The vast majority of laptop reviews I do are all a bit samey, so it was nice to be sent something slightly different to review recently.
The Panasonic CF-XZ6 is one of the niche laptops from Panasonic under their Toughbook range of laptops, and as the name would suggest these are designed to be durable laptops for multiple uses.
There are different levels of durability throughout the range, from the beefy Fully Rugged models to lighter Semi-Rugged and Business Rugged models.
The ToughBook CF-XZ6 falls into the latter category of Business Ruggedized which allows Panasonic to develop a tough laptop that’s still quite portable.
Design & Build
It is certainly no looker, and it is a bit of the thick side, but the model I was sent is surprisingly small and light. The approximate weight of this is 1.18KG making is lighter than the Inspiron 13 2-in-1 I just reviewed and the XPS 13 I also referenced. Panasonic hasn’t defied physics here though, they have achieved this ultra-lightweight design by using a 12.0” screen in comparison to the 13.3” screen found on the other models.
The overall specification of the tiny laptop is admirable, with it uses the Intel Core i5-7300U vPro processor, Intel HD Graphics 620, 8GB Ram, 256GB SSD, and optionally 4G mobile. The vPro part of the processor is not found on most consumer laptops and is targeted at serious business computing which provides hardware-enhanced security, remote manageability, and productivity-enhancing capabilities to keep you moving forward.
The 12” screen has an impressive 2160 x 1440 pixels resolution with an anti-reflective coating, though it is actually a reflective screen beneath, so it sits somewhere in the middle and ends up being a semi-reflective screen, as you can see by the above images.
The full specification from the Panasonic website states:
- Intel® Core™ i5-7300U vPro™ Processor
- Windows 10 Pro
- 12.0” QHD (2160 x 1440) anti-reflective capacitive multi-touch display with 3:2 aspect ratio
- 10 finger capacitive touch with optional Active stylus pen
- 2-in-1 detachable design for flexible usage in both laptop and tablet modes
- Lightweight and slim form factor
- Full business ports: 3x USB 3.0, USB Type C™, LAN, HDMI, VGA, SD-XC card slot
- Business rugged design with magnesium alloy
- Passed a 76cm free-fall test* and 100-kgf pressurized vibration test*
- Built-in battery in the tablet part and end-user removable hot-swap battery in the keyboard part.
- Total up to 14 hours battery life
- 8MP rear camera and 2MP webcam with IR for Windows Hello
- Optional 4G LTE
- 3 year standard warranty
Unlike most consumer laptops this is not as easy to buy online. There is no Amazon listing and Panasonic don’t appear to sell it directly online. From the limited number of sites I could find selling it, it looks like you will be paying around £1665.00 which would make it around twice the price of the Business focussed but none rugged Dell Latitude 3390 2-in-1.
The tough part of its credentials is limited to drop testing from 76cm (2.5 feet, or desk height) and a 100 kilogram-force pressurised vibration test. So it can handle day to day tumbles especially if you carry it around a lot commuting, but beyond that the protection is limited.
This is a 2-in-1 so you can use it in tablet, tent and laptop mode. It works in a similar manner to the Microsoft Surface laptops, so the whole display detaches and can be used indecently from the keyboard, or reattached in the direction you prefer.
Build quality is understandable exceptional, considering this is being sold as a durable laptop. However, this is a long way off a consumer style laptop, the main keyboard base is a silver metallic effect, at first, I thought it was plastic, but a little research suggests this is magnesium.
Keyboard & Touchpad
The Toughbook CF-XZ6 opts to go for a more traditional layout for the keyboard over the now ubiquitous chicklet style. This is possibly due to the small six of the keyboard. Typing on it is quite comfortable but as you expect, the smaller the laptop, the more difficult the typing, and this isn’t quite as easy as some of the larger laptops I have reviewed.
The touchpad is a particularly strange design, it is a small circle, slightly off centre, the outer circle provides no function apart from the 2 mouse buttons at the bottom of it. This leaves the inner circle the touchpad, which has to be the smallest touchpad I have ever used on a laptop, and as predictably it isn’t the most user-friendly. It is not dreadful though and once I got used to it there didn’t appear to be any hindrance to my productivity. You can optionally use the 10-point touch screen and this works well.
In a similar manner to the Microsoft Surface, this laptop has both a battery in the keyboard and display. So, when using it laptop mode, you will get extended battery life. It also means that there are 2 separate power ports allowing you to charge the tablet independently. When in laptop mode the power port of the tablet is concealed, so you won’t plug things in the wrong hole.
Display / Tablet
Detaching the display is quite simple, and when attached it feels very secure, there is no annoying wobble or loose connections that you find on cheaper detachable. It is, however, a little bit top heavy, so if you prod the screen when using it in tablet mode the keyboard my lift up.
The 12” display might be too small for some people, but I found I liked it. The small and lightweight nature of this lends itself very well to being carried around all day, which in turn justifies the rugged design gone into it. I had no significant issues with the text on such a small 2K screen though the scaling was set to 200%. I was still able to comfortably do my work on it.
In tablet mode, you save some heft, and in this mode, I personally only find any laptop useful for watching media. The small screen is great for watching movies in cramped spaces such as aeroplanes or in the car.
The display has an anti-reflective coating on it, and this went a long way to improving its usability in any environment with bright lighting.
Similar to the Dell I previously reviewed, the performance of the Core i5-7300U and Intel HD Graphics 620 are well documented. This ran perfectly fine for all office work, media editing, and movies during my time with it. The i5-7300U is a dual-core 4 thread CPU, and it is a generation behind the current models so it won’t have quite the power as a i7-8550U but for the sort of user this laptop is aimed at it will be more than adequate.
For the sake of comparison, I ran PC Mark 10, and it scored 2690 which is quite a bit less than the 4010 of the i7-8550U on the Dell I just reviewed, but it is still suitable for all office work, and you will never have any performance issues.
I also ran Crystal Disk Mark, and the 256GB SSD achieved 539/352MB/s read-write dropping down to 30/61MB/s for small read-write. This actually bested the Dell Inspiron I previously reviewed, but not by much. There is not a huge variance in performance for SATA based SSDs and this is more than adequate for most users.
During my use of the Panasonic it comfortable lasted a full day of moderate use, this included streaming, emails, writing and photo editing. I am not sure it would last the claimed 14 hours but it is one of the best laptops I have used for the battery. The battery is removable too, so if you are a particularily heavy user it would be possible to buy a spare.
This is a niche laptop, the price is prohibitively expensive for anyone other than business users, and even then, regardless of the rugged nature, I would be tempted to go with something more affordable if it was my money.
However, some business doesn’t mind paying a premium, and if you can ignore the price, this is an impressive little laptop. I particularly like its size and the fact that it weighs just 1.18KG, both this feature makes the laptop comfortable to carry around for extended periods of time. Carrying a laptop around all the time naturally increases the chances of bumps or drops, so the ruggedised design is quite appealing. If you are a business user that does spend the majority of the day carrying a laptop around, downtime caused by a broken laptop could be far more costly than the premium cost of this laptop, and in this case, I would say it is a good buy.
Panasonic CF-XZ6 Convertible Toughbook
Product Name: Panasonic CF-XZ6 Convertible Toughbook