Panasonic Toughbooks

After a while in the desert climate and the occasional clumsy drop, my two HPs were toast. I debated getting another standard laptop and using a Pelican case, but figured it would still suck up dust anytime it wasn’t in the case. Made for military, firefighters, EMTs, shipboard and others who need a laptop to use during adverse conditions, the Toughbook has a magnesium shell which is dust, shock and water resistant. All of the various connectors and ports are covered by dust- and water-resistant doors. There are fully-rugged, thicker field models, semi-rugged and the smaller, lightweight, thin “business” line, each with varying specs and options such as GPS, WIFI, Cellular links and specialized test gear.

If I had the money I would spring for one of the newer, thinner notebooks, but for my purposes, the CF-28 I bought on eBay has been great (I paid just $475 — 10 percent of the list price! — because it was surplus from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police). I work on movie sets a lot and it seems to shrug off all the abuse it goes through. Aside from the climate (Las Vegas) and getting banged around, spilling a beer on the keyboard is the most extreme environmental hazard thus far. I use a plug in module for wifi and bought an internal wifi chip. It also has a touch screen and pen-like stylus, so you don’t need to use the mouse unless you want to.

I have no experience with any of the rugged laptops made by other companies. However, when I worked at the Army desert warfare training center at Ft. Irwin, the fully-rugged Toughbooks were used extensively by the soldiers in the field. I’ve also talked to a few cops here in Las Vegas who use them and have heard nothing but rave reviews. Plus, I know the company backs up what they sell: a friend of mine with a Toughbook had his motherboard fried after lightning struck near him and they fixed it for free.

-- Randall Robinson  

Panasonic Toughbooks $1,800+ (depending on model/configuration) Available from BuyTough.com CF-28 and others available on eBay Manufactured by Panasonic