4.0 star rating

Panasonic Toughbook 52 Review

Pros: Passed drop tests and spill tests; High-res widescreen display; EV-DO Rev. A broadband; Nice assortment of ports
Cons: Slightly heavy; Tinny speakers
The Verdict: This well-equipped Toughbook can handle its share of abuse and is a solid performer for the price.



There's a lot to like about the Panasonic Toughbook 52 ($3,093). A stunning widescreen display, better-than-average graphics, and a generous array of ports make this an excellent choice for those requiring a durable road-ready notebook.

Beautiful Display

At 7.4 pounds, the system is a bit on the heavy side, but a sturdy built-in briefcase-style handle makes the Toughbook 52 easy to carry. The 15.4-inch widescreen display is a thing of beauty, delivering crisp, high-resolution (1920 x 1200) images with excellent viewing angles. There was some loss of color definition when we viewed the screen in direct sunlight, but it was still readable.

Keyboard, Ports, Card Slots, DVD Drive

We particularly like the keyboard, which has a deep key plunge and is quiet enough not to disturb those around you. It has large letters printed on each key to help you see in dimly lit environments. Hard plastic covers snap into place to protect the FireWire and USB ports, as well as the modem, Ethernet, VGA, and serial jacks. A DVD multi-drive, Intel's 4965AG Wi-Fi, and SmartCard, ExpressCard, and PC Card slots are all standard equipment on the Toughbook 52.

Comfortable Keyboard and Touchpad

In keeping with the semi-rugged specs, the Toughbook 52 features a magnesium-alloy chassis, a shock-mounted 120GB hard drive, and a spill-resistant keyboard, touchpad, and fingerprint reader. The two small speakers at the top of the keyboard deck lack bass response and sounded trebly when cranked up.

Panasonic Toughbook 52 Durability

The Toughbook 52 is built to withstand drops and spills; unfortunately, Panasonic doesn't test this model for MIL-STD-810F compliance at all, so it's difficult to say whether it can handle dust, humidity, or extreme vibration. Nevertheless, the Toughbook 52 performed flawlessly on our durability tests, enduring our three-foot drop tests without shutting down or sustaining exterior damage. Similarly, the system continued running during our spill tests, had no trouble starting up several hours later, and all wireless devices and components continued to work perfectly.

Admirable Processor Speed, So-So Battery Life

Configured with a T7300 processor and only 1GB of RAM, the Toughbook 52 performed admirably on our PCMark05 test; its score of 4,230 was dead even with the Dell Latitude ATG D630, which uses a faster processor and has 2GB of memory. Likewise, it managed a strong MobileMark 2007 score of 186. A 3DMark03 score of 3,706 led all other systems in this roundup by a wide margin, thanks to its ATI X2300 M71-M graphics solution. In fact, we managed to test it with F.E.A.R. and got 104 fps on autodetect mode (albeit at a low 640 x 480-pixel resolution). The Toughbook 52 lasted 3 hours and 38 minutes on our battery rundown, which is about average for a semi-rugged of this size.

Wireless Performance, Bluetooth, EV-DO Rev. A

Wireless scores were also strong at 18.1 and 15.6 Mbps at 15 and 50 feet from our access point, respectively. In addition to 802.11g Wi-Fi, our review unit came loaded with Bluetooth and Verizon Wireless mobile broadband (EV-DO Rev. A) as well. The accompanying Verizon Wireless VZAccess Manager utility made connecting to Verizon Wireless' NationalAccess-BroadbandAccess network easy with the click of a button. We saw good upload speeds (264 Kbps) but mediocre download speeds (481 Kbps).

Panasonic Toughbook 52: Tough Enough?

Solid performance, a bright widescreen display, and a nice selection of ports and wireless connectivity options make the Toughbook 52 an excellent choice for field service personnel and accident-prone road warriors alike.

Related Links:
Systemax Assault T72212P Review
A semi-rugged notebook for the budget-minded road warrior.

Dell Latitude ATG D630 Review
This is one tough and fast PC, but it's better at surviving drops than it is spills.

General Dynamics Itronix GoBook VR-2 Review
The GoBook VR-2 is one of the more durable semi-rugged notebooks around and features a first-class outdoor-readable display.

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Tags: Panasonic Toughbook 52, Panasonic, rugged notebooks, notebooks, business, reviews, laptops

Technical Specifications
Panasonic Toughbook 52

The central processor unit, or CPU, is the brain of your notebook.
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2-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300
Operating SystemMS Windows XP Pro
The amount of memory our reviewed configuration comes with.
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The maximum amount of memory this notebook supports.
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RAM Upgradable to
Amount of data your storage drive can hold.
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Hard Drive Size
The rotation speed of a mechanical hard drive.
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Hard Drive Speed
Your notebook display is the primary viewing device for your laptop computer.
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Display Size
The number of pxiels (wxh) displayed on your screen at once.
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Native Resolution
An optical drive allows you to play or record to DVDs, CDs, or Blu-ray discs.
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Optical Drive
DVDRW Dual Layer
The speed of the optical drive.
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Optical Drive Speed
Graphics chips are responsible for processing all images sent to your computer’s display.
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Graphics Card
AMD x2300
The amount of memory available for graphics processing.
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Video Memory
Wi-Fi connects you to a router or hotspot for wireless Internet access.
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Bluetooth allows you to connect to wireless devices such as headsets, smart phones, and speakers.
Bluetooth 2.0
Ports allow you to connect to external devices such as monitors, printers, MP3 players, and hard drivse.
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Ports (excluding USB)
Ethernet; Firewire; Headphone; Microphone; Modem; VGA; serial
USB ports allow you to connect many external devices, from MP3 players to external hard drives.
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USB Ports
Card readers allow you to plug memory and expansion cards directly into a notebook.
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Card Slots
ExpressCard; PC Card; Smart Card; Type II
Warranty/SupportThree-year parts and labor; one-year battery/24/7 toll-free
Size14 x 11.3 x 2 inches
Weight7.4 pounds
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