The Toughpad is a worthy replacement for a rugged PDA, but the base unit has few I/O ports and any industrial peripherals are optional extras. Nevertheless, it packs a decent amount of processing power into a surprisingly light device with reasonable battery life for its size.
Fully rugged, Core i5 processor with vPro, removable battery pack
Few I/O ports, industrial peripherals extra, stylus extra
£1,183 (base unit)
Model: Toughpad FZ-M1
Display: 7in WXGA (1280x800) sunlight-viewable IPS LCD with 10-finger multi-touch
Processor: Intel dual-core 1.6GHz Core i5-4302Y with vPro
RAM: 4GB (max 8GB)
Storage: 128GB SSD (256GB optional)
Wireless connections: 802.11ac WiFi, Bluetooth, Sierra Wireless EM7305 LTE/HSPA+ mobile broadband
Ports: USB 3.0, headset jack, expansion connector, microSD memory card slot
Camera: 2MP front, 5MP rear
Battery: Two-cell 22Whr lithium-ion (four-cell optional)
Panasonic's Toughpad FZ-M1 is the latest in the firm's line of rugged devices aimed at workers out in the field. With a 7in screen and weighing just 540g, the slate-mode tablet is highly portable, without compromising too much on performance. However, I/O is minimal on the device as standard, with many features delivered via optional add-ons.
Announced at the start of the year and available now, the Toughpad FZ-M1 might be viewed as just another mini tablet among the many announced following the release of Windows 8.1 last autumn, albeit one in a fully rugged casing, but Panasonic is instead pitching the device as a successor to the rugged PDAs operated in various industry sectors.
When viewed in this light, the Toughpad is ironically not much more costly than many of those devices, although its £1,183 price is much higher than many consumer tablets with a comparable screen size. It does, however, offer much greater performance and full Windows app compatibility than the devices it is intended to replace.
Panasonic also has an eye on public-sector and even military markets with the Toughpad FZ-M1, and so has teamed up with security firm Becrypt to offer its Disk Protect technology to encrypt data and password protect the device, and this was pre-loaded on our review unit.
As you might expect from a fully rugged device, the Toughpad FZ-M1 is not exactly thin or pleasing to the eye, at least at first glance. In fact, it is about twice as thick as a consumer tablet such as Toshiba's Encore, although at 540g, it does not weigh much more.
The first thing you tend to notice about the Toughpad is the tough protective elastomer band enclosing the sides and corners of the device, and the fact that the 7in display looks a little small for the size of the device itself. However, you soon get used to the look of the device.
The Toughpad is in fact shock resistant under MIL-STD-810G for heights up to 150cm (about five feet), and is also certified to the IP65 rating against water and dust ingress. This is aided by the fact the system is a fanless design. We didn't deliberately test out its rugged credentials, but the Toughpad did accidentally slide off our desk onto the floor at one stage, without the slightest ill effect.
Next: Design continued