In the quest for thinner systems, PC OEMs are increasingly resorting to soldering down RAM and SSDs to the motherboard to shave off as many millimeters of thickness as possible, in order to chase the thin profile of Apple’s MacBook line. Apple appears to have reached peak thinness—the butterfly keyboard has introduced more problems than it solves—and Japanese brands like Epson stick to older modular designs, while Dynabook (formerly Toshiba) is offering a thin notebook with replaceable RAM and SSD.

Panasonic, for comparison, is marching to the beat of their own drum machine. The Toughbook 55, announced Monday, is likely the most modular laptop on the market—the RAM, SSD, and keyboard are field-replaceable, with the primary and secondary storage drives swappable using a quick-release latch—nominally toolless, though a security screw can be added to prevent removal.

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Panasonic touts the Toughbook 55 as including three expansion ports for adding an optical drive, a dedicated AMD graphics card, an authentication reader, and/or an additional battery. Systems equipped with two batteries are rated for up to 40 hours of battery life, with the added benefit of being hot-swappable.

Image: Panasonic

The Toughbook 55 supports up to 2TB of SSD storage (2x 1 TB M.2 2280, configurable as RAID-1 volume) and 64 GB RAM. It is the first Toughbook to include a color-selectable backlit keyboard, as well as USB Type-C, HDMI 2.0, and Bluetooth 5.0. Panasonic calls it “the thinnest and lightest laptop in its class,” though the number of ruggedized systems out there—the Toughbook 55 carries an IP53 certification—is not particularly high.

Users of previous-generation Toughbook 54 models can re-use their desktop and vehicle docks, and the new model is also compatible with AC adapters from the Toughbook 54 and 31 models.

The Toughbook 55 is available starting Monday, starting at $2,099, and comes with a three-year warranty. Panasonic notes that “all overnight freights are paid both ways by Panasonic for all in-warranty repairs,” and touts an average turnaround time of 48 hours for repairs.

Panasonic Toughbook 55 specifications

  • CPU: Intel Core i5-8365U 1.6GHz vPro (Turbo Boost up to 4.1GHz), Intel Core i7 (optional)

  • Display: 14.0″ HD (112 PPI); opt. FHD touch 1000 nit (157 PPI); special order FHD non-touch 1000 nit (157 PPI)

  • GPU: Intel UHD 620; Optional AMD Radeon Pro WX 4150

  • RAM: 8-64 GB DDR4 user-upgradeable

  • Primary SSD: 256 GB – 1 TB SSD

  • Secondary SSD: 256 GB – 1 TB SSD

  • Optical Drive: Optional (DVD or Blu-ray)

  • Webcam & Microphone: 1080p IR with privacy cover, x4 (tetra-array microphone)

  • Speaker: Stereo, up to 92 dB

  • Ports: USB Type-A x2 (3.1 Gen 1), optional 3rd USB 3.1 Gen 1, USB Type-C x1 (3.1 Gen 1) with optional PD, HDMI 2.0 x1, VGA optional, RS-232 optional, Gigabit Ethernet x1 (optional 2nd)

  • Networking: Intel Wireless-AC 9560 (up to 1.7 Gbps), Bluetooth 5.0 (Class 1), 4G LTE (EM7511 Band 14), Optional GPS (u-blox M8N)

  • Size: 10.7″ x 13.6″ x 1.3″, 4.6 lbs (non-touch model).

Image: Panasonic