Mar 19 2020

Review: Toughbook 55 Offers Specialized Support for First Responders

Designed for first responders, the Toughbook 55 offers powerful processing and survivability.

Panasonic has always created rugged equipment for state and local government employees such as first responders, who are tasked with lending aid in adverse conditions. The Toughbook 55 is the natural evolution of that line, doubling down on everything making those systems reliable regardless of the circumstances.

Nearly every kind of condition that might negatively affect a computer’s ability to operate has been anticipated in the 55 model. It has a solid-state hard drive, so there are no moving parts to jostle if it’s operating inside a moving vehicle. The drive is equipped with an onboard heater, keeping it toasty and within temperature tolerance levels even if left alone in freezing conditions. 

Toughbook 55 Designed for First Responders in Arduous Conditions 

The 14-inch touch screen is designed to work with first responders who might be wearing gloves, either as protection from the cold or from hazardous conditions. A stylus or touchpad can be used as additional inputs. It even features a volume upgrade, so it’s easier to hear the 55’s speakers through protective headgear. The entire system is encased in a magnesium alloy shell that resists damage when dropped, and it is also sealed against water.

One of the newest innovations involves the way the Toughbook 55 can communicate with the world, even during a tragedy when cellular phone networks might be jammed up. It comes equipped with a radio operating on the Band 14 spectrum reserved for the nationwide First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet). Managed by FirstNet, the network was created to allow first responders to communicate with each other at any time, in any situation. 

READ MORE: Find out how tough laptops help police with data collection and retention.

A Laptop Designed for Maximum Flexibility

A brand-new modular design rounds out the impressive features of the 55. It’s built so expansion modules can easily be added, including adding extra I/O ports, a fingerprint reader, a second storage drive or an extra battery pack for extremely long life between charges. 

The Toughbook 55 is a fast computer, with a powerful Intel Core i7 processor supported by 16 gigabytes of DDR4 RAM running Windows 10 Pro. For first responders and other government employees working in rough conditions, the Toughbook 55 can handle almost any computing task and survive in the face of the toughest mission. 

Panasonic Toughbook 55

Rating the Toughness of the Toughbook 55

It’s easy for computer companies to describe their notebooks as durable or hardened without testing them against any standards. Panasonic has never done that. Since the very early days of ruggedized computing, Panasonic tested its rugged line against the demanding MIL-STD-810G standards deployed by the Army.

MIL-STD testing is configured into 28 different mini-tests including things like shock testing, vibration, high and low temperature, sand and dust exposure, blowing wind, humidity, altitude and many others. This allows users to evaluate the potential survivability of a prospective device against the expected environment that it will face.

The Toughbook 55 is rugged against drops (which the military calls shock), dust, vibration, water and actual electrical shocks. We tested most of these factors against the MIL-STD-810G standard.

It was dropped onto each of its surfaces while both powered and turned off. It’s landing zone was, as specified, plywood sitting over concrete, so there were no soft falls. And drops got as high as 3 feet. The 55 survived it all and operated perfectly right afterward, even though the plywood landing area was pulverized.

Liquid was spilled onto it and also blown through a fan over the unit. The same procedure was used to check for dust ingress. Although the 55 got quite dirty, it never quit and was easy to wipe off and clean.

Finally, it was placed on a shaker table to simulate computing while mounted in a vehicle — one driving on a very bumpy road. Probably thanks to the fact that the device has no moving parts, it experienced no data loss and no read or write errors after 30 minutes of testing.

There is always the possibility in rugged computing that new features will add vulnerability, but the Toughbook 55 is just as sturdy as the rest of the line despite its modular design and new FirstNet radio. For first responders looking for a notebook that can survive just as adeptly as them, the Toughbook 55 is the perfect partner.

Panasonic Toughbook 55 

Processor: Intel Core i7-8565U 1.9GHz
Display: 14-inch LED touch screen
Operating System: 64-bit Windows 10 Professional
Hard Drive: 512GB solid-state drive

Dimensions: 10.7x13.6x1.3 inches
Weight: 4.89 pounds 


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