Tough stuff with a price to matchFebruary 28 - 9am
While the likes of HP, Samsung, Acer and who-knows-how-many Chinese no-name-branders punch out tablet after tablet in a race to the bottom, price-wise, Panasonic has introduced a couple of devices with a distinct difference. They’re all ruggeded-up, see.
After showing us some pre-production models last year, local distributor Comworth’s stock of the real deal has arrived. We took a look and came away impressed.
There’s an Android device, which Comworth had up against the wall, dousing with water (and two of which were used as paddles in a game of swingball), as well as a complete Windows 8, Intel Core i5 computer crammed into a tablet format.
The latter device (FZ-G1 Toughpad) is probably most impressive. It weighs in at 1.15kg, packs a standard 2.5 inch SSD and 4GB RAM (in a single slot).
It’s thicker (about 2cm) and heavier than your standard 10-inch tablet, on account of its ‘ruggedising’ and the fact that it is a complete Wintel computer; but it is undeniably a tablet.
Apart from cramming a complete computer into a tab, Darryn Smith, Comworth product manager, says the clever stuff in this gadget includes mechanical technology. For example, the magnesium case which serves as an ‘all round’ heatsink. “A Core i5 means heat; sealing the internals to make it rugged means containing that heat,” he points out.
While the case serves as a passive sink, there is – quite remarkably – active cooling, too. Apparently, the fan on this thing is a bit like a bilge pump: it can be submerged, it can be shoved into sand, or it can gobble on a combination of the two and still keep going.
Apparently the battery will last for around 8 hours (yes, we’re also sceptical; just the same day we saw Pat Devlin from WatchGuard, who has procured for himself a Surface Pro; while loving the device, he described the i5′s suck on the battery as ‘terrible’); it is designed for swapping-out, too, so if you’re up a mountain somewhere, keeping the thing going should be a snip. If you have a charged spare handy, naturally.
Smith reckons that with the Windows device, getting tablets into the workforce is made a lot easier, since extending existing applications to the Wintel environment isn’t quite the same sort of mission associated with custom dev for Android or iDevices.
There is, of course, a catch. These are not gadgets built for everyman, but specialised, niche machines; don’t expect them to be cheap. Indeed, pricing for the Android Toughpad is in the region of $2000 a pop, while the Windows 8 jobbie will set you back closer to the $4000 mark.