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.
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.