Panasonic – Toughbook CF-C1 review

Rugged convertible notebook-to-tablet PC
Photo of Panasonic – Toughbook CF-C1

Computer fashions are fickle, like clothing. Remember when owning a PDA was the height of cool, followed by mini-notebooks and netbooks? Now suddenly we’re in the age of the tablet, when you’re no-one if you don’t have an iPad or Galaxy Tab. Also, if you’re really hard, you have to make your digital camera or laptop rugged so you can take it down ski-slopes or into war zones.

Panasonic understands all that, but equally recognises that users also want a special something that will turn heads. That’s why the Toughbook CF-C1, as well as ticking all the rugged boxes, can transform itself with one swift movement from notebook to tablet.

Tough contender
Technically the Toughbook CF-C1 falls into Panasonic’s ‘Business Ruggedized’ range, which means it shares many of the protective features of its big brothers like the CF-19 and the CF-31. But it’s clearly meant to be travelling to the boardroom or suburban clinic rather than a war-room or field hospital. So it comes with the trademark magnesium alloy casing and measures a chunky 299x227x31mm – yet despite this, it weighs a surprisingly lightweight 1.69kg when fully loaded with dual battery packs.

Like its sibling the CF-F9, the CF-C1 can withstand a fall of 76cm and pressure of 100-kgf with no harm to case, keyboard or hard drive. Both models also share an inset full-size keyboard that can drain away up to 200ml of water spilt all over it with no adverse after-effects.

Quick change
But the real magic of the CF-C1 comes when you flip a safety catch, rotate the 12.1in LCD screen and drop it into place on the base. Hey presto! You have a tablet PC complete with a separate set of control buttons and optional use of the supplied stylus.

A fixed strap at the back allows you to hold with one hand while you make notes with the other – perfect for field trips and medical notes, and so on. Versions are available with either capacitive and (gloved) resistive multi-touch screens, complete with all the usual pinch, zoom and rotation functions.

Mobile features
The dual battery packs we mentioned earlier will prove invaluable for workers who need to keep their computer working continuously. They offer a combined battery life of around 10 hours, and one can be hot-swapped while the other is still operating.

The CF-C1 also comes with a range of connectivity options, with Ethernet, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and mobile broadband plus three USB 2.0 slots (perhaps we can have USB 3.0 next time guys?), VGA and a PC Card Slot. Unlike the CF-F9, there’s no built-in optical drive – and, peculiarly enough, no webcam included as standard (though it can be requested as an option, together with a smart card reader and a fingerprint reader).

Core specification
At the heart of the CF-C1 is a powerful Intel Core i5-520M vPro processor clocked at 2.4GHz, backed up by 2GB DDR3 SDRAM – a more than sufficient combination for most multi-tasking operations. Unfortunately, there’s only a basic Intel HD Media graphics card with 763MB dedicated RAM, and the native resolution of the LCD screen is just 1280×800, rather than the CF-F9′s 1440×900 – but it’s certainly bright enough for ordinary usage, and the removable HDD has a healthy 250GB storage capacity.

Company: Panasonic

Contact: 0844 844 3852

It's very pricey, but the Panasonic Toughbook CF-C1 is the ideal mobile PC companion for those who need its specialised features - balancing ruggedness with lightness and offering the advantages of both notebooks and tablet PCs with near-continuous battery life.