Panasonic Toughbook CF-53 review

18 Oct 2011

A refined and well-built industrial all-rounder that packs in a better feature set and higher performance than its price suggests

Price when reviewed 
1,421
Buy it now for 
5

We often talk about build quality when it comes to laptops, but Panasonic’s Toughbooks are a breed apart. Put simply, the semi-ruggedised CF-53 is the laptop equivalent of an army all-terrain vehicle: a 54mm magnesium-thickened chassis weighing 2.6kg; rubber seals over all interfaces; and a hard disk mounted in shock-absorbing polymers. You can drop it from up to 76cm and splash water over the keyboard, safe in the knowledge the Toughbook won’t even blink.

Panasonic Toughbook CF-53 - ports

Using it feels like puzzling over a retro toy, with one flap on the right edge hiding a USB 2 and USB 3 port, and another masking ExpressCard/54, PC Card and SD slots, and a switch for the dual-band 802.11agn Wi-Fi. A third slides down to provide access to the removable battery – which we’ll come to later – while the rear has doors hiding two more USB 2 ports, Ethernet, HDMI and D-SUB outputs, and even a serial port.

A DVD drive sits on the left edge, with a 320GB hard disk in an easily removable SATA caddy; there's even a heated alternative available for use in extreme environments.

Then there’s the retractable carrying handle on the front edge, which minimises the impact of the weight, and the connector on the base that accepts Panasonic’s port replicator. Whether it's back at a desk or being slung around with its integrated carry handle, the CF-53 is ready for anything.

Panasonic Toughbook CF-53 - carry handle

The 14in 1,366 x 768 display is matte and more than a bit grainy compared to the pin-sharp glossy screens we’re used to, but the screen is perfectly usable - we measured its brightness at 276cd/m2 - and it has a protective layer over it. If a traditional display just doesn't cut it, Panasonic also sells the CF-53 with a touchscreen.

Details

Price ex VAT £1,184
Price inc VAT £1,421
Overall rating 5
Features & Design 5
Value for Money 4
Performance 4

Warranty

Warranty 3yr on-site

Physical specifications

Dimensions 345 x 286 x 54mm (WDH)
Weight 2.600kg
Travelling weight 3.0kg

Processor and memory

Processor Intel Core i5-2520M
Motherboard chipset Intel HM65 Express
RAM capacity 4.00GB
Memory type DDR3
SODIMM sockets free 0
SODIMM sockets total 2

Screen and video

Screen size 14.0in
Resolution screen horizontal 1,366
Resolution screen vertical 768
Resolution 1366 x 768
Graphics chipset Intel HD Graphics 3000
Graphics card RAM N/A
VGA (D-SUB) outputs 1
HDMI outputs 1
S-Video outputs 0
DVI-I outputs 0
DVI-D outputs 0
DisplayPort outputs 0

Drives

Capacity 320GB
Hard disk usable capacity 298GB
Spindle speed 5,400RPM
Internal disk interface SATA/300
Hard disk Hitachi Travelstar 5K320
Optical disc technology DVD writer
Battery capacity 6,750mAh
Replacement battery price inc VAT £0

Networking

802.11a support yes
802.11b support yes
802.11g support yes
802.11 draft-n support yes
Integrated 3G adapter no
Bluetooth support no

Other Features

Wireless hardware on/off switch yes
Wireless key-combination switch no
Modem no
ExpressCard34 slots 0
ExpressCard54 slots 0
PC Card slots 0
USB ports (downstream) 3
FireWire ports 0
PS/2 mouse port no
9-pin serial ports 1
Parallel ports 0
Optical S/PDIF audio output ports 0
Electrical S/PDIF audio ports 0
3.5mm audio jacks 2
SD card reader yes
Memory Stick reader no
MMC (multimedia card) reader no
Smart Media reader no
Compact Flash reader no
xD-card reader no
Pointing device type Touchpad
Audio chipset realtek HD Audio
Integrated microphone? yes
Integrated webcam? no
Camera megapixel rating N/A
TPM no
Fingerprint reader no
Smartcard reader no
Carry case no

Battery and performance tests

Battery life, light use 10hr 46min
3D performance (crysis) low settings 22fps
3D performance setting Low
Overall Real World Benchmark score 0.67
Responsiveness score 0.88
Media score 0.66
Multitasking score 0.46

Operating system and software

Operating system Windows 7 Professional 64-bit
OS family Windows 7
Recovery method Burn own recovery discs

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