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Panasonic Launches Toughbook 55 With Huge Range Of Swappable Components

The rugged laptop brings new levels of upgradeability and faster time to market with the introduction of modular expansion packs.

Panasonic is launching a new rugged clamshell laptop, the Toughbook 55, with major advances around modular component configurability, battery life and portability.

The Toughbook 55 includes modular "expansion packs" that allow for a far greater level of configurability for partners to meet the needs of end customers, the company said. The expansion areas are located on the left, right and back sides of the laptop and offer the ability to configure components such as RAM, a second storage drive, fingerprint reader, graphics card, second battery, DVD/Blu-ray and I/O ports.

[Related: Review: Panasonic's Toughbook 33 Is The Rugged Laptop To Beat]

"The design helps to future-proof the customer's purchase. So they can purchase that one initial laptop and then customize it as needs change," said Anthony Mungiello, senior product manager for laptops at Newark, N.J.-based Panasonic. "We're empowering IT departments and customers to pick the best combination for them, to simplify their lives and be more flexible to help grow and evolve as their needs change over time."

Panasonic's Toughbook series is targeted at public safety, utilities, government and other verticals with a need for ruggedized devices in the field.

While some components such as RAM were upgradeable on the previous laptop in the series, the Toughbook 54, Panasonic has now simplified the process of changing the RAM with fewer screws.

The keyboard also can be changed to accommodate multiple languages, and both the main storage drive and optional secondary storage drive are now accessible with a quick-release mechanism for easier use.

The Toughbook 55 is a leap forward for Panasonic partners since they will no longer have to solidify all of the needs up front before ordering, said Brian Solomon, co-founder of Yorba Linda, Calif.-based CDCE.

"This is a game-changer. Without a doubt, this is the way that notebooks and tablets should be made in the future," Solomon said.

Up until now, if you ordered devices without all of the correct specs up front, there was "no going back," said Tim Hunt, sales representative at CDCE.

"When you look at the modularity of the 55, from a reseller perspective, it gives you the opportunity to really just look at a base unit spec, choose your processor, and then build from there with a customer—without the fear of ever having to try to go back and retrofit something," Hunt said. "So in terms of working with clients, it's much easier to accommodate what their needs are for that business group."

The modularity also enables a big improvement in speed to market, with the Toughbook 55 requiring less configuration in advance—leading to faster shipping of devices to resellers, said Brandon Williams, director of U.S. mobility channel at Panasonic.

Other advances in the Toughbook 55 include the expansion of available battery life to 40 hours through offering an optional second battery, Panasonic said. That’s compared to the Toughbook 54, which offered half that amount of battery life even with the inclusion of a second battery.

Panasonic also has made strides around portability on the Toughbook 55, which has a starting weight of 4.6 pounds—compared with 4.9 pounds on the Toughbook 54 when configured with a comparable amount of battery life, Mungiello said.

Additional key specs include Intel Whiskey Lake Core i5 or i7 processors--making the Toughbook 55 the first rugged device with Whiskey Lake CPUs, according to Panasonic—along with up to 64 GB of RAM and up to 2 TB of storage. The laptop's 14-inch display offers HD or FHD resolution, and an optional touch screen provides 1,000 nits of brightness.

On ruggedness, the Toughbook 55 can withstand a drop of three feet and features a water- and dust- resistance rating of IP53, an improvement over the IP51 rating of the Toughbook 54, the company said.

Panasonic, whose Toughbook sales are directed entirely through the channel, is also making a change with the Toughbook 55 to benefit the company's dedicated reseller partners, Williams said. Unlike previous models, the Toughbook 55 will be restricted to authorized partners, he said.

"We feel like this is the type of product that we only want represented by resellers that we know are going out there and accurately portraying the device. We wanted to make sure that this wasn't viewed as a commodity product because it's not," Williams said. "It's a more sophisticated sale because of the flexibility. And so I feel like we needed to make sure our partners can continue to sell this type of product in a profitable manner."

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