Review: Panasonic Toughpad FZ-E1

As mobile devices become more powerful and more hand-friendly, serious questions have begun to be raised about how they can stand up to rigorous everyday use.

Apple’s iPhone 6 caused outrage when consumers found out the body could bend when put under pressure, but what happens if you need a hardy device for outdoor industrial work?

Panasonic thinks it has the answer, so TechWeekEurope put its Toughpad FZ-E1 device to the test to find out.

Under pressure

Described as “the world’s most rugged 5-inch tablet and a whole lot more”, the ToughPad FZ-E1 is Panasonic’s toughest one-handed device.

What does this mean exactly? Well, Panasonic says it can survive a ten foot drop onto solid concrete, as well as dealing with being underwater for up to thirty minutes. It can also cope with extreme temperatures, thanks to a built-in heater which allows it to operate in temperatures as low as -20°C, and as high as +60°C.

We tested this out for ourselves in and around the office, and it’s safe to say the FZ-E1 dealt with frequent drops, bangs and ‘accidental’ falls at TechWeekEurope towers with aplomb.

Power up

So what’s inside such a tough device? Running Windows Embedded 8.1 Handheld, the FZ-E1 is powered by a surprisingly powerful Qualcomm MSM8974AB quad-core processor clocked at 2.3 GHz, alongside 2 GB RAM and 32GB flash storage.

The 5in HD screen is bright and colourful thanks to its 1280 x 720 resolution, and is fully readable in all levels of light due to a daylight-readable display. The screen is fully responsive, too, and is able to be operated even when wearing gloves thanks to its 10-point capacitive multi-touch with glove touch mode.

There’s also support for 4G LTE networks, built-in NFC capability, and one micro-USB and USB 2.0 port.

Taking care of business

So what else makes it an ideal workplace device? Well, the basic model FZ-E1 weighs just 426g, meaning that it’s light enough to be carried around outside, and with measurements of 165 x 87 x 31mm, it doesn’t take up too much space either, although obviously it’ll feel a bit different from your iPhone.

There’s also the option to add in an integrated 1D/2D Barcode reader, which will prove useful for industries that need to monitor and track cargo.  If taking pictures is more your thing, there’s a surprisingly good 8MP rear camera equipped with a powerful flash, as well as a 1.3MP front camera, which could prove useful out in the field.

The FZ-E1 also packs in some powerful speakers, which could prove to be a literal lifesaver in cases of bad weather or other situations for the emergency services. To ensure your data stays safe and secure, there’s also enterprise level security included, thanks to FIPS140-2 level-1 compliant and built-in ARM TrustZone systems.

There’s also an impressive 14 hour battery life thanks to the 6200mAh Li-Ion battery, which can be switched out using the so-called ‘hot swap’ mode, and can be charged up to 50 percent capacity in just one hour.

So overall, it’s plain to see that this is a hardy device which could make all the difference in a variety of industrial situations. Whilst not ever likely to win any prizes for beauty, specifications or power, the FZ-E1 is still a great device for those that need it.

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Mike Moore

Michael Moore joined TechWeek Europe in January 2014 as a trainee before graduating to Reporter later that year. He covers a wide range of topics, including but not limited to mobile devices, wearable tech, the Internet of Things, and financial technology.

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