Panasonic Toughbook Android tablet pictures and hands-on

Panasonic is expanding the Toughbook range to include a 10.1-inch Android tablet and we managed to spend some time with the new device at the launch at DSEi in London.

The Panasonic Toughbook was labelled as FZ-A1 on the front, something that wasn’t marked on the publicity shots we saw previously. This is an engineering sample, with the Panasonic agent on the stand telling us that the tablet was still being hand built, so we can’t judge final quality from what we see here.

However, it does feel solid in the hand. It’s chunky, but you’d expect it to be so, with enlarged rubberised corners. We didn’t have a set of scales or a measure to bring you the specs - Panasonic are still keeping schtum about the exact details.

However, we’d guess it is about 15mm thick or so, but it does feel nice and secure in the hand. The plastics used to make up the bezel and the back have a matte and slightly tactile feel to them, meaning good grip, something that will be important for the target market of this device.

The display offers you 10.1-inches of capacitive screen coated in an anti-reflective layer. It did find itself getting smeary from our greasy fingertips, but it is bright, designed to remain visible outdoors. It offers up a resolution of 1024 x 768.

Adding to the input options, there is a magnetic capacitive pen that clips into the rear or the tough tablet, so you’ll be able to write or annotate on the display, with a single button for clicking. We gave it a try and it worked well enough, but we’re guessing that those who purchase the tablet in bulk will have specific applications that use the pen in mind.

The control buttons across the front offer the standard menu, back and home, along with a customisable USER button which can (in the final version) be set to launch any application you want. The power button is also on the front, which is more useful than around the side or back if you are mounting the tablet in a vehicle, for example.

Front and rear cameras are in place, with an LED flash on the rear. In terms of ports and connectivity, you’ll find a secured hatch which slides away to reveal micro connections - HDMI, USB and SD - along with a standard 3.5mm headphone jack. There is a SIM card slot hiding under another hatch and the DC power input is also covered.

Despite the tablet size the sample we saw was running Gingerbread rather than Honeycomb so the whole thing looked pretty bare. We’re not sure if it will remain like this, or if it will come with the full suite of Google applications. As this isn’t aimed at consumers, it probably won’t be a problem.

On the exterior there are also contacts for a dock connector, with Panasonic saying there will be a run of accessories to support their new Android Toughbook.

We’re still a little light on the tech specs and final pricing, but Panasonic seemed confident that they’d be selling plenty of these to those working out in wild places. 



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