Featherweight, but not an Ultrabook
Panasonic Toughbook CF-LX3
Panasonic describes the Toughbook CF-LX3 as “the world’s lightest 14-inch business rugged notebook” - although, to be fair, there’s not much competition in that field. Nevertheless, the CF-LX3 weighs just 1.2kg with the standard configuration 3-cell battery, making it lighter than most 13-inch Ultrabooks, which tend to be around 1.3kg.
A 6-cell battery version, which includes a built-in optical drive, is also available, and weighs 1.43kg. Unfortunately, with or without the optical drive installed, the drive bay for it remains, which makes both variants of the CF-LX3 rather thick.
Its chunky 24.5mm profile actually excludes it from Intel’s stringent Ultrabook specification requirements, which state that 14-inch Ultrabooks must be less than 23mm thick. Its other major shortcoming that keeps it from being called an Ultrabook is its 250GB 5,400RPM HDD (Ultrabooks require a three-second startup from hibernation).
Like all Toughbooks, the CFLX3’s lid features Panasonic’s signature shock-absorbing ridge design, which gives the notebook drop resistance up to 76 cm, and pressure resistance up to 100kg.
The CF-LX3 is armed with a 14inch 1,600 x 900 pixel resolution matte LCD display. While the LX3 runs on Windows 8.1 Pro, the display itself isn’t touch capable. The display is quite bright, and clarity is reasonable, but it doesn’t fare well compared to some of the higher resolution IPS displays we’ve been seeing on newer Ultrabooks.
The CF-LX3 has an older style keyboard with one big block of keys (rather than the chicletstyle most commonly seen on newer notebooks). The keys have plenty of travel, but there’s also a fair bit of flex evident, and as the keys are all made from rubber, they’re also a bit soft and squishy, which doesn’t produce the most satisfying typing experience. Unlike the clickpads found on almost all Ultrabooks, the trackpad on the CF-LX3 has dedicated left and right click buttons, but the trackpad itself cannot be clicked. Tracking was smooth and responsive, and gestures worked fine, but as we’ve become accustomed to clickpads it felt like a bit of a step backwards to get used to the old style of button clicking.
As expected for an enterpriseaimed notebook, connectivity on the CF-LX3 is fairly comprehensive, and includes an RJ-45 Ethernet port, a VGA port and an HDMI port. Security-wise, the CF-LX3 is equipped with the standard TPM security chip, but lacks a fingerprint scanner.
The CF-LX3 is armed with an Intel Core i5-4300U 1.9GHz processor, 4GB RAM, and Intel HD4400 integrated graphics. As mentioned, the CF-LX3’s most glaring weakness is its low capacity, slow 250GB 5400RPM HDD. In our benchmark tests, the CF-LX3 performed reasonably well, although, as expected, it scored quite poorly in storage benchmarks. Battery life on the 3-cell model was fairly good, lasting just over three hours on Powermark’s balanced workload benchmark.
All things considered, while the CF-LX3 is certainly impressive for its lightweight and shockproof, drop-resistant design, its thick profile, older style keyboard and trackpad, plus low capacity, slow HDD leaves much to be desired. It’s also rather expensive at $2,499 for the 3-cell configuration and $2,699 for the 6-cell variant with built-in optical drive. Overall, there are better and less expensive enterprise options out there.