Panasonic Toughbook F9: Ultra-Light, Ultra-Pricey

Yes, the Panasonic Toughbook F9 laptop is remarkably expensive, yet it has a feature list the justifies the price tag.
Posted September 8, 2010

Eric Grevstad

It's a reasonable question: how can a PC maker -- in a world of falling PC prices -- dare to charge more than $2500 for a laptop? The answer: yes, the Panasonic Toughbook F9 is pricey, yet it offers some real value.

Why aren't all notebooks built like this? The Panasonic Toughbook F9 is, the company claims, the lightest laptop in the 14.1-inch class -- 3.6 pounds, not much more than a netbook. Its magnesium alloy case feels so light you'll think it feels hollow, as if there's something missing, perhaps the battery, but no -- everything's present and accounted for, including the optical drive that many lightweights lack (a DVD±RW burner tucked under the keyboard). And everything's admirable, from the screen and keyboard to a cool circular touchpad that lets you twirl a finger to scroll through documents.

Why aren't all notebooks built like this? The Toughbook family is built to shrug off the bumps and thumps of travel. Even the F9, which is classified merely as "business rugged" -- the mildest of Panasonic's mobile masochist categories, below the military-grade semi- and fully rugged models -- can survive abuse that would shatter ordinary laptops, from repeated drops to being accidentally sat on. Its keyboard is designed to resist liquid spills of up to seven ounces.

Why all notebooks aren't built like this: The Toughbook F9 costs $2,899. That's five times the price of a generic consumer 14.1-inch laptop, or more than twice the price of a comparably corporate Core i5 system like Dell's Latitude E6410. How can Panasonic get away with it?

Well, simply seeing and feeling the featherweight, top-quality computer is half the story. (And we haven't even mentioned the niftiest feature yet -- the F9's built-in, foldaway carrying handle.) The other half is total cost of ownership, where Panasonic quotes analyst firm VDC that after-purchase downtime and servicing account for 70 percent of typical portable PCs' costs. Ruggedized notebooks cut down downtime; Panasonic claims the Toughbook product line has an average failure rate of 2.2 percent versus business laptops' average 22 percent.

Read the rest at Hardware Central.

Tags: netbooks, laptops, notebook PC, notebook review, netbook reviews

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