Panasonic Toughbook CF-33

The Flagship of the Toughbook range.  Undoubtedly the most versatile and usable Fully Rugged Field device available.

What is the Panasonic Toughbook CF-33? Foremostly, it is a Fully Rugged Windows field device. The focus on a larger screen whilst being slim and lightweight makes it highly usable for field-based working. Fully rugged gives field protection of IP65 for ingress, alongside a 1.2M (4 feet) drop resistance either in Laptop or tablet format.  It is a beast in terms of design, but it needs to be. Considering they have managed to create a device and bring it in under 3Kg, makes it a truly usable field-based rugged powerhouse.

Is it a tablet or a laptop? In essence, it can be both … or either.

What makes the Panasonic Toughbook CF-33 so versatile?  Firstly there are two modes of working – Clamshell (standard laptop format) and Tablet only. You are then able to choose your usage mode (depending on the battery type selected, the 6 cell batteries are larger and limit some flexibility)

Panasonic Toughbook cf33 usage modes

What features make it so special? A tablet configuration port allows for the addition of True Serial or a barcode reader or a 2nd USB port.  The 12″ QHD (2130×1440) screen uses the 3:2 aspect ratio giving the best relationship between height and width for all aspects of tasks (* Find more about aspect ratio below). The screen has also been designed to produce a much lower reflection rate, alongside the brighter LED and direct bonding making outdoor viewing the best available. The screen also has multiple usage abilities with finger, pen and also glove use. Multitouch and pen under wet conditions and normal Touch mode in the dry. Twin battery options allow for smarter power usage. Please note only 3 cell batteries will fit a 3+3 cell unit and 6 cell batteries will fit the 6+6 cell unit due to the chassis. Dual hot-swappable battery technology allows for almost continuous use (assuming you buy extra batteries and charging accessories). The double lock structure ensures that the tablet is very securely held in place on the keyboard to prevent any accidental releases during use or when dropped. The built-in carry handle offers convenience without having to add an outer protective shell or case that may impinge on the use of the device. . Then there are all the flexible customisation options as shown below…

Flexible options for the CF33 Toughbook

 

What kind of pedigree does it have?

The original Panasonic Toughbook CF-33 was launched in March 2017 as an upgrade replacement to the CF-31 Flagship rugged Device.  The CF-31 was, in itself, the last of a long line of market-leading fully rugged evolving laptops going all the way back to the first generation CF-25 in 1996. Panasonics specific goal with these devices has always been to offer a Laptop with a decent size screen in a fully-rugged format. However, evolution requires change. Apple had changed the consumer landscape with its ever-popular iPad, and tablets were starting to gain traction in businesses throughout the market. The Toughbook range has had to get lighter, slimmer and offer some of the same features tablets do.   At the point of launch, it was the worlds first 12″ Fully Rugged Detachable 2in1 Windows PC. Many have since copied but none has seemed to improve. Panasonic also went one further by designing the unit to be backward compatible with the older style vehicle docks, saving many organisations hundreds of pounds and man-hours in replacement costs. Since the launch, Panasonic has upgraded the ‘inners’ further with a Mark 2 model…

What improvements has the Mark 2 version brought?  Foremostly a new generation Intel chipset has brought a 40% improvement in processing power without adversely affecting battery runtime. The internal SSD storage is increased from 256GB SSD to an NVMe 512GB drive.  Standard RAM is changed from 8GB DDR3 and increased to 16GB DDR increasing responsiveness and speed even more. Bluetooth has gone up from 4.1 1Mbps to 5.12Mbps.  Wireless LAN has gone from AC 8265 up to WiFi 6 AX201. 4G models now have the EM7455 chipset.  The loud stereo speaker has been optimised to 91dB making it easier to hear when in noisy environments. Advanced security features through deep integration between hardware, firmware and Windows 10 pro,  offering you the greatest possible protection from highly advanced cyberattack threats.   Windows 11 upgrades are expected soon …

What do Panasonic themselves say about it?  “Toughbook 33 2-IN-1 Detachable, the 12.0″ fully rugged notebook with hot-swappable twin batteries, detachable keyboard with highly configurable capabilities brings unrivalled flexibility and performance for mobile business computing. Thanks to the detachable keyboard design and 6 usage modes, the Toughbook 33 2-IN-1 Detachable offers the best of all worlds for mobile workers. Target industries for the device include field service workers, maintenance and service technicians in utilities and telecommunications, as well as government agencies, defence, the police and other emergency services.”

Are there any usability accessories?  Here Panasonic stands above the competition with a vast pantheon of options from Port replicators and docking to bags, power adaptors and straps.

What users are considered to benefit the most from the Panasonic Toughbook CF-33?

Government – Police, MOD, Border Guards, Emergency Service, Fire Fighters with Characteristics: Vehicle-mounted device with external antenna use for highest reception, connection to emergency data (as stored in smartcards) in emergency cars, unit has to be used in- and outside vehicle. In all applications, units must withstand harsh environments like rain or high temperature. The unit must always be connected (except MOD) with the backend for security reasons.

Utilities – Maintenance and Repair technicians. Characteristics: Receive jobs via WWAN, repair at the spot using traditional ports. Create documentation and write reports before receiving the next job. 90% outdoor job with all climate conditions through Europe. Using Workforce management system, connected to backend system with customer or repair data. Usage of tablet only at the point of service if preferred due to limited space. After completion, fill in forms with the keyboard and transfer job data to the backend.  The CF-33 is advantageous with a Fully rugged MIL-STD 801G and IP65 design that copes with rough usage, accidents, all-weather working and constant temperature shock. Backward compatible with existing Toughbook CF-31 vehicle docking solutions. Multiple modes, Table, laptop and Vehicle mode enables agile and more efficient working. The Right Industry Ports, eg x2 LAN, multiple USB etc. and options for legacy ports including true serial.

Telecommunication – Service Technicians. Characteristics: Installing broadband at customer site and maintaining the backend infrastructure on the street or in the field. Dual LAN connection needed for checking connectivity at all data transmission points. Using Workforce management system. Need to have access to detailed plans of infrastructure with the possibility to amend. Need to write reports and transfer them in real-time via WWAN to the headquarters.  Fully rugged MIL-STD 801G and IP65 design that copes with rough usage, accidents, all-weather working and constant temperature shock. Backward compatible with existing Toughbook CF-31 vehicle docking solutions. Multiple modes, Table, laptop and Vehicle mode enables agile and more efficient working. The Right Industry Ports, eg x2 LAN, multiple USBs etc. and options for legacy ports including true serial all give the CF33 an advantage over alternative devices.

Field Service -Blue-collar field worker. Characteristics: Receive jobs via WWAN, repair at the spot using traditional ports. Create documentation and write reports before receiving the next job.
Using Workforce management system, connected to backend system with customer or repair data. Usage of tablet only at the point of service if preferred due to limited space. After job completion the ability to fill in detailed forms with keyboard and transfer job data to the backend.  Advantages of the Panasonic Toughbook CF-33 for field service include Fully rugged MIL-STD 801G and IP65 design copes with rough usage and accidents. The Right Industry Ports, eg x2 LAN, multiple USB etc. and options for legacy ports including true serial. Multiple modes, Table, laptop and Vehicle mode enables agile and more efficient working. Better wireless connectivity, 20% better performance even in hard to reach or low coverage areas meaning less downtime due to lack of connection to the back-office or internet.

* 3:2 Aspect Ratio – ‘Aspect ratio’ describes the relationship between the height and width of a screen.  For example, most televisions have a 16:9 (widescreen) aspect ratio meaning they have 16 pixels wide to 9 pixels high.  That’s great for watching films but it can cause a lowering in productivity caused by the need to scroll more.  A 3:2 aspect ratio (3 wide to 2 high) is ‘taller’ and therefore shows more words, more work, more cells or more code. It may not immediately jump out as a boon to business, but it is, once you’ve gone 3:2 you will not want to go back. For example, imagine writing a large word document on a laptop, what you can see on the screen is dependent on the height of the screen.  In the office, we can get around this by using secondary screens, some even turn them sideways for longer columns! With ‘Coders’ a 3:2 aspect ratio allows for 7 more rows of code than with the 16:9 screen.  Internet software workflows mostly go up and down. Squeezing them horizontally isn’t how they were made.  Some oldies, like me, may remember CRT displays. These were square and had a 4:3 aspect ratio making them much taller than wide.