Panasonic Toughbook G2 review: Rugged, compact and configurable

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Pros

  • Fully rugged design
  • Multiple modules and accessories available
  • Mobile broadband (4G or 5G) options
  • All-day battery life

Cons

  • Expensive, especially as modules and accessories are added
  • 10.1-inch screen can be hard to work with

Rugged computing specialist Panasonic’s successor to the venerable 10.1-inch Toughbook G1 (tablet) and Toughbook 20 (2-in-1) is the Toughbook G2, a fully rugged tablet that’s available with a detachable keyboard to transform it into a 2-in-1 device. We were sent the tablet to review, but not the optional keyboard. This is a premium-priced product: the tablet alone starts at $2,999, with the keyboard and accessories adding to this hefty price tag. However, most sales are likely to be multiple orders from organisations that should be able to negotiate bulk discounts. 

Aimed at field workers, warehouse staff, first responders, military personnel and others who operate in challenging environments, the Toughbook G2 is a modular device, allowing it to be configured for specific use cases. Naturally, it’s also extremely robust, with the certifications to prove it, so that this tablet should withstand whatever abuse comes its way. And as usual with Panasonic’s Toughbooks, there’s an extensive selection of accessories, including docking stations, vehicle docks, straps and cases, most of which are backwards-compatible with the older G1 and G20. 

Panasonic Toughbook G2: front

Image: Charles McLellan / ZDNET
Panasonic Toughbook G2: back

Image: Charles McLellan / ZDNET

Design

You won’t mistake the Toughbook G2 for anything other than a fully rugged tablet. Some ‘business rugged’ devices look fairly conventional, in the same way that some 4×4 vehicles look like regular cars, but this is the real deal: the 10.1-inch screen sits within wide bezels and the magnesium alloy chassis is further protected by tough plastic edging, with extra depth in the corners to provide more drop resistance. 

The Toughbook G2’s chunky chassis measures 279mm wide by 188mm deep by 23.5mm thick and the device weighs around 1.19kg, although this will vary depending on the precise specification. All that protection means the 10.1-inch, 16:10 aspect ratio screen looks a little lost within the chassis, resulting in a screen-to-body ratio of just 56.3%. 

As you’d expect, the Toughbook G2 sports the certifications to back up its fully rugged claims: IP65 for dust and water resistance (‘6’ signifies the tablet is ‘dust tight’, while ‘5’ denotes that it can cope with ‘water jets’ from any direction) and drop-testing from 1.8 metres to MIL-STD-810H standard. 

There are two versions of the Toughbook G2 – standard and ‘Quick Release SSD’, the latter aimed at particularly data-sensitive use cases. We had the standard model with a regular internal SSD. 

Panasonic Toughbook G2: ports

Ports on right-hand side: USB-C, USB-A, RJ-45 Ethernet.

Image: Charles McLellan / ZDNET

Although it’s highly configurable, there are some fixtures on the Toughbook G2. There’s a trio of ports on the right side, behind a protective hinged cover: USB-C (3.1), USB-A (3.0) and RJ-45 Ethernet. Beneath the screen there’s an array of buttons and indicators: two programmable buttons (A1 and A2) for launching apps, volume up/down, a Windows button, a button that disables screen rotation, a trio of status LEDs and the power button. A third programmable button (A3) to the right of the display (in landscape mode) launches the camera app by default. 

There are two cameras: 8MP rear-facing with autofocus and flash, and 2MP front-facing — the latter with infrared support to enable Windows Hello face authentication, plus a sliding privacy cover. The right side has a round-pin power input behind a sliding cover and a Kensington lock slot, while there’s a keyboard/docking connector and a pair of external antenna connectors on the bottom. We’ll talk about the modular elements in the next section. 

Features

The Toughbook G2 runs Windows 10 or 11 on Intel’s 10th-generation Core i5-10310U vPro processor with 16GB of RAM (32GB max) and 512GB of SSD storage (1TB max). Graphics are handled by the CPU-integrated Intel UHD Graphics module. 

Wireless connectivity comes courtesy of Intel’s Wi-Fi 6 AX201 module, which provides dual-band (2.4GHz, 5GHz) 802.11ax wi-fi and Bluetooth 5.1. Mobile broadband — 4G and (sub-6GHz) 5G – is optionally available, either via a conventional SIM slot or eSIM. GPS is another option, via a U-Blox MEO-M8 module, although this can’t be installed if the 5G option is selected. 

The 10.1-inch screen is an IPS touch panel with WUXGA (1920 x 1200) resolution and 1000 nits maximum brightness, allowing for good outdoor visibility. The capacitive touch screen can be used with fingers, gloved hands and/or the supplied digitiser stylus. The latter meets IP55 dust/water resistance, has two buttons (right-click and erase) and comes with a tether to prevent it straying from the tablet. Panasonic’s settings utility lets you select the most appropriate touch-screen mode, which includes one for when the screen or the user’s finger is wet. 

Panasonic Toughbook G2: touch screen settings

Screenshot: Charles McLellan / ZDNET

The standard Toughbook G2 model has two expansion bays for its xPAK modules. The top one can accept a barcode reader, a second USB-A port, a second RJ-45 Ethernet port, a legacy serial port or a FLIR thermal imaging camera. The latter is appropriate  for use cases including first responders and equipment maintenance. The rear expansion bay can take an insertable or contactless smart card reader.

That’s not the end of the Toughbook G2’s customisability – far from it. Accessories include the keyboard dock mentioned earlier, a USB keyboard, tablet and laptop desktop docks, tablet and 2-in-1 vehicle docks, a 4-bay battery charger, plus a screen protector, SSDs, hand straps, spare batteries and a carrying case. 

You may rack up a hefty price tag in the process, but you should be able to fit out the Toughbook G2 for almost any challenging use case. 

Performance & battery life

The Toughbook G2’s Core i5-10310U vPro processor with 16GB of RAM delivered Geekbench 5 CPU benchmarks of 1058 (single core) and 3689 (multi core), comfortably beating Microsoft’s 10.5-inch Core i3-based Surface Go 3, for example.  

Panasonic Toughbook G2: Geekbench CPU

Chart: ZDNET

To gauge the Toughbook G2’s performance on a range of workload types, we ran PCMark 10, which delivers an overall score, plus sub-scores for Essentials (app start-up, video conferencing, web browsing), Productivity (spreadsheets, writing) and Digital Content Creation (photo editing, rendering & visualisation, video editing). Here’s how it stacks up against the PCMark 10 recommended ‘good’ scores:   

 Panasonic Toughbook G2: PCMark 10

Chart: ZDNET

It’s clear that the Toughbook G2 is perfectly capable when running undemanding workloads (Essentials, Productivity), but anything more demanding (Digital Content Creation) is likely to see performance suffer. That shouldn’t be a problem, given that this tablet’s main duties are likely to involve data gathering in the field, with only limited processing horsepower required.

Our standard Toughbook G2 came with a removable 4360mAh/50Wh battery, which Panasonic rates as good for around 12 hours. We actually got just under 14 hours from the battery — but only by leaving the tablet idling at the Windows desktop. At the other end of the scale, the Toughbook G2 managed around 4 hours and 15 minutes when running the PCMark 10 benchmark suite near-continuously. In both battery rundown tests, screen brightness was set to 50% and the Panasonic Power Management plan selected. 

Panasonic Toughbook G2: Battery

Chart: ZDNET

On the basis of these tests, a full day’s work (~8 hours) should be achievable with a moderate workload mix. Options include an extended 6300mAh/68Wh battery and a bridging battery to enable hot swapping.

User experience

The Toughbook G2 weighs around 1.2kg but is reasonably comfortable to hold and use for extended periods. The 1000-nit IPS panel is bright enough for outdoor working in sunlit conditions, and the screen isn’t overly reflective. The touch options for finger, glove and stylus input are all effective. However, the 10.1-inch screen’s 1920 by 1200 (224ppi) resolution means you may need to adjust the scaling in Display Settings for certain tasks, as text and other on-screen elements may be just too small for comfort.

The front-facing camera handled Windows Hello face recognition effectively, and its 2MP/1080p resolution is fine for video calls. Panasonic’s PC Camera Utility supports night-mode shooting on the front and rear cameras, plus burst mode and video recording, optical character recognition, barcode reading and flash modes (on/off/torch) on the 8MP rear camera.

The speakers, which flank the array of buttons beneath the screen, are nothing to get excited about, but are adequate for the use cases this tablet is likely to handle.

Conclusions

Panasonic Toughbook G2: 2-in-1

Image: Panasonic

Panasonic’s Toughbook G2 is a fully rugged 10.1-inch tablet that can be turned into a compact 2-in-1 with the addition of a keyboard dock. The tablet itself has two expansion bays (three if you go for the Quick Release SSD version) that can accept a range of modules. Panasonic also offers an array of external accessories, allowing this device to be configured for multiple challenging use cases.

The Toughbook G2’s performance is well matched to the tasks it’s likely to handle, and the standard battery should deliver a full day’s work in the field, away from a mains power source. If the G2’s 10.1-inch screen is too small, other options are available from Panasonic in the shape of the 12-inch Toughbook 33 (2-in-1) and 14-inch Toughbook 40 (laptop).


Panasonic Toughbook G2 specifications

Processor Intel Core i5-10310U vPro
Graphics Intel UHD Graphics
OS Windows 11 Pro (Windows 10 Pro downgrade available)
RAM 16GB (32GB max)
Storage 512GB OPAL NVMe SSD (1TB optional)
Display 10.1-inch sunlight-viewable Active Matrix (TFT) IPS colour LCD
– Resolution WUXGA (1920 x 1200, 224ppi)
– Brightness up to 1000cd/m²
Touchscreen 10 finger capacitive multi-touchscreen + digitizer with glove and rain modes
Wi-Fi Intel Wi-Fi6 AX201 (802.11ax)
Bluetooth 5.1
Mobile broadband 4G or 5G (optional eSIM support)
GPS U-Blox NEO-M8N (not available on 5G model)
Audio stereo speakers, 2x microphones
Cameras front: 2 MP with IR/privacy shutter (Windows Hello compliant) • 8MP with autofocus and LED flash
Configuration port options serial port, 2D barcode reader, 2nd USB 2.0, 2nd RJ-45 LAN, FLIR thermal camera
Rear expansion bay area options smart card reader, HF-RFID (NFC) reader
Ports USB 3.1, USB-C, RJ-45 LAN, power in, port replicator connector, data antenna connector
Battery capacity standard: 4360mAh (50Wh) • extended (optional): 6300mAh (68Wh)
Battery life (claimed) standard: ~12h • extended: ~18.5h
AC adapter input: 100V – 240V AC, 50Hz/60Hz • output: 15.6V DC, 7.05A
Security TPM (TCG V2.0 compliant) • password security (supervisor password, user password, hard disc lock) • integrated hardware security lock slot
Dimensions 279mm x 188mm x 23.5 mm (11.0in. x 7.4in. x 0.93in.)
Weight ~1.19kg /2.64lb ( depends on configuration)
Testing standards IP65 (dust/water resistance) • MIL-STD-810H (drop resistance, operating temperature)
Standard configuration Toughbook G2, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD, standard battery pack, IP55 digitiser pen
In the box power supply, power cord, display cleaning cloth, user manual
Price from €2,450 / £2,218 (ex. VAT) / $2999

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