Panasonic Joins Tablet Race With Android Toughpad

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Panasonic has launched ruggedised Android tablet for people for whom an Apple iPad is just too soft

Is the Apple iPad a bit too delicate for your rough hands? Then electronics giant Panasonic hopes its Android-based Toughbook Tablet will be the answer for those people seeking a ruggedised tablet alternative.

Panasonic Computer Products Europe formally unveiled its Toughpad FZ-A1, which it says is the first in a family of professional grade Android-based tablets. The company initially announced its intention to enter the tablet fray back in June this year.

Enterprise Device

However unlike the Apple iPad or the Samsung Galaxy Tab, the 10 inch Toughpad FZ-A1 is firmly aimed at the enterprise market, for those businesses seeking a rugged tablet device. Panasonic also said that it plans to launch a 7” durable tablet in the second half 2012. Both are based on Android 3.2 (Honeycomb).

The arrival of the Toughpad is a logical step for Panasonic, as it expands its Toughbook range of ruggedised laptops to cater for the popular tablet form factor.

It envisages the Toughpad being used by highly mobile outdoor workers in ‘challenging conditions’ such as aviation, construction, field service and public safety. Panasonic said that its Toughpad range of tablets will be supported by an eco-system that includes a wide range of work accessories, such as vehicle mounting and ergonomic hands-free holsters. The company and its partners can also provide professional services such as project management, imaging and kitting.

“Consumers have enjoyed tablet computing for a number of years now with almost no uptake in the workplace due to fundamental design limitations,” said Hiroaki Sakamoto, MD of Panasonic Computer Products Europe. “Now users in business and industry can also benefit from the ease of use and portability of tablet computing. Toughpad takes all the Toughbook experience of rugged computing we have gained since 1996 and focuses it into tablets designed for the workplace.”

Tablet Specs

So what does the Toughpad offer for the blue collar worker? Well for a start the new Toughpad has been designed to take abuse, as it comes with a MIL-STD-810G rating for 120cm drops as well as an IP65 ingress protection rating for resistance to dust and water. The Toughpad FZ-A1 is also rated for use in extreme temperatures (minus 10 °C to 50 °C).

And the device is designed to handle the more stringent security requirements for enterprises, as it comes with a dedicated, tamper-proof, security processor, which frees up the multi-purpose CPU core for other tasks. The security CPU core handles software and data encryption, enhanced VPN, authentication, trusted boot and device management. “This enhanced level of device security means the System on a Chip family of Toughpads will be compliant with FIPS 140-2 level 2,” said Panasonic.

The Toughpad also comes with standard Bluetooth, 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi, GPS and optional 3G mobile broadband offering up to 21Mbps download speeds.

The capacitive multi-touch 10.1 inch XGA screen has a high brightness to aid outdoor working, and comes with an anti-glare coating. The battery is replaceable and Panasonic claims that the Toughpad FZ-A1 offers 10 hour all day working.

It offers 16GB of onboard storage, plus has an optional micro SD slot for another 32GB. It has 1GB SDRAM, and weights 970g (2.13lbs). It also offers a micro USB and micro HDMI port, has features a 5MP on the back, and a 2MP camera in the front.

The Toughpad FZ-A1 will cost  850 euros (£728) plus VAT and will be available in the Spring of 2012. The 3G model will cost 999 euros (£856) plus VAT.

It should be noted that there are other rugged tablet devices on the market. Earlier this year for example, eWEEK Europe took a first look at Motion Computing’s 10.1-inch CL900 tablet, designed to fulfil the needs of engineers, utilities workers, and the aviation and healthcare industries.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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