Panasonic Toughbook CF-18 - Tough Enough For Drive The Globe

Panasonic Toughbook CF 18- Recommended Expedition Gear

I spent two months in Africa in 2001. The vast majority of the time traveling I spent fighting with a broken lap top screen- a victim of rough roads and unforgiving conditions. Even though the machine was well protected within a Zero Halliburton aluminum case it still managed to get damaged enough that I had to work with approximately 30 percent of the remaining undamaged screen. Do you know how hard it is navigating about documents when you can only see a small part of them? Try uploading photos to a web server.

I learned my lesson. Only the most hardy of anything can survive conditions that we often find ourselves in on the road. A computer is no exception to this rule.  In addition to serving as my mechanism for updating our web server, my lap top performs the vitally important task of housing a program we now affectionately call AMANDA.

Amanda is my version of a GPS navigation program, chock full of Garmin software and modified withprogramming and data that we have developed in house. In short, it is my personal navigation lifeline complete with a stern English accent that constantly reminds both my passengers and I of “M”, the fictional character in Ian Fleming’s James Bond series played by Judi Dench.

Amanda has been “housed” in various bodies over the years but her latest one is the toughest and the one that I highly recommend for anyway who wants a tough as nails computer for on the road use.  The Panasonic Toughbook CF-18 is famous for being used in military applications and is known for its resistance to water, dust, vibration and drops from as high as three feet with no damage.

The toughness is accomplished by several ingenious ideas, including, a magnesium alloy case, a sealed all weather design and a shock mounted hard drive system. Other features include; a swivel screen that works well in the truck so both driver and passenger can get a great view and a tablet PC option so I can control it with a touch rather than trying to monkey with the mouse or keyboard while driving.

The price? Well, new it is quite a lot. However, I see no reason to invest all that money into a computer that I know is going to get thrashed about on the road and only needs to run GPS, FTP to my server, check email and connect to the satellite phone.  My advice. Look into the Toughbook CF-18. I have seen them marketed used on EBay for between $250 and $600. A steal for what you are getting.

In a future post I will publish photos of the install in our current expedition vehicle project and detail our “AMANDA” project.