How to Choose the Right Data Card for Your Toughbook

How to Choose the Right Data Card for Your Toughbook

Posted by Lori Speed on 13th Sep 2017

Two questions we hear often: “Do I need a mobile data card?” and “What mobile data card do I need?” To help answer, we'll get a little nosy and start asking you some questions of our own.

First, where are you going to use your Toughbook? If you’re planning to use your Toughbook in a home or workplace with internet access, or in places with free Wi-Fi, you won't need a mobile data card. If you use your phone as a mobile hotspot, you can get by without a mobile data card. Tethering your laptop to your phone may slow down your Toughbook or drain your phone battery faster than you’d like, but it’s an option. If any of these scenarios fit you, then you don’t need a mobile data card. Otherwise, keep reading.

Second, are you based in the United States? If not, you’ll want to contact your wireless carrier before moving forward. Ask them if you’ll be able to add a Toughbook to your plan. Even though most mobile networks the world over operate on technology supported by one or more of our cards, you’ll still be at your carrier’s mercy. If you’re located in the United States, we can usually help. Otherwise, there’s not much we can do if your wireless carrier is unable or unwilling to connect you. To make things easier, come prepared with as much information about your Toughbook as possible. Your service provider should know all about their network, but they might have never heard of a Toughbook. At the very least, you’ll want to know your full Toughbook model number and which mobile data cards are available for it—more on that next.

United States or elsewhere, there’s more to choosing the right data card than finding one that supports your wireless network. There are brand name cards that will fit, but don’t work with a Toughbook. Toughbooks are only compatible with very specific cards. For example, the Toshiba Sierra AirPrime MC7750 card looks exactly like the Verizon Sierra Wireless AirPrime MC7750 card which also looks like a Lenovo MC7750. All of these cards easily fit in the Toughbook. It is virtually impossible to tell them apart. Only one card will work with the network for which it was designed. As a result, our technicians test every card we sell in the U.S. to make sure we are providing the right card for your Panasonic Toughbook. Do your homework and get what you need the first time. If you need help installing mobile data cards for your Toughbook model our YouTube videos are handy tools.

Since we can’t make any guarantees or offer any support to international clients, from here on out we’re going to assume you’re in the United States. If that’s not the case, please bear in mind that some of this information will not be relevant to you.

If you’re still reading, the next question is for you. Who is your wireless carrier? If you’re using a regional carrier or think you may switch carriers, get the 4G Gobi 5000 multi-carrier card. This technology will allow your Toughbook to connect to the internet almost anywhere wireless carriers provide coverage. When you have any unknowns, our techs say it is the best option available for newer model refurbished Toughbooks, including newer CF-19s, CF-31sCF-53s.

So now you have a question for us, right? If the Gobi 5000 is the best option, why does Bob offer the other cards? Good question. Not everyone needs the speed of a 4th generation card. If you want a wireless connection to occasionally check email, don’t plan to browse, have an older model Toughbook and are happy with your phone carrier, the 2G Gobi 1000 or the 3G Gobi 2000 cards will work in a pinch. Both cards work in most Panasonic Toughbooks. These are multi-carrier cards currently compatible with AT&T or Sprint. They are going to be slow, but if it makes you happy, we have them. If you use a different carrier or a mobile virtual network operator, double check with them before buying 2G or 3G cards for your Toughbook.

What about the 3G Gobi HSPA 3000 option? Like the Gobi 5000, you can use the Gobi 3000 card with carriers other than AT&T or Sprint. It’s still going to be slower than 4G, but if 3G is all you need, the card will work with most wireless carriers on most of the newer CF-19s, CF-31s and CF-53s. Our technicians caution against using the Gobi 3000 cards on older Toughbook models. Our techs have tried them with inconsistent results. Physically, the 3G Gobi cards will fit. The cards look like they should work. Sometimes they do. Frequently the software will not install correctly.

If you use either Verizon or AT&T, we stock Verizon 4G LTE* cards and AT&T 4G LTE cards. These cards are very similar, but only work with Verizon or AT&T, respectively. Since they’re 4G network cards, they are faster and more stable than the Gobi 1000, 2000 or 3000. They’re also less expensive than the Gobi 5000. The only drawback to carrier specific cards is that if you decide to switch carriers, you’ll need a new card.

Save yourself as much hassle as you can. Get the right mobile data card the first time. If you still aren’t sure what you need, contact us with your complete model number and the name of your wireless carrier. If we have what you need, we’ll send you the link. Our goal is to get you up and running with what will work for you with minimal trouble.

*If you are purchasing your refurbished Toughbook from, you can add the Verizon 4G LTE card to your order. If you are only purchasing a wireless card, please see the GOBI 5000 card. As of this writing Verizon no longer supports 2G or 3G networks. We recommend checking with your carrier before making a purchase.

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