Panasonic made headlines recently when it showed off a prototype 20-inch tablet with ultra-high-def 4k resolution. The ToughPad FZ-G1 is a bit more down to earth, but will probably be of more practical use for its target audience – people who work outdoors in construction, maintenance or engineering. See: The top 10 best tablets: What's the best tablet you can buy in 2013?
As the ToughPad name implies, the FZ-G1 is a rugged tablet designed for outdoor use. This Windows 8 device has a 10.1-inch screen, but measures 19mm thick and weighs 1.1kg – almost twice the size and weight of a 10-inch iPad. That’s because the screen is surrounded by a 0.75-inch bevel of sturdy plastic and further reinforced by a layer of tough rubber that runs right around the edges. See also: The best Windows 8 tablets you can buy in 2013
There are added protective covers for the ethernet, USB 3 and other ports located around the edges of the device.
Panasonic states that the FZ-G1 is certified water- and dust-resistant to IP-X5 standard and that it can survive being dropped from a height of up to 1.2m. We certainly wouldn’t want to argue with any of those claims, as the FZ-G1 definitely feels sturdy enough to survive some serious manhandling.
Inside that armour is a fairly conventional Windows 8 tablet. The FZ-G1 is currently only available in a single configuration with a third-generation (Ivy Bridge ) dual-core Intel Core i5. This processor runs at 1.9GHz, and is joined by 4GB memory and 128GB solid-state drive.
You can’t buy it direct from Panasonic, but it can be found for around £1800 through various online retailers, with the only variation being a 3G option that adds another £100 to the price.
The FZ-G1 managed a very respectable score of 4622 points when running the PCMark 7 benchtest, so it’s more than capable of handling data input in Excel or other apps that you may use at work. A cold boot took 20 seconds, and the FZ-G1 woke from sleep in three seconds, so there’s little time wasted when you need to get to work.
It responds quickly to the touch-screen controls and – safely tucked into a slot on the back of the unit – there’s also a stylus provided to control the classic Windows desktop fiddly elements.
Graphics performance is largley irrelevant on a specialized device such as this, and the integrated HD 4000 graphics could barely reach 10fps when we tried our graphics benchmark test, Stalker at 1280 x 720 and Medium detail, so any lunchtime gaming will be restricted to Angry Birds and other 2D fare.
Visibility is important for an outdoor device such as this, so Panasonic has wisely opted for an IPS panel with anti-glare coating. It’s a high resolution for the 10.1-inch size too, at 1920 x 1080 pixels. The display produced a very bright, sharp image, with good all-round viewing angles so that you can hold it up and show it to colleagues with no difficulty.
The ToughPad FZ-G1 also has front (1.3Mp) and rear (3Mp) cameras, so you can take pictures or do a spot of on-site video-conferencing if you have a decent internet connection.
Battery life was good too. We got 390 minutes – that’s 6.5 hours – of streaming video using the built-in Wi-Fi, so light web browsing or data entry that doesn’t require Internet access should allow you to get close to the claimed eight hours of battery life from the FZ-G1.
Our only minor concern is the sizeable air-vents on both the base and the top edge of the unit. These emit a quite loud whirring sound on initial start-up and the fans continue to make a steady, low humming noise even when the device is idle. We’ve seen more conventional laptops and tablets with very similar specifications that run cool and silent so we’re not quite sure why the FZ-G1 requires such an elaborate cooling system.