If you're in the market for a toughened, touchscreen laptop, Panasonic has you covered. The company has just released its Windows 8-based Toughbook CF-AX2, which is a tablet-convertible Ultrabook.
The Toughbook CF-AX2 is designed for business users primarily and it's said to be able to withstand knocks that regular Ultrabooks can't handle. Its design is stated as being slim (18mm) and light (1.15kg) and its screen size is 11.6in.
The screen is held to a hinge that can tilt the screen all the way to the rear side of the Ultrabook, thereby turning it into a tablet. This is similar to what Lenovo has with its Yoga (which hasn't made it to Australia) and it could feel a little awkward to use in tablet mode with your hands touching the exposed keyboard on the other side.
Panasonic says that this product is "business-rugged", allowing it to withstand drops from up to 76cm and pressure on the screen up to 100kgf (kilogram-force).
The rugged exterior protects a configuration that includes a 1.9GHz Intel Core i5-3437U CPU, 4GB of DDR3 SDRAM and a 128GB solid state drive as standard. Along the edges it offers a good range of connectivity for such a small laptop, including full-sized VGA and HDMI video outputs, two USB 3.0 ports, Gigabit LAN and a full-sized SD card slot.
Perhaps the best feature of the unit is its hot-swappable battery system, which means you can add battery life to the unit easily while you're out in the field — although how long you get out of these batteries will vary depending on workloads and screen brightness levels.
Panasonic's Toughbook marketing manager, Jason Lee, stated in a press release that he expects the new Toughbook to be "extremely popular among businesses with mobile workers requiring a Windows operating system". Indeed, it's this hybrid laptop's purpose to be used for field work, or anywhere workers will be on-the-go and require compact, sturdy hybrid with long battery life and a good range of connections.
It looks like a good unit with which to give presentations and its ability to be used both as a laptop or a tablet with a minimum of fuss gives it plenty of versatility. You pay a relatively high price for the extra ruggedness and the convenience of the hybrid design, with this unit costing $2499.
We'll have more details when we get this unit in for a full review.