Panasonic Toughpad Windows 8 review
The 10.1in Panasonic Toughpad FZ-G1 aims to give you all the power of a full Windows 8 PC in a rugged portable tablet, making it suitable for businesses ranging from logistics firms to manufacturing plants and workshops.
The tablet has an Intel Core i5-3437U vPro mobile processor running at 1.9GHz, with a 2.9GHz Turbo Boost speed. The standard model, due out in March and set to be priced at around £2,000, comes with 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD, but is also available with a 256GB SSD and 8GB of memory. The battery takes up almost half the tablet and provides battery life of up to eight hours. Unlike most tablets, the battery is easily replaceable and a larger model with a quoted life of up 17 hours is available for those who need extended operation.
The digitizer pen sits in a slot on the side of the tablet
Panasonic describes the Toughpad's display as the "best high resolution outdoor display on the market". The screen has a "reflection ratio" of 4% and a massive 800cd/m2 brightness rating, so should be well suited for use in bright sunlight as it is indoors. The 16:10 1,920 x 1,200 resolution display looks great and works well with Windows 8's Start Screen apps, but small icons make Windows 8's Desktop view rather tricky to control with your fingers. However, the tablet has a touchscreen pen in a recess on the rear for more fine control. As it's an Intel-based tablet which runs the full version of Windows 8 rather than the tablet-specific RT edition, you'll be able to run any Windows 8 applications, rather than just the ones from the Microsoft Store.
As well as the tablet's standard ports - a USB3 port and an HDMI output, plus headset jack and DC power connector - there's also a configurable port which you can specify to contain a USB2, Gigabit Ethernet, microSD or serial port or even a high resolution GPS unit depending on your requirements. Businesses and engineers will welcome the legacy serial support, while dedicated GPS provides accurate geolocation data that works separately from the tablet's optional 3G or 4G module.
Other optional components include dual external antenna connectors which can be used to connect, for example, a tablet mounted in a delivery vehicle to an aerial on the outside to enhance its 3G or GPS reception. You can also add a smart card reader to provide secure login support, while barcode scanners, an absolute necessity within the retail and logistics sectors, are also available as an optional extra, as is a 3-megapixel rear camera for users who need to be able to visually document items.
The Toughpad is built to survive driving rain. And reckless abuse of water pitchers
The Toughbook and Toughpad ranges are all about rugged design and, despite the apparent fragility of tablets as a design, the G1 is nothing if not hardy. It has IP65 rated dust and water protection, so you can drop it in sand or use it in the driving rain, and is rated drop and shock proof at heights of up to 120cm, with a magnesium casing and rubber bumpers at the corners.
The part of a tablet most likely to break is the screen, so Panasonic has taken steps to avoid this. In addition to using toughened materials in the display's construction, the tablet is weighted and designed with a slightly recessed display, so when dropped, it'll always land on its rubber corner guards or frame. Finally, the FZ-G1 Toughpad is designed to operate at temperatures of -20 to +60 degrees centigrade, making it proof against being left in hot or cold cars, as well as being usable in extreme outdoor or industrial environments. Despite this heavy duty construction, the tablet weighs a relatively light 1.1kg and measures just under an inch thick.
The tablet's digitiser pen makes it easy to capture signatures, draw diagrams and use handwriting recognition software. This makes the tablet useful for capturing signatures on the move. As the tablet is a standard Windows 8 PC, you can also easily connect a keyboard and mouse either via USB or Bluetooth.
As well as being one of the hardiest tablets around, the FZ-G1’s specification means that it’s also one of the most powerful, a combination that’s likely to appeal to a wide cross-section of business buyers, from small construction firms to large-scale manufacturing operations.