September 19, 2022


The primary time you employ a Panasonic Toughbook, you may be concurrently impressed and disenchanted. These legendary rugged laptops ooze sturdiness, from their rock-solid show hinges to the bodily doorways that shield the entire ports from water and particles. However many additionally use dim, low-resolution screens and massive chassis that make them look laughably retro, such as you’ve simply opened a laptop computer from the mid-Nineteen Nineties. The Toughbook 55 Mk2 (begins at $2,524; $3,104 as examined) combats the latter downside with a contemporary, light-weight chassis and the most recent parts, lots of which may be swapped out within the area. It’s not probably the most rugged design available on the market, however it is without doubt one of the most user-friendly laptops to bear the Toughbook title. 


What’s a Semi-Rugged Laptop computer?

Police departments, ambulance squads, and plenty of different authorities companies search out semi-rugged fashions just like the Toughbook 55 for his or her mixture of worth, sturdiness, and adaptability. Fashions are not often up to date, and Panasonic helps them for years longer than typical non-rugged enterprise laptops, partly as a result of their sturdiness lets them final loads longer, and partly as a result of many purchasers purchase them on cycles that final 5 or extra years, as a substitute of the two-year lease that’s widespread within the company IT world.

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This 12 months’s Mk2 (for “Mark II”) Toughbook 55 is the primary replace to the mannequin, which was launched in 2019. Sure, that’s solely a two-year interval, so no, present Toughbook 55 customers in all probability shouldn’t be trying to improve. However when you’re trying to substitute an older semi-rugged and even absolutely rugged laptop computer, the Toughbook 55 is a lovely choice. 

Panasonic Toughbook 55 laptop on wood table


(Photograph: Molly Flores)

The machine is a standard clamshell laptop computer, with a hinge that opens 180 levels and a completely connected keyboard. The Toughbook 55 is just not the removable pill that many purchasers are actually searching for; for that, you’ll must look to the Toughbook G2 or comparable choices from the likes of Dell and Getac. However the clamshell design holds loads of promise for all kinds of eventualities, comparable to in case your automobile fleet already has laptop computer docks put in. The Toughbook 55 is backward-compatible with most Toughbook laptop computer docking stations. 

The laptop computer measures 1.3 by 13.6 by 10.7 inches and weighs 4.9 kilos within the configuration we’re testing. Weight can range relying on the configuration choices you select (extra on that under), however all issues thought of, that is remarkably svelte and light-weight, as rugged laptops go. Think about that the Getac B360, one of many Toughbook 55’s closest rivals, is 1.4 by 13.4 by 11.1 inches and weighs 5.1 kilos.

Panasonic does make some compromises to realize the smaller chassis, probably the most notable being that the Toughbook 55 isn’t fairly as rugged from a pure scores perspective. Its ingress safety (IP) score of 53 implies that it might stand up to some mud and water sprays, and it’s rated to outlive drops of as much as 3 toes (MIL-STD-810H). The Getac B360, in the meantime, has an IP66 score, which suggests it might stand up to extra water and dirt (however not full submersion), and is designed to outlive drops of as much as six toes. 

Panasonic Toughbook 55 laptop on wood table


(Photograph: Molly Flores)

As most rugged laptop computer makers do, Panasonic publishes the outcomes of third-party checks to confirm sturdiness scores. You will discover the outcomes abstract for IP and MIL-STD testing on the Toughbook 55’s product help web page or by downloading the Certifications PDF doc(Opens in a brand new window), which has hyperlinks to the related studies from the non-profit Southwest Analysis Institute.  We don’t check these certifications ourselves at PC Labs. 


Ports (and Modules) of All Types

For those who can abide the Toughbook 55’s semi-rugged certifications, versus extra demanding ones, then you definitely’ll doubtless take pleasure in not solely its relative portability, but additionally the intensive array of add-in modules that allow you to configure the laptop computer to carry out all kinds of duties within the area. The modules, which Panasonic refers to as xPAKs, can match into one in all three slots on the chassis.

The rear slot may be configured with a mixture of VGA, serial, Ethernet, and USB ports, together with an elective Fischer-style round USB port for harsh circumstances. (Fischer ports are sealed and have IP68 scores, greater than the laptop computer itself.) Notice that the Toughbook 55 comes normal with USB and Ethernet ports, so including them to the rear growth slot provides you extra ones. 

Panasonic Toughbook 55 laptop on wood table


(Photograph: Molly Flores)

In the meantime, the entrance slot may be configured with a fingerprint reader or a reader for SmartCards, of both the contactless or insert-able selection. The ultimate growth slot for xPAKs is usually helpful if you wish to add a second SSD for extra storage (512GB or 1TB modules can be found), however this huge slot on the underside of the chassis may also settle for a DVD drive or perhaps a barcode reader, which is a brand new choice for the Toughbook 55 Mk2. 

For those who don’t go for any of those growth ports, the laptop computer will include port covers held in place by tiny Philips-head screws. Eradicating the covers to put in xPAKs later is straightforward sufficient to do if you’re indoors with a flat floor, although beware that the screws aren’t captive, so I wouldn’t strive it below harsh area circumstances. 

Panasonic Toughbook 55 laptop with screws removed


(Photograph: Tom Brant)

Along with the xPAK slots, a number of different slots on the Toughbook 55’s chassis are coated with doorways, held in place, and simply accessible for repairs, swaps, or upgrades. They embody the dock mounting port, the primary SSD used because the laptop computer’s boot drive, and the reminiscence slots. And naturally the detachable batteries—a vital characteristic on a rugged laptop computer—are much more simply accessible, held in place with locking tabs that require no instruments to open. For those who configure the Toughbook 55 with each batteries, you possibly can hot-swap them to maintain the laptop computer in steady use away from an influence outlet.

Panasonic Toughbook 55 laptop on wood table with battery removed


(Photograph: Molly Flores)

Our assessment unit comes with a single battery and no xPAKs, in addition to an Intel Core i7-1185G7 processor with vPro help, 16GB of reminiscence, and a 512GB SSD. Different choices embody an Intel Core i5-1145G7 (additionally with vPro), as much as 64GB of reminiscence, and a 1TB or 2TB SSD. Our assessment unit makes use of solely a single reminiscence module and thus has restricted graphics efficiency, akin to what you’d count on from an older Intel UHD Graphics built-in processor, as a substitute of the Iris Xe Graphics which are usually discovered on eleventh Era Intel CPUs. Iris Xe requires a configuration with two or extra reminiscence modules, which Panasonic additionally gives.


Go for the Brilliant 1,000-Nit Display

The Toughbook 55 unit we examined additionally options an upgraded 14-inch full HD (1,920-by-1,080-pixel) touch-enabled show. That is “upgraded” as a result of regardless that a full HD decision is pretty normal for 14-inch enterprise laptops usually, that isn’t the case for rugged laptops, whose screens should stand up to extra abuse. The entry-level Toughbook 55 comes with an HD (1,366-by-768-pixel) display screen; we suggest avoiding this low-resolution choice in case your funds permits.

The upgraded full HD display screen additionally provides a extra highly effective backlight to make it usable open air. It achieved near its extraordinary 1,000-nit score in our checks, and I discovered that it’s simply viewable open air on a sunny day at most brightness. The brightest non-rugged laptops usually have screens that max out at round 500 nits of brightness. Alternatively, the Toughbook 55’s display screen isn’t nice at displaying colours precisely, attaining simply over 70% of the sRGB colour gamut in our checks. That’s par for the course for rugged laptops, although different enterprise laptops can usually show your complete sRGB gamut. 

Panasonic Toughbook 55 laptop on wood table


(Photograph: Molly Flores)

The upgraded display screen additionally incorporates a capacitive contact layer, which suggests you possibly can work together with Home windows 10 utilizing a gloved or naked fingertip, in addition to the included passive stylus. When not in use, the stylus slides right into a nifty slot on the appropriate edge. 

The Toughbook 55’s backlit keyboard is snug, with loads of journey distance and no discernible flex within the keyboard deck if you strike forcefully. (After all, there shouldn’t be any flex on a rugged laptop computer.) You’ll be able to even assign a backlight colour—pink, inexperienced, white, or blue—utilizing a pre-installed Panasonic settings app. The keyboard is designed to face up to spills, as is the cramped however correct electrostatic touchpad. When you can simply substitute the keyboard by eradicating the three screws on the prime edge, the touchpad and its twin buttons will not be user-serviceable. 


An Glorious 1080p Digital camera

Whether or not or not you configure the Toughbook 55 with a fingerprint reader, you possibly can all the time reap the benefits of the superb webcam with IR sensors to allow Home windows Hi there face-recognition logins. Along with supporting face recognition, the digicam additionally incorporates a top-notch 1080p video decision, and output appeared freed from noise and different annoying artifacts in my testing in a brightly lit room. 

Along with the elective xPAKs, the Toughbook 55 comes with an in depth array of ordinary connectivity choices. There’s a USB Kind-C port with Thunderbolt 4 help, two USB Kind-A connectors, a microSD card slot, an HDMI 2.0 output, a gigabit Ethernet connector, and a 3.5mm audio jack. All of those connectors are shielded from the weather behind fold-down doorways that snap closed when nothing is related.

Panasonic Toughbook 55 laptop on wood table


(Photograph: Molly Flores)

The Toughbook 55 additionally comes with intensive wi-fi connectivity choices along with the usual Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) and Bluetooth 5.1. Configured with an elective 4G LTE modem, the laptop computer can entry the FirstNet devoted community that Verizon and AT&T supply, in addition to CBRS band 48. There’s additionally an elective devoted GPS module, in addition to a passthrough for a twin high-gain antenna to spice up sign power. There’s no 5G help, however the laptop computer is dual-SIM succesful utilizing each the nano SIM card slot in addition to an eSIM.

Panasonic precisely notes that the Toughbook 55’s audio system are crisp and highly effective, rated for 92 decibels of output. They’re not significantly satisfying to take heed to, although, with tinny audio and hardly any trace of bass. 


Testing the Toughbook 55: Intel ‘Tiger Lake’ Inside

The Toughbook 55 gives the most recent Intel eleventh Era “Tiger Lake” processors, so its efficiency is just like what you possibly can count on from a business-focused ultraportable laptop computer just like the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon. Whereas the Toughbook 55 is clearly bulkier than the ThinkPad X1 Carbon, a lot of that extra bulk goes to the customizable xPAKs and the ruggedization, so there isn’t loads of room left over for progressive cooling {hardware} to eke out extra efficiency from the CPU and different computing parts. 

Because it stands, I seen no sluggishness whereas putting in apps, looking the online, or performing different widespread PC duties over the course of a number of days testing the Toughbook 55. To see how nicely this laptop computer benchmarks, let’s evaluate its outcomes on our efficiency checks with a number of key alternate options, together with the Getac S410 G4, the Toughbook G2, and the ThinkPad X1 Carbon. We’ll additionally add within the Framework Laptop computer, which is equally customizable to the Toughbook 55, however not ruggedized and aimed extra at shoppers and tinkerers. Listed below are all of the specs of those laptops within the variations we examined for reference: 

They’ve all acquired 16GB of reminiscence and speedy SSDs, and excluding the Toughbook G2, all of them have eleventh Era Tiger Lake Core i7 processors, so it’s unsurprising that all of them carry out roughly the identical on our PCMark 10 check suite. Whereas the Toughbook 55’s total rating and storage scores are on the low finish of the ranges, they’re nonetheless comfortably above the thresholds we contemplate to characterize wonderful efficiency. (See extra about how we check laptops.)

The Geekbench check is just like the PCMark 10 total rating, however isolates the CPU’s contribution to efficiency, and the comparative outcomes are largely the identical. So too do we discover comparable outcomes when modifying pictures in PugetBench’s Adobe Photoshop benchmark or rendering a 3D picture in Maxon’s Cinebench R23 app. 

The one efficiency outlier is the video render check, during which we use the open-source HandBrake to transform a 4K video file to 1080p. Right here, each Toughbooks took a couple of minutes longer to finish their duties. It’s attainable that Panasonic’s thermal administration system is requiring some CPU throttling throughout this sustained, intensive exercise, which stresses the entire processing cores and threads to the max. 

It’s onerous to think about a state of affairs during which you’d need to play graphics-intensive video games on a rugged laptop computer, however when you do, you possibly can count on pretty low efficiency that’s typical of laptops with out devoted graphics processors. Because it stands, the built-in graphics processors in these laptops supply nicely under 60 frames per second (fps) on demanding sport simulations just like the GFXBench Automotive Chase and 3DMark Time Spy. Much less-demanding titles could but be playable on the Toughbook 55, because the 70fps outcome on the extra forgiving Aztec Ruins check demonstrates. 

Battery life is all the time tough to measure, however it’s much more tough for rugged laptops, which usually have two and even three batteries. I ran our normal video rundown check on the Toughbook 55 with one battery put in, and acquired a bit greater than 11 hours, which is spectacular for a laptop computer with such a brilliant display screen, although not spectacular. Our check entails setting display screen brightness to 50% and placing the laptop computer in Airplane Mode earlier than enjoying a domestically saved 720p video file till the battery conks out. 

Panasonic claims that the Toughbook 55 is sweet for as much as 38 hours of battery life with the elective second battery put in and the display screen set to a brightness stage of 150 nits, or 15% of its rated capability. That’s undoubtedly a greatest case state of affairs. As talked about earlier than, although, with the flexibility to hot-swap batteries, the funds to purchase loads of them, and the forethought to cost all of them, you can run the Toughbook 55 away from an outlet indefinitely. 


An Glorious Selection for First Responders

The Toughbook 55 is a semi-rugged laptop computer, a time period that Panasonic itself makes use of to indicate a machine that can stand up to the stresses of a primary responder’s each day routine, although can’t be submerged in water or utilized in a mud storm. Free of the necessity to meet the final word rugged certifications, the Toughbook 55 as a substitute sports activities a comparatively compact chassis and oodles of customization choices. For a lot of patrons the same Getac B360 shall be a better option, because it’s roughly the identical dimension and has barely higher rugged certifications. The B360 subsequently retains our Editors’ Selection award. 

Panasonic Toughbook 55 (2021) on wood desk


(Photograph: Molly Flores)

For organizations who have already got Toughbook infrastructure like automobile docks and who’re capable of negotiate favorable pricing with Panasonic, although, the Toughbook 55 may very well be a better option. Add in simply swappable parts (like a barcode reader) that many different rugged machines don’t supply, and also you’ve acquired a superb semi-rugged laptop computer.

(Editors’ Notice, Could 10, 2022: We up to date this assessment to make clear that sure configurations of the Toughbook 55, together with our assessment unit, use Intel UHD Graphics as a substitute of Iris Xe Graphics.)

Panasonic Toughbook 55 Mk2 (2021)

Professionals

  • Elements are simple to swap out (together with hot-swap batteries)

  • Brilliant 1,000-nit contact display screen with 1080p webcam

  • Snug keyboard

  • Fairly compact for a rugged laptop computer

  • Constructed-in stylus

  • Intel vPro help

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The Backside Line

With an IP53 score, the Panasonic Toughbook 55 Mk2 isn’t probably the most rugged of rugged laptops, however this machine is eminently customizable and full of options that enterprise customers count on.

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