concerned about the capabilities of this device. The review unit we had came with a Intel Core i5-7300U vPro processor which can do everything you want it to. Yes, a lot of buyers will need more power and there are Intel Core i7 versions for such users. If there is one thing that buyers need to consider, it is the fact that this device does not give you more that 200 GB of free storage. So maybe a rugged storage device is something you would have to invest in.
Of course, the Toughbook CF-33 is not for everyone. It is not meant to be. But for those who have this specific use case, this will be like a dream device. The tablet easily docks out of the keyboard and then you realise this is one heavy tablet, because it houses two batteries and not one—you can detach one to reduce the weight if needed. It comes with a few hardware buttons under the screen including two customisable buttons, a Windows button and volume controls. Also, you can charge the tablet without the keyboard. One thing that I didn’t like though is the lanyard of the stylus that hangs out from the side of the device. The tablet has a 8 MP rear camera which could be very handy considering that this device will be finding its way to a lot of construction sites and disaster zones. However, given the price of the rig it should have been easy for Panasonic to pack a really powerful lens and sensor here.
While the keyboard is not really needed, I guess a lot of users will keep their CF-33 firmly docked given that this will offer extra protection and ports to play around with. I had a bit of trouble adjusting to the keyboard not because it was small, but because the rest of this is a bit intimidating. Also the trackpad is in a bit of recess, which I did not really like. Overall, Panasonic Toughbook CF-33 is a wonderful device for those who need a rugged computer that is both sturdy and versatile. Bringing a 2-in-1 into this space is a welcome move and there are so many consumers who have use cases that make this a perfect device for them. But then this is an expensive device and a bit underwhelming at some levels given this context. However, that might not matter much as this will mostly be an institutional buy.
• Estimated street price: Rs 2,70,000