High-end features help you do business away from the office

Panasonic Computer Solutions Company has made a specialty of producing “ruggedized” portable computers designed to stand up to rough duty use on the road and still deliver top performance.

The latest in that line, the Toughbook CF-73 Series notebook computer, offers a number of high-end features that should appeal to agents who need to take their desktops with them wherever they go. This includes the latest version of Intel Corporation’s Centrino mobile technology platform, which centers on a processor that delivers higher performance and lower power consumption, which results in longer battery life, says Santa Clara, Calif.-based Intel. Centrino also provides wireless network communications and other features designed to increase battery life and provide thinner and lighter notebook computer designs.

The Toughbook CR-73SCVTSBM that we evaluated delivered on all of these features, with a 1.86 GHz central processing unit (CPU), 512 MB of RAM and what the company says are “significant, measurable performance advantages over similarly featured portables” based on the original Centrino technology. Secaucus, N.J.-based Panasonic reports the weight of this unit at an easily carried 5.7 pounds and a battery runtime of up to four hours.

Our machine easily connected to the Internet via a number of Wi-Fi (Wireless Fidelity) hotspots in our city environment, and in each case the software told you whether or not the connecting service was secure–a feature that we find commendable in today’s poor wireless security environment. Where no hotspots are available, the unit provides for modem connection.

The display is 13.3 inches and readable in all but the most blinding daylight, but the most interesting feature is the touch screen, which allows you to use a stylus applied to the screen to do your computing. The keyboard is full sized, a welcome feature in a portable machine that is so light.

This unit offers a “shock-and-vibration-resistant” 80GB (gigabyte) hard drive–plenty of disk space for software applications, documents and photographs. You also get a DVD drive (maybe you’d like to watch a movie on the plane besides the drivel they usually offer) and CDRW drive.

A hard disk backup function that creates a separate backup storage area on the disk is another useful feature of this notebook. Such backups can protect you from data loss or from losing work if the computer suddenly goes down. When you purchase the computer, however, this function is disabled and must subsequently be activated.

Another thing we liked about this unit is that it is manufactured in Panasonic’s own facilities, rather than by a third-party computer assembler. Third-party assembly is an all-too-common occurrence in today’s personal computer market, and having the name brand vendor make its own product is somehow reassuring.

A word of warning about the toughness of the Toughbook: At a trade show last year, I saw a different Toughbook notebook dropped on the floor from at least four feet, and it came up unharmed and working perfectly. The CF-73 series cannot make this claim, however, only being rated for a one-foot drop, according to a Panasonic spokesman. With its strong magnesium-alloy case, it probably can take more punishment than most ordinary notebooks, but I wouldn’t be playing Frisbee with it.

Overall, the CF-73 is an easily toted notebook that gives you a host of useful features that make doing business on the road (or perhaps at a satellite office) much easier. All those features come with a hefty price tag, however, with the street price of the CF-73SCVTSBM estimated at $3,750 by Panasonic. The cost/benefit ratio will be a key determinant for agencies looking for mobile hardware.

Further information is available at http://www.panasonic.com/toughbook.