Panasonic's Toughbook lineup of rough-and-ready laptops is highly regarded for workers requiring mobile computing under demanding conditions. ZDNet's Sandra Vogel reviewed the semi-rugged Toughbook 55 at the end of 2019 and found that it "has a lot going for it." It has even more going for it now that Panasonic has updated the laptop with new hardware that will improve performance and security while keeping the modular capabilities that allow it to be customized across a number of industries.
As with numerous laptop refreshes over the last few weeks, the new Toughbook 55 graduates to Intel's latest 11th-generation Core processors, specifically the Core i5-1145G7 vPro and Core i7-1185G7 vPro. If you purchase a version with dual DIMM slots, you also upgrade to Intel's latest Iris Xe integrated graphics instead of its UHD graphics. To complement the faster CPUs, Panasonic doubles the memory (16GB) and solid-state storage (512GB) on the base configuration from the previous version. Connectivity improvements include Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1 support, along with a Thunderbolt 4 port and a USB-A port that doubles its previous throughput to 10Gbps.
The updates aren't limited to performance, as the new SSDs feature OPAL hardware encryption, and the new Toughbook 55 is, according to Panasonic, the first rugged laptop that includes both a physical SIM slot and an eSIM. These enhancements go along with the Kensington cable lock slot, TPM v2.0, and optional fingerprint reader, smart card reader and barcode reader to keep the laptop and its data secure. The readers are each available as one of the modular xPAKs that can be swapped in and out as needed; other xPAKs are available to add legacy ports, optical drives, and additional SSDs. An optional hot-swappable second battery can provide up to 38 hours of battery life per Panasonic's claims.
As a semi-rugged laptop, the Toughbook 55 isn't built to withstand the maximum levels of extreme conditions like its fully rugged brethren, but it still meets MIL-STD-810H standards for drops up to 3 feet as well as providing IP53-level resistance against dust and water. It has a spill-resistant keyboard, though the previous model stopped working after ZDNet's Tiernan Ray dropped a cup of coffee on it.
Pricing for the Toughbook 55 can be obtained by contacting Panasonic's sales staff through its website, though you can also purchase it through its reseller partners. The previous version started around $2,000, so don't expect the new edition to cost any less given the component upgrades Panasonic has made.