Toughbook 51 puts the pedal to the metal

Panasonic's newest ruggedized notebook ? Toughbook 51 ? can withstand a one-foot drop in its magnesium alloy case.

Magnesium is the eighth most abundant element in the Earth's crust. That means there is plenty available for Panasonic's newest ruggedized notebook, the Toughbook 51, which features a full magnesium alloy case. The previous model, the Toughbook 50, contained magnesium alloy only in the lid.

The new level of protection allows the Toughbook 51 to withstand a one-foot drop, according to Panasonic officials. In addition to the drop protection, government users will appreciate the included hard drive data erase utility and the option to add an integrated smart card reader.

Our unit came with Intel Centrino technology, including a 1.7GHz Intel Pentium M processor 735, 2M of Level 2 Cache and a 400MHz frontside bus. The standard memory amount of 512M is expandable to 1536M.

The 60G shock-mounted hard drive can be removed without tools in seconds. You only need to slide a tab on the bottom of the notebook and you can pull the hard drive out.

The 15-inch UXGA LCD display supports 1600x1200 resolution and runs on an ATI Mobility Radeon 9600 graphics engine with 64M of memory.

The Toughbook 51 features a Multimedia Pocket that can hold a DVD-ROM/CD-RW combination drive or a floppy drive. It also comes with a PCMCIA slot that holds either one Type III or two Type II PC Cards.

The 802.11 b/g wireless network connection represents the latest trend in wireless technology. While both 802.11b and 802.11g run on the 2.4MHz bandwidth, 802.11g transfers data at speeds of up to twice as fast.

Ports include two USB 2.0, serial, parallel, VGA, Gigabit Ethernet, modem, PS/2, headphone and microphone.

The 6.6-pound notebook measures 1.85" x 12.8" by 10.9" and doesn't feel bulky.

Panasonic offers a three-year limited warranty for parts and labor.

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