Panasonic's hybrid Toughbook CF-20 reflects a growing PC market trend

Enthusiasm for the tablet/laptop hybrid has reached the rugged device market with the launch of the Panasonic CF-20.

The fully rugged Panasonic CF-20 2-in-1 hybrid. Image: Panasonic

Panasonic's just-announced 10.1-inch Toughbook CF-20 is, according to the company, "the world's first fully rugged detachable notebook for business". It's an evolution of the swivel-screen (but not detachable) CF-19, with updated internals including a 6th-generation Intel Core vPro processor (Core m5-6Y57), integrated HD Graphics 515, 8GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD, and a high-brightness (800cd/m2) 10-point IPS touchscreen with 1,920-by-1,200 resolution that's suitable for use with gloved hands.

There are multiple options, including an IP55-rated digitiser pen, LTE mobile broadband, U-Blox 8 GPS, a fingerprint reader, smartcard and barcode readers, a vehicle dock, a desktop port replicator and a four-bay battery charger. The CF-20 can accommodate two hot-swappable batteries -- one in the tablet, plus an optional second battery in the keyboard -- delivering a maximum of 14 hours uptime.

CF-20 modes: convertible (left), presentation (centre) and notebook (right). You can also use in tablet mode with the screen detached, hang it on a wall using the carry handle and mount in a vehicle using the optional vehicle dock. Image: Panasonic

Like the CF-19, the CF-20 is fully rugged, conforming to IP65 ingress protection and MIL-STD 810G design ratings. It weighs 1.76kg in notebook mode, while the tablet section weighs 950g -- not bad for a system designed to withstand a 1.2-metre drop into concrete. The CF-20, which comes with Windows 10 Pro, will ship in January 2016, starting at £2,218 (ex. VAT) in the UK.

Backed by research

Panasonic's new-found enthusiasm for the detachable tablet/laptop hybrid is in line with current trends -- witness the buzz surrounding devices like Microsoft's Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book, and Apple's iPad Pro. It's also supported by some recent research from the company, undertaken by Dynamic Markets.

The Panasonic/Dynamic Markets survey canvassed over 2,650 business technology buyers and users across 10 European regions (UK, Germany, France, Benelux, Italy, Spain, Russia, Turkey, Poland and Sweden).

The survey found that traditional laptops are still used by 90 percent of employees for work activities, with 72 percent using a smartphone, 61 percent using a desktop PC and 32 percent using a tablet. Hybrid (convertible or detachable) devices are currently being used by just 12 percent of the workforce.

However, when asked to identify the most productive device for mobile working, hybrids jumped into second place at 28 percent, behind laptops (48%) but ahead of tablets (15%) and smartphones (8%). And looking ahead, 36 percent of the survey population believe that hybrids will become the dominant business computing tool within three years, ahead of traditional laptops (26%) and all other form factors:

Image: Panasonic

When asked which form factor they would choose if they could only have one device, Panasonic's survey respondents put laptops and hybrids on equal terms (35% and 34% respectively), with tablets (10%), desktop PCs (9%) and smartphones (7%) well behind. Key drivers in favour of hybrids were more functionality and better availability of software (44%), better performance (42%), longer battery life (42%) and the presence of a keyboard (39%).

Read more