Panasonic updates Toughbook 31 laptop with Intel Broadwell processor

The rugged notebook now claims battery life of up to 18 hours while retaining its durability features, including protection from drops of six feet.

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The race to update laptops with Intel's latest Broadwell processors continues, as Panasonic is upgrading its flagship rugged notebook with one of the new CPUs.

The Toughbook 31 -- launched nearly five years ago -- will be available starting next month with the fifth generation of Intel's Core processors. Panasonic is specifically mentioning the Core i5-5300U vPro chip, though the current Toughbook 31 lineup offers a choice of processors. The company never upgraded the system to Haswell (the fourth-generation Core), so the Broadwell CPU should represent a major boost over its Ivy Bridge predecessors.

That advantage should be felt particularly in battery life. The current Toughbook 31 touts up to 14.5 hours of battery life, but the Broadwell version promises 18 hours. Adding an optional second battery will boost that to 27 hours. The upgrade to the i5-5300U also includes HD 5500 integrated graphics, which are more powerful than the integrated graphics provided by Ivy Bridge processors.

The only other updates to the Toughbook 31 are the inclusion of 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Windows 8.1 Pro, which can be downgraded to Windows 7 if so desired. It retains the 13.1-inch display that's viewable in bright light and quick-release hard drive and SSD options for easy repair and upgrade.

Those drives are also shock mounted as one of the Toughbook 31's many rugged features. The shock resistance (and magnesium alloy case) helps the laptop withstands drops of up to six feet, while the sealed case helps keep out dust and moisture. As a result Panasonic claims that it's passed 19 separate MIL-STD-810G tests for durability.

Given its niche market (those businesses that need tough mobile devices for outdoor work), the Toughbook 31's base price should come as no surprise. It will have a starting price of $3,699 when resellers begin selling the Broadwell edition in February.

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