Panasonic Launches Its Next-Gen Rugged Laptop, The Toughbook 33, With Improved Portability And Flexibility

Panasonic has announced the availability of the Toughbook 33 rugged laptop, the successor to the company's Toughbook 31, with some upgrades including a display that's aimed at easier use on-the-go.

The Toughbook 33 will be sold only through resellers, and the product launch follows recent moves by Panasonic to overhaul its Authorized Reseller Program for Toughbook products.

[Related: CRN Exclusive: Panasonic Launches Revamped Toughbook Partner Program]

"I think [the Toughbook 33] is going to give our customers a lot of options and versatility, a lot of ability for different application compatibility, better display usage, greater mobility, better installation capabilities and excellent speeds and feeds," said Tom Haywood, president of TransCOR Information Technologies, a Georgetown, Mass.-based Panasonic partner. "I think it's really at the pinnacle of rugged mobile technologies at this point."

TransCOR focuses on serving the rugged mobile computing needs of the public safety and utility industries, two key target industries for the Toughbook 33. A common usage for the Toughbook line of laptops is mounting within a vehicle. The Toughbook 31 was initially released in 2010, and Panasonic executives said the timing is right for a new form factor and updated specs for the rugged laptop line.

Key features of the Toughbook 33 include a 12-inch display size with a 3:2 aspect ratio, which enables a 15 percent larger viewing area on the screen compared to the Toughbook 31. Part of Panasonic's intent there is to limit the need for users to scroll up or down, or from left to right, while working on a laptop in their vehicle.

The display also detaches from the keyboard on the Toughbook 33, which the Toughbook 31 doesn't do. That means users can have the additional option of using the display as a tablet outside of their vehicles, such as at a job site or crime scene.

Panasonic has made portability improvements by bringing the Toughbook 33 down to 1.8 inches thick and 6.1 pounds, compared to the Toughbook 31, which is 2.9 inches thick and weighs 7.9 pounds.

The Toughbook 33 also offers operating system options. Customers will be able to get the laptop with Windows 7, which continues to be popular in verticals such as public safety, amid concerns about whether critical applications will transition properly to Windows 10.

"Our commitment is to providing Windows 10, but we have an equal commitment to provide and address the needs of the customer," said Brian Rowley, vice president of marketing and product planning in Panasonic's Toughbook business. "We're very much on board with the path that Microsoft has established in migration [to Windows 10], but we also needed to solve for our customers."

Customers that go with Windows 7 will get a Toughbook 33 with sixth-gen Intel Core processors, because the seventh-gen Intel processors only work with Windows 10.

Both the models will include Core i5 or i7 processors – sixth-gen for the Windows 7 version, and seventh-gen for the Windows 10 version. That means both models will feature a speed boost over the Toughbook 31, which has fifth-generation Intel processors.

Ruggedness features include drop, water and dust protection, with the laptop meeting MIL-STD-810G and IP65 standards. Security considerations include an infrared camera for enabling Windows Hello biometric authentication (facial recognition and iris scanning). And on battery life, the laptop comes with two swappable batteries (10 hours a piece) and also has an option for a long-life battery with 20 hours on a charge.

As far as mounting in vehicles goes, Panasonic executives said they've designed the Toughbook 33 to ensure that it will work with existing mounting systems that customers have.

All in all, "we are anticipating that this is the closest we've ever had to a rugged computer that would be a fit for the majority of our customer base," said Derek Biersteker, sales and marketing manager at TransCOR.

The Toughbook 33 has a suggested price of $4,099 for a model with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage. There will also be configurations available with a lower-end keyboard and other specs options.

In December, Panasonic executives told CRN that the company had recently retooled its channel organization so that Toughbook partners will be better served. The company also disclosed moves such as doubling the amount of market development funds that are available to channel partners and upping the discount offered to partners for purchases of demo units.

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