The Toughbook 33 Works for Me: Why first responders are lining up for the new rugged laptop

Santa Barbara County Fire Department IT Manager Andre Monostori offers his opinion on the Toughbook rugged laptop. While developing the new Panasonic Toughbook® 33, the next chapter in the Panasonic Toughbook story, we worked closely with first responders to help ensure we were delivering solutions that matched the way they work. One of the organizations we worked with was the Santa Barbara County Fire Department. With more than 25 years of IT implementation, Andre Monostori, the department’s IT manager, has a unique perspective on how rugged firefighter gear can help or hurt first responders on the job. We recently caught up with him to hear what his team thought of their time testing out the new Toughbook 33 rugged laptop.

Q: Why was your team interested in testing out the new Toughbook 2-in-1 rugged laptop?

A: We’ve been using the Toughbook 19 laptops now for more than five years, and while they have served us very well, the nature of our jobs have been changing and we want to ensure we’re equipping our first responders with the best technology tools available for today’s work.

For modern first responders, real-time digital communication is crucial to preparing for and adapting to dynamic, complex fire events, and powerful technology makes that information sharing possible. We anticipated that the Toughbook 33 would be faster and more responsive and that the 2-in-1 convertible design would provide our team with greater flexibility in the field. That was all confirmed as true as soon as we started using the new detachable laptop during our daily routine.

Q: The CF-33 is the first Toughbook with a larger 3:2 screen ratio. Did that influence your experience?

A: Absolutely. During our initial procurement process, we looked at number of other laptops with the more traditional 16:9 aspect ratio, but the screens simply weren’t tall enough and our existing applications became warped. After hearing about the Toughbook 33’s taller screen, we held off our procurement for a year just to test it out.

When we gave the Toughbook 33s to our team, they were ecstatic – they loved the size and functionality of the device. A lot of our captains, who ride in the passenger seat on the way to fire events and use the computers to manage the operations, had difficulty navigating all the information on the smaller screens — especially in a bumpy firetruck that’s hurtling through traffic. The new screen size enlarges our software applications, making interacting with the device far more stable. A 3:2 aspect ratio will also help us cut costs and protect our legacy IT systems by enabling us to modernize our mobile technology with newer, faster devices that still work well with existing software applications.

Along with the larger size, the screen was also much more responsive; on previous devices, we would have to use a stylus for fine data entry. With the new devices, we found that we could accomplish the same digital tasks with just our fingertips, eliminating an extra level of operational complexity.

Q: Did the team encounter any surprises when taking the Toughbook 33 rugged laptop for a test run?

A: One unexpected new feature that really helped our team in the field is the Toughbook’s new Night Mode. Previous devices, which were mounted in the cabin of our firetrucks, worked just fine during the day. At night, though, those same screens shined dangerously into the eyes of the driver as they navigated through traffic — the device that was supposed to be very helpful was now a real distraction. On the new Toughbook 33, with one click of a button, Night Mode is activated and the screen dims considerably. The driver and passengers can still visualize the information but the unsafe glare was eliminated.

The new 2-in-1 convertible design also helped our team accomplish more during each response. Previous laptops were confined to the mount in the truck; after the team arrived at the site, the computer stayed tethered to the vehicle until the event was concluded. With the new design of the Toughbook 33, we can now seamlessly pop off the screen to use as a tablet, enabling us to gather more information at each incident directly at the event.

Out team has relied on Panasonic Toughbooks for years because of their ability to stand up to even the harshest working environment. The Toughbook 33 continues that legacy of rugged durability, but the new 3:2 screen, more powerful processor and added tablet functionality are why my team will be equipped with these computers in order to best serve the citizens of Santa Barbara County.

The new Toughbook 33 rugged laptop is available today – visit us online to learn more about how the rugged device can help first responders do their jobs more effectively every day.