Some time ago I posted about wanting an outdoor laptop. The first option I listed was a panasonic toughbook. Recently (a year and a half later) I finally ordered one. I ordered from bobjohnson.com, because the people there are a class act who’ve been calmly answering my questions for a long time.
* It has a transflective display. This means that it is emissive, but also uses reflected sunlight to boost brightness, up to 6000 nits. In comparison, my previous thinkpad was 350 nit (unusable sometimes even in shade), and my macbook was 500nit. With this laptop, I can leave the display on 25% brightness and move from a dark basement to hurt-my-skin bright sunlight.
* It’s ‘fully rugged’, so using it in rain or dust storms should not be an issue. (I lost 4G ram in my thinkpad to dust).
* It has a shoulder strap ($20 extra) screwed on solidly.
* It has a touchscreen with stylus. (To use this under ubuntu 18.04 I had to install xserver-xorg-input-evdev and remove xserver-xorg-input-libinput. Note just installing evdev was not enough) I may look like a dweeb, but I prefer this to smudging my screen.
The laptop I got is a CF-19 MK6. This is several years old and refurbished. The reason I went with this instead of a new toughbook (besides price) is because, as far as I can tell, only the CF-19 MK5 through MK8 have the transflective display. The replacement for the CF-19 (the CF-20) may have a better screen (i’ve not seen it), but it is not transflective and comes in at “only” 1000nit. Same with the slightly larger nonconvertable laptops.
Mind you, there is (I trust) a reason these screens did not take off – the colors are kind of washed out, and it’s low resolution. But for reading kernel code by the pool without draining the battery in 1 hr, the only thing I can imagine being better is an eink screen.
The CF-19 is compact: it’s a 10″ (convertible) netbook. This keyboard is more cramped than on my old s100 netbook. I do actually kind of like the keys – they have a good travel depth and a nice click. But it’s weird going back to a full-size keyboard.
The first time I measured the battery life, it shut down when battery listed 36% remaining, after a mere got 3 hours. Panasonic had advertised 10 hours for this laptop. 3 was unacceptable, and I was about ready to send it back. But, reading the powertop output, I noticed that the sound card was listed as taking tons of battery power. So for my next run I did a powertop –auto-tune, and got over 4 hours battery life. Then I noticed bluetooth radio doing the same, so I did rmmod btusb. These are now all done on startup by systemd. The battery still stops at 35%, which takes getting used to, but it’s acceptable.
4.5 hours is still limiting, so I picked up a second battery and an external charger. I can charge one battery while using the other, or take both batteries along for a longer trip.
In summary – i may have found my outdoors laptop. I’d still prefer it be thinner, with a slightly larger and mechanical keyboard, and have 12 hour battery life, delivered on a unicorn…
(Here is an attempt to show the screen in very bright sunlight. It’s hard to get a good photo, since the camera wants to play its own games) :