Rugged notebooks don't get a lot of press, but when I saw the 14-inch Panasonic ToughBook 55 (starting at $2,249, available now) I realized it was worthy of some ink. For starters, have you ever heard of a laptop that lasts 40 hours on a single charge, or one with a 1,000 nit screen?
I even went so far as to call it the anti-MacBook, as it's user-upgradable in ways I never expected to see. Here's everything that has me intrigued about the ToughBook 55, even though it's not for me.
Wait, how did Panasonic get that much battery life?
That 40-hour battery life, for example is available when you slide in its optional 2nd battery, which is one of the xPAK expansion packs that you can remove while using the computer, as most of them operate on the plug-n-play basis.
Without that xPAK, you get 20 hours of battery life, which makes sense when you notice the laptop's 1.3-inch thickness, which has plenty of room for power.
Those xPAKs aren't difficult to remove and insert, thanks to quick-release levers designed for simpler actions. Even wilder, though, is that its spill-proof RGB keyboard is user-replaceable, as you can take it out and put a new one in by unscrewing and screwing in a set of 6 screws.
What are the other xPAKs?
Your needs likely change wildly depending on where you take your ToughBook. Biometric security is offered with a fingerprint reader xPAK and multiple SmartCard reader xPAKs. You can even change your ports, as port xPAKs offer VGA and USB A ports.
Need to use optical media? There's a Blu-ray drive xPAK and a DVD Drive xPAK. There's also a 512GB SSD xPAK, offering additional storage.
The one non-plug and play xPAK is an AMD Radeon Pro WX 4150 GPU, which you need to reboot before you use.
Who the Panasonic ToughBook 55 for?
That super-bright screen (an optional upgrade) might be overkill for you and I, but it's there for workers in the field, such as firefighters, EMTs and police. The ToughBook 55 succeeds the ToughBook 54, which came out in 2015.
While Panasonic classifies it as a semi-rugged laptop, the ToughBook 55 is MIL-SPEC 810H (a standard announced just this year) certified, for operation in extreme temperatures, surviving a 3-foot drop and getting hit with sand and other elements.
The ToughBook 55 is IP53 certified, which means its water protection is "effective against" water that's sprayed at it, rather than the mere drips of water that the ToughBook 54's IP51 rating signifies. An even higher IP score of IP65 would get it full ruggedness, in Panasonic's terms.
Panasonic's also added a display tool called Day/Night Mode, which offers screen effects aimed to "reduce night blindness, eye strain and neural stimulation" by adjusting and inverting colors, including reducing blue light.
What about the specs?
The ToughBook 55 starts with an Intel Core i5-8365U CPU, with the option to upgrade to a Core i7-8665 processor (both steps up from the 7th Gen Kaby Lake-based ToughBook 54). Both chips include Intel vPro security for protecting sensitive data. TPM v2.0 remote management technology also comes standard.
You can upgrade its memory from the default 8GB up to 64GB, and storage starts at 512GB with an option for 1TB. By default you also get 2 USB 3.0 ports and 1 USB-C port (optional Power Delivery), HDMI, a microSDXC memory reader and 1Gbps Ethernet port.
The ToughBook 55's full HD 1,000-nit screen isn't the default option, as its 14-inch panel starts at 1366 x 768.
Stay tuned to Laptop Mag for our full review, once we start testing its durability.
Image Credit: Laptop Mag