Panasonic Toughbook 55 Mk3 (2024) review: With Intel 13th Gen and faster graphics, there's still nothing better than this semi-rugged laptop

Panasonic has updated its groundbreaking 2019 Toughbook FZ-55 semi-rugged laptop with Intel 13th Gen, Wi-Fi 6E, and Bluetooth 5.3, making it still a winner for hardworking pros.

Panasonic Toughbook 55 Mk3 (2024)
(Image: © Daniel Rubino)

Windows Central Verdict

The 2024 Panasonic Toughbook 55 has been upgraded with the latest Intel 13th Gen processors, enhanced Iris Xe graphics, Thunderbolt 4, Wi-Fi 6E, and Bluetooth 5.3. It also introduces a new USB-C and USB-A xPAK, expanded RAM, and increased storage options, including an additional NVMe OPAL SSD. These updates solidify the Toughbook 55's position as the premier semi-rugged computer for professionals.

Pros

  • +

    3 modular bays

  • +

    Optional 4G LTE

  • +

    Outstanding design and build quality

  • +

    Loud 92dB speakers

  • +

    Over 25 hours of battery life

  • +

    1,000 nit display

Cons

  • -

    16:10 display would be better

  • -

    Haptic touchpad would be more durable

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Panasonic stands out as the leader in the realm of professional-grade rugged and semi-rugged PCs. Celebrating its 27th year as the top seller of laptops to the military, government, industrial sectors, police forces, and utilities, Panasonic's reputation for excellence is well-earned—they are simply the best.

Launched in 2019, the Toughbook 55 (FZ-55) stands as a flagship model for Panasonic. This 14-inch laptop features three modular bays, 4G LTE connectivity, and a touchscreen that supports pen input. The latest 2024 Mk3 version, unveiled in late 2023, retains the familiar design but upgrades the hardware from Intel's 11th Gen to the 13th Gen processors, incorporating the accompanying enhancements.

Here's why the Toughbook 55 is still the best semi-rugged laptop on the market.

Recent updates

Update 3/25/2024: This review was originally for the 2021 Toughbook 55 Mk2 model but has been updated to reflect the new 2024 Mk3 version, including refreshed benchmarks, photos, new features, and a revised review copy and formatting.

Disclaimer

This review was made possible by a Panasonic review sample. The company did not see the contents of the review before publishing it.

Panasonic Toughbook 55 Mk3: Price and availability

Panasonic Toughbook 55 Mk3 for 2024. (Image credit: Daniel Rubino)

The refreshed Panasonic Toughbook 55 Mk3 is now available directly through Panasonic and associated resellers like MooringTech and GovDirect. It replaces the previous 2021 Toughbook 55 (Mk2), although all the existing accessories, mounts, chargers, and batteries are fully compatible between the two.

Prices start at approximately $2,776, varying based on the volume of purchases and configuration options. The Toughbook 55 offers a range of configurations, including different processors, optional 4G, dedicated GPS, and a choice of touch or non-touch displays. It also features RAM options from 16GB to 64GB (via 2x DIMM slots) and storage capacities of up to 2TB, with the possibility of adding a third TB through an xPak.

Special orders for security concerns can be made for Toughbook 55s with no cameras and no wireless connectivity (Wi-Fi, Bluetooth).

Panasonic Toughbook 55 Mk3

Panasonic Toughbook 55 Mk3 | <a href="https://na.panasonic.com/us/computers-tablets/computers/laptops/toughbook-55" data-link-merchant="na.panasonic.com"">Starting at $2,776 at Panasonic

The refreshed Toughbook 55 Mk3 keeps the same modular design but adds a much more capable CPU, updated Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, and more RAM and storage options for 2024, making it the premier rugged Ultrabook.

Panasonic Toughbook 55 Mk3: What you'll like

The classic rear Toughbook lid on the Panasonic Toughbook 55 Mk3. (Image credit: Daniel Rubino)

The Panasonic Toughbook 55 is classified as a semi-rugged laptop. The new Mk3 model effectively makes it an excellent consumer Ultrabook but built for professional field use. The target audience is police, fire, EMT, military, government, and utility, although anyone can buy one for personal use.

Being semi-rugged means being MIL-STD 810H compliant for short drops (3 feet), salt fog, temperature shock, etc., and being IP53 certified. IP53 means the Toughbook 55 is "dust and splash-proof," primarily because the ports (ingresses) have covers. The keyboard is also spill-resistant, the display is recessed for impact protection, and the chassis is a rugged magnesium alloy.

Panasonic Toughbook 55 Mk3's proprietary xPak system allows hot-swapping of extra batteries, DVD drives, ports, and more. (Image credit: Daniel Rubino)

While the Mk3 version is identical to the 2019 MK1 and 2021 Mk2 models externally, the hardware has been refreshed to make it faster and better than before. Indeed, the Iris Xe graphics are now so powerful Pansonic no longer needs to offer the optional AMD Radeon GPU xPak to boost graphic performance. 

Here's what's new for 2024:

Besides Wi-Fi 6Ea the Panasonic Toughbook 55 Mk3 offers optional 4G LTE via SIM and eSIM. (Image credit: Daniel Rubino)
  • Intel 13th Gen i5 and i7 vPro CPUs (up from 11th Gen)
  • Faster Intel Iris Xe graphics
  • Now up to 64GB DDR4 3200MHz RAM (vs. 32GB max)
  • Now up to 3TB SSD storage (2TB internal, 1TB xPAK)
  • Wi-Fi 6E (up from Wi-Fi 6)
  • Bluetooth 5.3 (up from BT 5.1)

Specifications for the Toughbook 55 Mk3 will be on par with modern enterprise/business laptops in 2024. Still, it will miss out on the latest Intel Metor Lake with Core Ultra processors in premium consumer laptops, including a discrete NPU for forthcoming AI tasks

Swipe to scroll horizontally
CategoryPanasonic Toughbook 55 Mk3
Operating systemWindows 11 Pro
Display14-inch, 16:9, IPSHD (1366x768) Non-touch
Row 2 - Cell 0 Full HD (1920x1080) TouchAnti-reflective and anti-glareDay/Night ModeUp to 1,000 nits
ProcessorIntel Core i5-1345U vPro (4.7GHz)
Row 4 - Cell 0 Intel Core i7-1370P vPro (5.2GHz)
GraphicsIntel Iris Xe
MemoryUp to 64GB DDR4 3200 (2 DIMMs)
Storage512GB, 1TB, or 2TB Quick-release OPAL NVMe SSD with heater
More storageUp to 1TB OPAL NVMe with heater via xPAK expansion
Front camera1080p with privacy shutter
Tetra-array mic
SecurityInfrared with Windows Hello
Secured-core PC
TPM 2.0
NEST BIOS compliant
Kensington cable lock (x2)
Optional SmartCard reader (xPAK)
Optional contactless SmartCard reader (xPAK)
Optional fingerprint reader (xPAK)
ConnectivityWi-Fi 6eBluetooth 5.3Optional 4G LTE-A (FirstNet)Dual-SIM (Nano, eSIM)CBRS Band 48 compatibleOptional dedicated GPS (u-blox NEO M8N)
PortsUSB-C Thunderbolt 4, USB-A x2 (10Gbps, 5Gbps), MicroSDXC-UHS-1, HDMI 2.0, Ethernet RJ-45
Row 13 - Cell 0 Optional: USB-A, Fischer USB, VGA, 2nd Ethernet, Serial D-sub 9-pin
Audio92db speakers (top deck)
Battery6300mAh (optional x2)
Up to 19 (38 hours x2)
Hot swap with optional 2nd battery
Water resistanceIP53
MIL-STD 810H
Dimensions10.7 x 13.6 x 1.3 inches
Weight4.6 pounds (HD model), 4.9 pounds (Touch FHD model)

Thanks to the Intel 13th-generation processors and Iris Xe graphics, the Toughbook 55 does well in our benchmarks, pulling ahead of the HP ZBook Firefly 14 (G10), which is a powerful workstation. 

Panasonic's thermal solutions are pretty basic compared to prosumer laptops. Hence, performance is not at the top, but it is markedly improved from the previous Mk2 model with 11th-generation Intel as its PCMark 10 score jumps from 4,819 to 6,074, where it pulls ahead of the ASUS ZenBook 14 OLED (UM3402) with its AMD Ryzen R7 7730U processor. 

Reviewed configuration

• Price: $4,138 At Panasonic
• Display:
 14" Full HD 1980x1080 touch/AR
• CPU: 
Intel Core i7-1370P
• GPU:
 Iris Xe
• RAM:
 32GB
• Storage: 
512GB
• Cellular: 4G LTE

However, this isn't just a "some numbers" on a benchmark, as there is a very discernable difference between the Mk2 and Mk3 models for everyday real-world performance. Besides jumping from 4.8GHz to 5.2GHz in Peak Turbo, the 13th Generation Core i7-1370P now has 14 cores compared to the Core i7-1185G7's meager four. 

Due to Intel's P- and E-core configuration, more cores mean better efficiency, lower temperatures (less fan usage), and better background performance for system-level tasks. 

Battery life is outstanding. With both battery packs enabled, the Toughbook 55 easily goes past 20 hours of usage and can likely go past 25 hours, especially when left in night mode. This laptop could last for days since the battery packs can be hot-swapped. Toss in a 100W or 120W solar charger; you could use this laptop indefinitely in the field.

Panasonic is unmatched in this field, and the Toughbook 55 shows why.

Upon opening the Toughbook 55 Mk3, a 14-inch IPS display welcomes you. The review unit boasts a Full HD (1920x1080) touchscreen that is glove-friendly. Additionally, it comes with a stylus housed in a dedicated compartment for convenience. Users have the option to select from four touch modes: inking only, touch and inking, or touch with gloves.

Users can change the color of the display and keyboard backlight to make them easier on the eyes during nighttime use, which is especially useful for military operations.  (Image credit: Daniel Rubino)

While not a color-accurate display (63% sRGB, 47% DCI-P3), the Toughbook 55 Mk3 is not aimed at graphics professionals or those who do professional media editing. The screen is uncalibrated, which is not unexpected. However, it does hit an unusual 912 nits of peak brightness (just shy of the claimed 1,000 nits), which, combined with the matte and anti-reflective properties, makes it very viewable outdoors (there is also a sensor to auto-adjust brightness).

Like other Toughbooks, the Toughbook 55 Mk3 has a day/night mode. In this mode, users can set the display to orange, green, red, blue reduced, or grayscale. Likewise, the keyboard backlight can be set to white, red, blue, or green. 

The screen can also drop down to just 0.5 nits of brightness (the lowest I have ever seen), which makes this laptop excellent for night work or while wearing night goggles.

The Panasonic Toughbook 55 Mk3 supports inking via a stowaway pop-out stylus. (Image credit: Daniel Rubino)

The spill-resistant keyboard is replaceable and very enjoyable to type on even compared to prosumer laptops. The keys are spread out enough that you can type while wearing gloves.

Unlike other Toughbook PCs, this one uses Microsoft Precision drivers. While it is still a small trackpad, the drivers and buttons make it very functional, and I have no complaints.

Panasonic Toughbook Mk3 for 2024

No worries about taking the Panasonic Toughbook Mk3 out into the wild as that is what it's made for. (Image credit: Daniel Rubino)

Audio is delivered via two top-firing speakers that can peak at 92dB, which is extraordinarily loud. While these speakers aren't great for watching a movie as they lack depth, bass, and presence, they are perfect for hearing a voice in outdoor and noisy environments, which is their intended use.

Panasonic Toughbook 55 Mk3

Users can change the rear port configuraiton for legacy connections via an XPak. (Image credit: Daniel Rubino)

The front-facing full HD camera is quite decent, and the four front-facing microphones ensure excellent communication in the field. A sliding privacy door hides the camera and the Windows Hello infrared sensor.

The real magic of the Toughbook 55 is its three modular bays. By default, the laptop has one battery pack, and the other two bays have empty fillers. Customers can purchase various xPAKs to adapt the computer for multiple missions without returning the laptop to Panasonic for servicing. Two bays are toolless (the rear has some simple screws), and customers can add more ports via the rear expansion area.

The bottom of the Panasonic Toughbook 55 Mk3 showing how modular xPaks fit into the laptop. (Image credit: Daniel Rubino)

The various xPAKs include:

  • Rear expansion area: VGA + Serial and either USB-A, LAN, or Fischer USB
  • Front expansion area: Fingerprint reader, Contactless Smartcard, or Insertable Smartcard
  • Universal Bay expansion area: Barcode reader, Insertable Smartcard, Blu-ray Drive, DVD Drive, 2nd OPAL SSD, and USB-C and USB-A (NEW)

On the earlier Toughbook 55 from 2019 (Mk1), an optional AMD Radeon WX4150 GPU xPAK was offered to improve over the Intel UHD graphics. That GPU no longer works with the Mk2 or Mk3  versions, but the new Intel 13th Gen Iris Xe integrated GPU now significantly beats that discrete AMD GPU, making it irrelevant. 

The touchpad is small, but can take a lot of abuse. (Image credit: Daniel Rubino)

Optional 4G LTE with multi-carrier support and satellite GPS lets this laptop connect anywhere in the world. Customers can drop in a SIM (in the rear) or use an electronic SIM (eSIM). Customers can also order a dedicated GPS module (u-blox NEO-M8N) and use built-in Band 48 CBRS (private LTE).

Panasonic Toughbook 55 Mk3: What you won't like

With up to two how-swappable battery packs and a full HD display, the Panasonic Toughbook 55 Mk3 has an extremely long battery life. (Image credit: Daniel Rubino)

The Toughbook 55 has no significant shortcomings. The Mk3 model introduces modern features such as Thunderbolt 4 and a substantial performance increase. Typically, laptops designed for enterprise and field use are behind the consumer market. Yet Panasonic keeps close pace despite a launch cycle that doesn't exactly match the consumer market. Businesses generally don't concern themselves with this aspect. Panasonic conducts extensive testing on these laptops, including software reliability, which delays their market release compared to consumer models. 

Furthermore, enterprises prioritize the availability of Intel vPro, which often follows the non-vPro versions. For example, Intel recently unveiled the Intel Core Ultra with vPro, which is not expected to ship for several more weeks. In contrast, Panasonic has been offering the Mk3 i7 vPro model since late 2023 and the vPro Core i5 model since February, aligning with their customers' current needs.

MicroSD, USB-A, Type-C (Thunderbolt 4), and Ethernet are tucked away behind a flip-down door. (Image credit: Daniel Rubino)

The only suggested improvement is the addition of an optional 5G modem. However, the target audience for this laptop currently shows less interest in 5G, making this a minor point. Panasonic has informed me that it collaborates closely with its customers to prioritize features, and for them, 5G is not as essential as 4G LTE. Moreover, the complexity of 5G antenna systems means that integrating 5G would require a significant redesign of the Toughbook 55, as it's not as simple as inserting a 5G modem.

Additionally, the use of a haptic touchpad could make the Toughbook 55 even tougher due to the lack of moving parts found in a traditional touchpad. And since this physical touchpad doesn't depress ("click") to ensure reliability, a haptic touchpad is precisely designed to simulate such a function, making it ideal for this laptop.

With a privacy cover and Windows Hello IR the Panasonic Toughbook 55 Mk3's webcam is good enough for the mission. (Image credit: Daniel Rubino)

Similarly, transitioning to a taller 16:10 display rather than the traditional 16:9 could allow for displaying more information with less scrolling, which is always advantageous. While I wouldn't object to a 2K resolution, Panasonic prioritizes pricing, battery life, and practicality over consumer preferences.

Panasonic Toughbook 55 Mk3: Competition

Panasonic Toughbook 33 2021 Snow

Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

There is not much competition for the Toughbook 55, primarily because other companies like Dell have not refreshed their rugged PCs.

The Toughbook 55 is easily the best semi-rugged laptop right now and likely for the next few years.

There is the Dell Latitude 5420 with a 14-inch display, which is very similar in overall design and audience to the Toughbook 55. However, it is still on Intel's older 8th Gen CPU. It has no modularity besides a hot-swappable battery, no Thunderbolt 4, uses Bluetooth 4.2/Wi-Fi 5, is slightly heavier, has just 16GB of RAM, and has no option for 4G LTE. It also feels like Dell is slowly backing out of rugged devices due to Panasonic's strong presence.

Other options start to veer to different form factors. Panasonic offers the Toughbook 33, a 2-in-1 tablet PC with a keyboard. There is also the 10.1-inch and brand-new Toughbook G2, which is also very modular.

We have more recommendations in our best rugged laptops guide.

Panasonic Toughbook 55 Mk3: Should you buy it?

Below the touchpad the Panasonic Toughbook 55 Mk3 has a built-in carry handle. (Image credit: Daniel Rubino)

You need a semi-rugged laptop with 4G LTE, inking, and modern hardware.

The Toughbook 55 Mk3's flexibility to do just about anything, including quick inking tasks, always being connected, discrete GPS, and more, makes it the ultimate tool for those who need a PC outside the office.

Your mission often changes, requiring adaptable Panasonic xPAKs.

Besides upgrading RAM and storage yourself, being able to swap out a DVD drive for a second battery or add more ports, all without having to send the Toughbook 55 back to Panasonic, is sure to make businesses and the government happy.

You're employed by police, fire, EMT, military, utility, or anywhere where a standard laptop would break.

It's self-explanatory: You need this laptop for what it can do, or you don't. Regular consumers can avoid this one, as it's only for the pros.

You shouldn't buy this if ...

You need just a basic consumer laptop for indoor use.

So you want a 4K display, a super light chassis, an NVIDIA GPU, and a drool-worthy design? Yeah, the Toughbook 55 is not for you. Indeed, you're more likely to be assigned one of these laptops than buy one yourself. 

You're a gamer.

A Chromebook or a Mac is the only thing further from a gaming laptop than the Toughbook 55. 

Although I am not the intended audience for the Toughbook 55, it remains one of my preferred laptops, which is quite telling. The prospect of a 25-hour battery life, constant internet connectivity, an integrated carry handle, and the robustness of this laptop make it immensely enjoyable. This says a lot about the Toughbook 55. If someone like me, who is particular about laptops, finds it appealing, emergency medical technicians, police officers, or military personnel would likely appreciate its speed, dependability, and all the contemporary features of a 2023 prosumer laptop.

Even 3,000 feet up in a mountain not only does the Toughbook 55 work, but so doesn't the LTE. (Image credit: Daniel Rubino)

Panasonic is almost unmatched in this field, and the Toughbook 55 shows why. Its rugged and semi-rugged PCs (and Android tablets) have not just the best features and designs but the best features and designs its core customers want. Panasonic then executes those requirements with outstanding engineering.

Equipped with a 13th-generation Intel processor, built-in 4G LTE, and on-the-fly customization capabilities, the Toughbook 55 stands out as the premier semi-rugged laptop currently available and is expected to remain at the forefront for the coming years.

Daniel Rubino
Editor-in-chief

Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central. He is also the head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft since 2007, when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, laptops, next-gen computing, and watches. He has been reviewing laptops since 2015 and is particularly fond of 2-in-1 convertibles, ARM processors, new form factors, and thin-and-light PCs. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics, watched people sleep (for medical purposes!), and ran the projectors at movie theaters because it was fun.