SEND Panasonic's semi-ruggedized, 266-megahertz Pentium, daylight-friendly, touchscreen-equipped 2.6 pounds of computing power on the road, and give your sales reps a break.
The ToughBook 33 has obvious advantages, weighing less than 3 pounds and having an 8.9- by 6.8- by 1.5-inch frame. The computer offers a high-speed CPU, a 4.3-gigabyte hard drive, up to six hours of run time (with optional extended battery) and a multiplicity of connectivity options to on-the-road sales reps . But this ToughBook also has some major features for mobile professionals whose jobs are not always performed in the relatively clean-and-sterile environs of Airbus cabins or client conference rooms.
The ToughBook 33's chief attribute for outdoor, job-site usage is its 8.4-inch active-matrix, 800- by 600-pixel, color LCD screen. Based on the same DayBright technology developed for the ToughBook line of ruggedized full-sized laptops, the screen is bright and clear with almost perfect differentiation between individual colors (up to 65,000) and various shades of gray-a necessity when using monochrome applications. More important for daylight work, the unit features a proprietary ARX coating that cuts glare more effectively than any other screen treatment I've ever seen.
Touchscreen precision-thanks to Touchbase's Gunzee technology-is awesome. Using my fingertips, I was able to effortlessly (and errorlessly) zip around 3/8-inch squares in an inventory checklist; using a fingernail I was able to consistently hit my target among the tiny, jammed-together icons on the Windows taskbar. Stylus users can rock like an abacus expert on this machine.
Other pluses for field deployment include a magnesium-alloy LCD case, a shock-mounted hard drive and a three-year parts-and-labor warranty with no-cost, next-day shipping.
Data entry for hunt-and-peck professionals is provided by a well-designed miniaturized keyboard that successfully mimics the bigger keyboards familiar to desktop or laptop users-right down to having Ctrl and Alt keys on both sides of the spacebar. It is very responsive and offers enough space between the downsized keys to minimize mis-stroking errors.
You won't want to write a 214-page Pentagon bid on this keyboard. Most users, however, will find it more than adequate for e-mail, sales reports, forms, simple spreadsheets, contact management and mathematical or engineering calculations.
Below the keyboard, a mini-version of the dirt-and-dust-resistant optical trackball used in such Panasonic laptops as the Milspec-certified ToughBook CF-27 provides smoother, more accurate cursor control than any other pointing device in this form factor machine. This is one mininotebook computer that won't clog your IT helpline with requests for external mice.
Finally, there are the intangible benefits of dealing with a company whose primary focus is durable portable computers and whose only sales channel is direct to corporate America. When you call Panasonic for service or support you are not competing for attention with uncounted legions of end users, over-populated herds of VARs or hundreds of IT professionals with issues encompassing everything from servers to cables. How much of a value add that is to your company, only you can decide.
The price of the ToughBook 33 is $1,999. For more information, contact Panasonic at www.panasonic.com/toughbook or call (800) 662-3537.