Panasonic Toughbook CF-53 review

Price when reviewed

We often talk about build quality when it comes to laptops, but Panasonic’s Toughbooks are a breed apart. Put simply, the semi-ruggedised CF-53 is the laptop equivalent of an army all-terrain vehicle: a 54mm magnesium-thickened chassis weighing 2.6kg; rubber seals over all interfaces; and a hard disk mounted in shock-absorbing polymers. You can drop it from up to 76cm and splash water over the keyboard, safe in the knowledge the Toughbook won’t even blink.

Panasonic Toughbook CF-53 - ports

Using it feels like puzzling over a retro toy, with one flap on the right edge hiding a USB 2 and USB 3 port, and another masking ExpressCard/54, PC Card and SD slots, and a switch for the dual-band 802.11agn Wi-Fi. A third slides down to provide access to the removable battery – which we’ll come to later – while the rear has doors hiding two more USB 2 ports, Ethernet, HDMI and D-SUB outputs, and even a serial port.

A DVD drive sits on the left edge, with a 320GB hard disk in an easily removable SATA caddy; there’s even a heated alternative available for use in extreme environments.

Then there’s the retractable carrying handle on the front edge, which minimises the impact of the weight, and the connector on the base that accepts Panasonic’s port replicator. Whether it’s back at a desk or being slung around with its integrated carry handle, the CF-53 is ready for anything.

Panasonic Toughbook CF-53 - carry handle

The 14in 1,366 x 768 display is matte and more than a bit grainy compared to the pin-sharp glossy screens we’re used to, but the screen is perfectly usable – we measured its brightness at 276cd/m2 – and it has a protective layer over it. If a traditional display just doesn’t cut it, Panasonic also sells the CF-53 with a touchscreen.


Warranty3yr on-site

Physical specifications

Dimensions345 x 286 x 54mm (WDH)
Travelling weight3.0kg

Processor and memory

ProcessorIntel Core i5-2520M
Motherboard chipsetIntel HM65 Express
RAM capacity4.00GB
Memory typeDDR3
SODIMM sockets free0
SODIMM sockets total2

Screen and video

Screen size14.0in
Resolution screen horizontal1,366
Resolution screen vertical768
Resolution1366 x 768
Graphics chipsetIntel HD Graphics 3000
Graphics card RAMN/A
VGA (D-SUB) outputs1
HDMI outputs1
S-Video outputs0
DVI-I outputs0
DVI-D outputs0
DisplayPort outputs0


Hard disk usable capacity298GB
Spindle speed5,400RPM
Internal disk interfaceSATA/300
Hard diskHitachi Travelstar 5K320
Optical disc technologyDVD writer
Battery capacity6,750mAh
Replacement battery price inc VAT£0


802.11a supportyes
802.11b supportyes
802.11g supportyes
802.11 draft-n supportyes
Integrated 3G adapterno
Bluetooth supportno

Other Features

Wireless hardware on/off switchyes
Wireless key-combination switchno
ExpressCard34 slots0
ExpressCard54 slots0
PC Card slots0
USB ports (downstream)3
FireWire ports0
PS/2 mouse portno
9-pin serial ports1
Parallel ports0
Optical S/PDIF audio output ports0
Electrical S/PDIF audio ports0
3.5mm audio jacks2
SD card readeryes
Memory Stick readerno
MMC (multimedia card) readerno
Smart Media readerno
Compact Flash readerno
xD-card readerno
Pointing device typeTouchpad
Audio chipsetrealtek HD Audio
Integrated microphone?yes
Integrated webcam?no
Camera megapixel ratingN/A
Fingerprint readerno
Smartcard readerno
Carry caseno

Battery and performance tests

Battery life, light use10hr 46min
3D performance (crysis) low settings22fps
3D performance settingLow
Overall Real World Benchmark score0.67
Responsiveness score0.88
Media score0.66
Multitasking score0.46

Operating system and software

Operating systemWindows 7 Professional 64-bit
OS familyWindows 7
Recovery methodBurn own recovery discs

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