Panasonic CF-20 Review – The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Discussion in 'Panasonic' started by kingstu, May 9, 2016.

  1. kingstu

    kingstu Notebook Consultant

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    The Panasonic CF-20 is a new 2-in-1 laptop that boasts 6 different modes. That’s marketing speech for a device with a detachable tablet section that mounts on either with the screen facing towards you or away from you. It has vehicle and desktop docks as well as a handle that you can hang the laptop up like many other tools. Still, its versatility is something to be admired.

    cf-20a.png

    The model I have is the CF-20C5022KM which has the optional 2nd USB port, a digitizer and LTE WWAN. It will be the device I use at the office for the next 3 years so I selected it based on reading the brief reviews and the promotional material that was available. As the title suggests, there are good things about it, bad things about it and things that are just ugly.

    I’ll start with the good. It is a Toughbook that uses a modern processor that is also currently being used in consumer laptops and tablets. The Intel Core m5 processor was just released in September 2015 so it is new. Usually toughbooks are a generation or two behind so that reliability information can be ascertained. The Full HD screen is small but very clear and the keyboard though small is not a problem to type with.

    Detaching the tablet from the keyboard involves a keystroke (Function +1), toggling two physical switches and pulling upward. The tablet section won’t be removed without it. The back cover, where the battery resides, can only be removed once the tablet is undocked. The keyboard dock has a place for a second, identical battery if ordered. Mine had a plastic spacer. For the price of the CF-20, a keyboard battery should have been included.

    The handle in the back instead of in the front takes some getting used to but has advantages for the smaller device as you can hold the laptop open in one hand easier that way. It also adds a little weight so the base section won’t tilt up as the screen is tilted back.

    cf-20b.png

    The Wacom digitizer is the older EMR technology instead of the newer AES technology. So a very wide variety of pens will work with it. I keep the included pen inside its holder and use a larger pen when I use the digitizer. It was accurate and responsive.

    There’s a lot to like about the CF-20 but there are some things I really didn’t like. The base SSD size is 128GB and the partition is about 96GB free when the OS is installed. Not a lot of space for applications and files. I wish I had gotten the 256GB SSD but even that is really tiny considering what people use today. That’s it for factory installation sizes. The RAM at 8GB is also disappointing. The chipset allows for 16GB but there is no configuration option for more than that. There are Philips head screws that can undo the chassis and perhaps an upgrade is possible but since this is my employer’s machine I have to live with it.

    What can be “ugly” about this device? Well the 2nd USB port makes the backside ugly. It creates a raised back so that the device doesn’t lie flat when in tablet mode on the desk. It also prevents the laptop to be used in convertible mode. You can’t point the screen to the outside if the CF-20 is configured with options that require the tall backplate. The reduction in functionality is frustrating but that is what I am stuck with for the next 3 years. Another surprising problem is that because the device is so new Panasonic support didn’t seem to be trained on it. I had to find answers to some questions about the device on my own.

    cf-20c.png

    In summary, the CF-20 is really something different than the other toughbooks. It works very well as a laptop for those who never need to undock the tablet section. It works well in the office, handling everything I need it to do and it is easy to carry about. I think when others start using it they will find this to be a unique and capable device.

    Good
    • Modern processor
    • Excellent keyboard and screen
    • Well-designed mobility features
    Bad
    • Small SSD size
    • Fixed RAM
    • Super expensive
    Ugly
    • Some configuration options reduce functionality
    • Official support not currently trained on it
     
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  2. Shawn

    Shawn Crackpot Search Ninja and Options Whore

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    That 2nd usb bump is the ugly part. I do not like that it eliminates the convertible mode. Could that usb // panel be removed and replaced with a stock flat plate?
     
  3. BaRRmaley

    BaRRmaley Notebook Deity

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    Thanks for review!
    Why do you use AC adapter to take photos? Don't you have a smartphone with a much better camera? :))
    Do you really need to suffer with this Toughbook in the office? I guess a large screen desktop PC is much more comfortable.
     
  4. kingstu

    kingstu Notebook Consultant

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    I don't know if the USB is user removable. I would assume it is not. From the FAQs, "If the Toughbook 20 is equipped with the optional serial port, second USB or Magstripe reader... it will require a tall bottom panel." I didn't complain when the USB version was ordered because I consider myself lucky to get a special order laptop.
     
  5. CWB32

    CWB32 Need parts for my flying saucer.

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    i don't see the 8 gigs of ram as a *limitation* .

    this is more than the average person will ever need ...
    a look at the swapfile size will show that there is a lot of data still going to the ssd (used to be the hdd) .
    supposedly one can "tell" windows what to shove into the swapfile and how much ram to use (this has been debated for years) .
    with the advent of the ssd this is somewhat more of a moot point because of the much faster read/write times of the ssd over the hdd .
    still , dynamic ram is faster than static ram ... sooo ... if one were to put a fine point on things , it would be better to figure out how to get windows to use a smaller swapfile size on the ssd and shove more into the ram .
    windows and the programs used have to work together to accomplish this (the same with processors and multi-threaded operation) .

    in short ... if one is running three heavy cad programs , an AV/AM that looks at every single file "r/w on the fly" , and the latest version of photoshop at the same time , while pushing keys faster than is humanly possible (with the possible exception of a renegade 6 year old nephew) ...
    then one will stand a snowball's chance in hell of noticing a difference between 8 and 16 gigs .
     
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  6. BaRRmaley

    BaRRmaley Notebook Deity

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    I think this text is too long :))
    16GB is better than 8GB. And the price of 2x8GB is only USD 60-70 now.
     
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  7. Karl Klammer

    Karl Klammer Notebook Consultant

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    Thanks for your review.

    Do you happen to know if the cf20 also limits the sata3 ssd to sata2 speeds?
    If this is still the case, then 16gig ram might have one biggish downside when it comes to suspend-to-disk.
    My cf19mk3 with 4gb ram resumes in about 30 seconds, while my cf19mk6 with 16gb ram takes two minutes.... aka forever
     
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  8. BaRRmaley

    BaRRmaley Notebook Deity

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    Also? CF-19 MK5 is SATA-3 compatible.
    My MK5 with 16GB RAM resumes from hibernation (suspend to disk) in ~20 seconds, while Windows 10 boots in 10 seconds. But usually I use sleep, not hibernation, so it's 2 seconds. I think there is a problem in your configuration.
     
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  9. toughasnails

    toughasnails Toughbook Moderator Moderator

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    I use "sleep" too but 2 minutes for hibernation...you do have a problem.
     
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  10. Karl Klammer

    Karl Klammer Notebook Consultant

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    Thanks, BaRRmaley and toughasnails, for showing me untapped IO performance.
    I've always assumed that this is the speed it has to be, based upon some older cf19 ssd threads.
    I will investigate...
     
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