On Toughbook usage hours

Posted by Ed Lasher on 31st Mar 2015

People often ask me how many hours our Toughbooks have. Of course, it varies, but that's not a satisfying answer. To provide an approximation, I checked the hours on a wide sample of our laptops, ranging from our oldest models to our newest.

I found that our most up-to-date models tend to have between 5,000 and 10,000 hours, although it's not unusual for a unit to have fewer than 2,000. I even found a couple CF-19 MK4 i5 laptops with fewer than 100 hours.

Our older laptops — the CF-30s and the earlier CF-19 and CF-52 models — have a wider variance, with the most heavily used machines clocking in at about 30,000 hours of service. Most, however, sit right in that 5,000- to 10,000-hour range, just like the newer laptops.

Oddly enough, I found that almost all of our business-rugged Toughbooks have under 3,000 hours. I can only hypothesize as to why that might be, but maybe it's because they are less integrated into the industries in which they're used. Fully-rugged and semi-rugged Toughbooks tend to run full time in police cars, ambulances, and other mobile work stations. Business-rugged laptops are perhaps more likely to be used as a secondary tool in situations where a cell phone isn't enough computer and a full-sized laptop is too much computer. But that's all conjecture.

Making sense of the mileage

Now we have a general sense of the hours on our Toughbooks, but what does any of that really mean? Is 10,000 hours a lot?

Honestly, mileage doesn't mean much when it comes to Toughbooks. There isn't some mechanism built in where the computer decides to self-destruct after it reaches a certain time threshold. Something has to cause a computer to fail.

Let's look at the most common ways a laptop's hardware can fail.

Hard drives wear out and stop working over time.

Panasonic Toughbooks employ shock absorbent caddies that significantly reduce the odds of hard drive failure. That said, if a Toughbook has a lot of hours on it, we're not sending it out with its original hard drive. If you order an SSD upgrade, your hard drive will be brand new.

Dust clogs up the heat sink and the computer overheats or even cooks itself.

Some Toughbooks use low voltage CPUs that don't require fans. Others, like the CF-31, use standard voltage CPUs but have specially housed heat sinks to prevent the ingress of dust particles. In either case, it's a non-issue.

Cheap plastic components break, wires disconnect or break, PC boards detach and rattle around in the casing.

Come on. Toughbooks have the highest build quality of any laptop. Someone recently sent us a CF-27 and it doesn't have any issues like that. That computer is from 1999.

Dumb friend spills a beer on it.

First of all, it doesn't matter how many hours your computer has racked up. A spill will have the same effect. Secondly, it's a Toughbook, baby! No need to stop the party!

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