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The latest Panasonic Toughbook 33 might be the ultimate laptop for Zoom calls.
Unveiled on Tuesday, this updated 2-in-1 detachable tablet offers legendary Toughbook ruggedization as well as a 1080p front-facing camera with a tweaked laser autofocus system that promises crisp images even in low light conditions. The Toughbook 33 was originally introduced in 2017, several years after the Microsoft Surface made Windows-powered tablets mainstream. In a world where flagship laptops and 2-in-1s are refreshed multiple times per year, it might seem a bit strange that its successor, the Toughbook 33 Mark II, took more than three years to go on sale.
But Toughbooks typically end up mounted in police cruisers or tossed into the luggage of a polar expedition, and as such they aren’t replaced very often. Panasonic explains that the original Toughbook 33 became its most popular model in the US, and most customers aren’t interested in replacing them until they’ve been in service for five years or more.
That means rugged laptops can be a bit behind the times when it comes to innovative laptop features. It appears that Panasonic has tried to avoid that as much as possible with the Toughbook 33, however. It addresses one of the key complaints that business users have with their laptops in this work-from-home era: subpar video conferences.
Toughbook 33 customers might be conferencing in the middle of a wildfire or perhaps a rain swept roadside instead of a home office, so video and audio quality are especially important. In addition to the higher-resolution camera (most laptops use 720p cameras), the Toughbook 33 Mark II has new image-processing algorithms that work together with the upgraded laser autofocus, which is three times faster than the previous system.
This should mean better quality in all situations, but especially when ambient light is lacking, Panasonic says. The front-facing camera also features a triple-LED flash, and the two microphones are better at filtering background noise. Panasonic claims that the Mark II’s speech recognition in noisy environments is more than 60% better than its predecessor could manage.
Dust, Water, and Drop Protection
Video conferencing aside, ruggedization is what the Toughbook line is all about, and the Toughbook 33 is rated to survive in exceptionally harsh circumstances. They include 5-foot drops, rain, dust, sand, and plenty of water: the tablet has an IP65 waterproof rating. The Toughbook 33 Mark II can function on its own as a tablet, but it also offers an optional keyboard dock that can be locked securely to the tablet. Many customers also opt for additional accessories like vehicle mounts; Panasonic says the Mark II model is backwards compatible with existing Toughbook 33 accessories.
Inside, the Toughbook 33 features Intel’s 10th Generation Core i5 or Core i7 with optional vPro support, as well as increased memory and SSD maximums of 32GB and 1TB, respectively. There’s also a new optional LTE modem that supports both the FirstNet essential communications network as well as LTE Band 48, which can be used to set up private LTE networks separate from ones operated by wireless carriers.
Panasonic didn’t announce pricing or availability for the Toughbook 33 Mark II, but we expect list prices to largely match those of its predecessor, which starts at $3,499. It’s an expensive tablet, but if you’re operating in harsh environments and need a reliable video-conferencing machine, it could be worth every penny.
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