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Panasonic Touts More Modular Design with Toughbook 55 Semi-Rugged Laptop Launch

Panasonic says its new Toughbook is easier to configure and upgrade, has a boost in battery life.

Jeffrey Schwartz

September 9, 2019

4 Min Read
Panasonic Toughbook
Panasonic

Panasonic today is rolling out an upgraded version of its flagship Toughbook Windows laptop with a more modular version of its industrial-grade, ruggedized system.

The new Toughbook 55, offered only though channel partners and solution providers with vertical industry expertise, is the first major update of Panasonic’s semi-rugged laptop in more than four years. While it maintains its overall 14-inch display form factor and support for the same mounting peripherals as its predecessor, the Toughbook 54, the new modular design of the Toughbook 55 will provide partners with more configuration options and provide easier upgrades of everything from drives, storage, memory and even the keyboard. Panasonic said it has added 50 new features to the Toughbook.

Notably, the design includes a second drive bay that now allows users to remove and insert the drive. Rather than two different batteries, the new Toughbook offers a unified, hot-swappable battery that Panasonic claims runs twice as long.

By unifying the bays, the new Toughbook 55 can now accommodate the same unified battery, providing what Panasonic claims is up to 40 hours of use (20 for each battery). Panasonic officials said the common bays and component slots will make it easier to upgrade storage or memory or to remove drives for security purposes.

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Endpoint Technologies Associates’ Roger Kay

“The big deal about it from my point of view is that it’s much more modular, meaning it provides a single chassis and build for partners to modularly outfit it to their customers’ hearts’ content,” said independent analyst Roger Kay of Endpoint Technologies Associates, in an interview with Channel Futures. Panasonic is among the leading suppliers of rugged laptops, and competes primarily with Dell and Getac, Kay said.

Panasonic’s Toughbook 55 comes just months before its core customer base of first responders, frontline soldiers and enterprises in the manufacturing, field service and logistics sectors must migrate from Windows 7 to Windows 10 if they haven’t already done so. Panasonic had launched the previous Toughbook 54 in early 2015, before Microsoft launched Windows 10, though the company has offered it with Windows 10 upon its release later that year.

Microsoft’s pending end of support for Windows 7 in January may drive some replacements of older Toughbooks such as the 53, but company officials said that’s not the focus of the upgrade, noting that customers can easily update the OSes of their existing systems. But for those who are updating or adding new systems, the Toughbook 55 will be easier to upgrade from a hardware perspective down the road.

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Panasonic’s Craig Jackowski

“Our customers are hanging on to their devices, five years, six years, sometimes even more,” said Craig Jackowski, general manager of product management for Panasonic Systems Solutions Co. of North America, during a demo of the device for analysts and media in New York.

The fact that customers hold onto those systems for many years is why customers pushed Panasonic to make the new Toughbooks more modular, Jackowski said. Because customers want more flexibility in how the systems are configurated and…

…the option to upgrade later, the Toughbook 55 offers 12 expansion pack options, providing the more modular approach to ordering and upgrading systems.

Built with the same basic form factor as its predecessor, the Toughbook 55 runs with the latest Intel 8th Generation “Whisky Lake” Core processors, either i5 or i7 processors, as well as those with vPro. The base configuration of 8 GB of RAM and 512 GB of SSD storage is upgradable to 2 TB of storage and 64 GB of RAM. It offers a substantially, improved hot-swappable battery, and is the first Toughbook with a USB Type-C port, HDMI 2.0 and Bluetooth 5.0 interfaces.

Other welcome upgrades include louder speakers, improved brightness and a color-selectable backlit keyboard. Panasonic is offering an optional 1000-nit touchscreen that the company optimized for outdoor use, notable workers that rely on the device outdoors. Company officials demonstrated the point that the new touchscreen will work better outdoors or in conditions where users are wearing gloves.

Panasonic executives also emphasized the that the Toughbook now has four tetra-array microphones embedded in the new system for more accurate speech recognition and recording, a feature increasingly applicable in law enforcement scenarios, among others. “As the new millennials come into the workforce, they’re very, very comfortable with speech and using it for their work,” said Anthony Mungiello, Panasonic’s senior product manager, who walked through the specs and new features of the new system at the New York briefing.

The Toughbook 55 is available now at an estimated street price starting at $2,099.

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About the Author(s)

Jeffrey Schwartz

Jeffrey Schwartz has covered the IT industry for nearly three decades, most recently as editor-in-chief of Redmond magazine and executive editor of Redmond Channel Partner. Prior to that, he held various editing and writing roles at CommunicationsWeek, InternetWeek and VARBusiness (now CRN) magazines, among other publications.

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