Panasonic unveils line of Toughbook laptops

PC maker comes out with rugged laptop, tablet and ultraportable systems

Panasonic Computer Solutions Co. yesterday unveiled a slew of new portable computers, focusing on small but rugged models.

The PC maker took the covers off a lightweight rugged laptop, a tablet PC and an ultraportable computer. Panasonic said the new offerings, especially its Toughbook line of laptops, focuses on helping the business person on the move.

"The growing trend of portability in computers -- lighter weight, longer battery life, advanced wireless capabilities -- needs to be balanced by true durability," said Daniel Longfield, an analyst at Frost & Sullivan, in a statement. "Highly mobile government, enterprise and small business users need reliable connectivity to drive continued productivity."

One of the mobile computers that Panasonic is unveiling is the Toughbook F8, which the company puts in the lightweight but durable category. Weighing in at 3.7 pounds with a 14.1 in.-wide display, it uses an Intel Core 2 Duo processor and has up to 4GB of RAM. With an integrated handle for easier portability, the F8 also has a 160GB shock-mounted hard drive.

Panasonic is also coming out with the Toughbook W8, an ultraportable laptop with a 12.1-in. display and an integrated DVD multidrive. Weighing about 3 pounds, the laptop runs also runs a Core 2 Duo processor and has a 120GB hard disk. It also reportedly has a battery life of seven hours.

The company also brought out the Toughbook T8, a tablet PC. The 3.3-pound computer has a 12.1-in. touch screen, stylus and screen-rotating software. The T8 runs an ultralow voltage Core 2 Duo processor, has a 120GB hard drive and up to seven hours of battery life.

The 8 series of laptops is slated to be available in November.

The ultraportable market, in particular, is getting a lot of attention in recent months. Just this past August, Lenovo went ultraportable with a $399 laptop.

Ultraportables, or netbooks, are relatively inexpensive, small form-factor laptops that are designed for basic applications like Web surfing, e-mailing and word processing. They're designed to use less power than traditional PCs and laptops and aren't powerful enough for serious power users or gamers.

Industry powerhouse Intel Corp. is betting heavily on the emerging market, announcing this past June that its new Atom  processors are aimed directly at netbook and net-top PCs. Chris Tulley, a spokesman for Intel, said in a previous interview that he expects netbook and net-top sales to outpace growth of traditional laptops and desktops.

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