MUNICH: JAPANESE ELECTRONICS FIRM Panasonic unveiled a rugged 10in Windows 8 tablet today, the Toughpad FZ-G1, along with a rugged 7in Android tablet, the Toughpad B1.
Aimed at workers in the field, Panasonic's Windows 8 tablet is touted as world's thinnest and lightest device of its kind, weighing 1.1kg. It has a waterproof 10.1in IPS capacitive multi-touch display and is powered by an Intel third generation Core i5 processor with a choice of 4GB or 8GB of RAM, and has options of 128GB or 256GB of SSD storage.
Speaking at a theatrical press event held in Munich, Germany today, Panasonic's managing director of product solutions Hiroaki Sakamoto said, "Our mission is to improve the working lives of everyone through engineering."
"Being our first family of tablets designed for businesses, we've developed these high quality products [that function] under tough environments for Windows 8 due to its increase in popularity."
With two ladies in military style outfits showing the tablet on the conference floor, Panasonic took the opportunity to say that the FZ-G1 is different than your average consumer tablet in the way that it's built for harsh environments.
Shock resistant so it's protected against hard knocks, the Toughpad FZ-G1 is also shielded from dirt, dust, rain and temperatures from -20 degrees to 60 degrees Celsius, all while providing eight hours of battery life.
"Users want to boot up and run their tablets right after it has been stored in environments such as a car that's heated up in the sun, for example," added Panasonic head of marketing and product solutions Jan Kampfer. "Media tablets just switch off when they get too hot, but this won't happen with the FZ-G1 for sure."
This is due to a built-in water and dust resistant high performance fan, which helps cool the device no matter what the environment, according to Panasonic.
Also standard are dual-band 802.11a/b/g/n WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0 and a smart card reader along with front and the rear-facing cameras that both have 3MP resolution. The rear-facing camera also features a high quality LED flash for scanning documents, a feature that is important for enterprise users.
For added connectivity, the Toughpad FZ-G1 comes with a choice of 3G or 4G connectivity and has a true serial port. On the left hand side, there's a hatch that acts as a stowaway niche for a digitizer stylus pen, and on the right is an I/O box with full-size USB 3.0 and HDMI ports and an audio jack, also under a protective door.
Depending on whether users are looking for what Panasonic calls "freedom or flexibility", the Toughpad FZ-G1 comes with the option of a replaceable extended battery pack, making it easier to exchange spares. The extended pack also offers 17 hours of battery life as opposed to the smaller edition's eight hours.
Bundled with the Toughpad FZ-G1 is an optional cradle dock for easier charging and 360-degree rotatable hand strap.
Prices for the Toughpad FZ-G1 are yet to be announced by Panasonic, but the firm argued that consumer tablets like the iPad don't offer the same protection, with such tablets costing an estimated 50 to 100 percent of the purchase price to fix.
"We believe we can reduce those costs and give benefits for the users," Hiroaki Sakamoto said. "Our aim in this launch is to increase our product share to 25 to 50 percent by 2015 and want to increase the rugged tablet market itself and be the number one rugged tablet provider."
The Toughpad FZ-G1 will be available worldwide from the end of February.
Panasonic also added an Android powered Toughpad device to its family of rugged tablet devices, the Toughpad JT-B1.
Powered by an ARM 1.5 Ghz CPU with 1GB of RAM, the Toughpad JT-B1 features a 13MP camera on the rear as well as NFC connectivity.
The Toughpad JT-B1 boasts the same standard of ruggedness as the Toughpad FZ-G1, weighs 544g, and has an eight hour battery life with the same interchangeable battery as the Toughpad FZ-G1.
"We bring you the Toughpad B1 because we suspect the market will be made up of 50 percent iOS devices, 50 percent Android and Windows 8," Kampfer said.
"A 7in sized tablet is good in terms of mobility, for example people want to carry it in one hand."
Panasonic said programmable physical buttons are used on both of its new tablets for more efficient and reliable use of the interface.
As with the Toughpad FZ-G1, Panasonic has yet to release any pricing details for the Toughpad B1, but said it will be available wordwide from end of February.
Check back for a look at Panasonic's new Toughpad tablets in our hands-on video. µ
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