Panasonic invited us to preview the next iteration of its Toughpad hardware, the FZ-M1 mk2, ahead of the Retail Business Technology Expo in London.
This is the mk2 version of the Toughpad, the Windows 10-toting 7in tablet that's as tough as old boots. Its rugged build quality positions it as a device that caters to the needs of enterprises, and this is exactly where Panasonic is positioning it.
It's mobile yet durable at 540g and 18mm thick. You could easily throw it in an oversized pocket or overalls, for instance.
Flying in the face of our natural instincts, we were goaded into throwing the tablet onto the wooden floor. As you'd expect from its toughened exterior, not a scratch, dent or crack was observed.
The screen is slightly recessed owing to being surrounded by two bezels. The first is a magnesium alloy chassis that houses the webcam, 8MP camera, and the various status indicators. The second is a matte black enclosure that acts as a protective sheath and houses the power and volume buttons.
The standard and Value Toughpads adhere to the following standards:
- Water resistance: IEC529 (JIS C0920) IPX54
- Dust resistance: IEC529 (JIS C0920) IP6X4
- Gravity drop resistance: 150cm
The business expansion module allows future customisation options that will be useful everywhere from the stock room to the shop floor.
The Toughpad range usually has an Arctic white design, but the 2016 models are also offered in a black surround that is more 'industrial' and will make grubby marks less visible.
The Toughpad uses an Intel Core m5-6Y57 (Skylake) processor with a 4MB cache, offering speeds from 1.1GHz to 2.8GHz. It was as quiet as a mouse thanks to the passive cooling technology.
A Value version of the Toughpad was also on show, incorporating an Intel Atom x5-Z8550 processor, 2MB cache and slower clock speeds of 1.44GHz to 2.4GHz.
There's WiFi (Intel Dual Band Wireless AC 8260), Bluetooth 4.0 and support for a dedicated GPS or 4G LTE Multi Carrier Mobile Broadband service.
The Toughpad has a claimed eight-hour battery life, and allows hot-swapping on the fly. Useful when the threat of an exhausted battery looms.
The 7in WXGA (1200x800) display has impressive viewing angles which could well benefit those working in retail under challenging lighting conditions.
The lighting during the preview event was adequate at best and the FZ-M1 MK2's display offered sharp visuals and vibrant colours. You'll be able to use a gloved hand too, owing to the capacitive 10-finger multi-touchscreen.
We were also given the opportunity to put the optional 3D Intel RealSense camera through its paces. This was arguably the most exciting part of the launch, and is a bit like the technology behind Microsoft's Kinect shrunk down to Toughpad-like proportions.
The camera has three lenses: a conventional, infrared and infrared laser projector. These lenses work together to allow the device to infer depth by detecting infrared light that has bounced back from the objects in front of it.
Such technology has far-reaching potential in a sales situation. Mapping, design and simulation applications could show customers how items, such as furniture, could look in their homes. The camera could be used in the logistics and warehousing side of retail for the instant measurement of boxes for shipping, through to the assessment of warehouse space and capacity.
Both versions run Windows 10 Pro as standard, and come with an embedded Trusted Platform Module, Computrace BIOS-level theft protection and Intel's vPro and Anti-Theft technology.
At £1,216, the chunky Toughpad FZ-M1 mk2 retails at the pricier end of the tablet market. The Value model will cost £737 when it arrives towards the end of March.
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