Panasonic Toughpad FZ-M1 rugged tablet (preview)

Panasonic's Toughpad FZ-M1 offers rugged features and fast performance in a 7in form factor

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Panasonic Toughpad FZ-M1
  • Panasonic Toughpad FZ-M1
  • Panasonic Toughpad FZ-M1
  • Panasonic Toughpad FZ-M1
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Pros

  • Fanless design
  • Hot-swappable battery option
  • Lots of optional connectivity features

Cons

  • Cost will be a barrier for some
  • Size could be an issue

Bottom Line

Panasonic's latest Toughbook, the FZ-M1 has a fanless design that allows for the body to be sealed. This makes it dustproof and water resistant. It's a unit that can also withstand 1.5m drops. Importantly, it's based on a Core i5 CPU and Windows 8.1, making it suitable for running everyday applications.

Would you buy this?

Panasonic’s 7in Toughpad FZ-M1 is a rugged tablet for enterprise users that runs Windows 8.1. It’s designed for use in conditions that are more rough-and-tumble than the humble office. Mainly, it suits environments such as warehouses, construction sites, hospitals, and any other similar locations where liquids, particles, and drops can affect consumer-grade tablets that are unprotected.

Fanless fourth-gen Core

The Toughpad FZ-M1 makes use of a fourth generation Intel Core i5 CPU that consumes only 4.5W of power, though it will also be available with a Celeron processor for tasks that don’t require too much computing power. It can be obtained with either 4GB of RAM or 8GB of RAM.

With the Core i5 CPU, the FZ-M1 runs cool enough to not require a fan. This makes it a silent operator, but, most importantly, it means there are no vents through which particles need to be filtered. This gives the Toughpad FZ-M1 a sealed body, with the only penetration points being the connecting ports for power, peripherals and external security devices (such as a Smart Card). These are all covered with sealed flaps that allow the tablet to withstand splashes of water and airborne particles.

Rugged features

However, it can’t be submersed in water and guaranteed to survive. The Toughpad’s Ingress Protection Rating is IP65, which means it is dust-tight, and can withstand water projected on it for up to 15min. Furthermore, Panasonic claims the unit can survive drops from 1.5m onto hard surfaces, and that it’s not affected by common disinfection solutions, which makes it suitable for hospitals. The use of a solid state drive for storage (128GB or 256GB options), as well as the lack of fans, means there are no moving parts on the inside that can be otherwise damaged from shocks and everyday bumps.

For use in outdoor environments, Panasonic has equipped the Toughpad FZ-M1 with a 7in screen that has a brightness rating of 500 nits, and it’s not a reflective screen. It can support up to 10 simultaneous touch inputs. There is an optional capacitive stylus that can be used for duties such as capturing signatures. Panasonic claims that the screen can also be used even while the operator is wearing gloves. Temperature shock is also something that the FZ-M1 can withstand, with Panasonic claiming it can go from freezing or overly hot temperatures to less severe conditions without any experiencing any problems.

Connections and options

The Toughpad FZ-M1 has a stated weight of 540g, and a thickness of 18mm in its standard configuration, though this can be thicker if a strap or harness is attached. The type of connectivity that is provided can vary depending on a customer’s needs, with options available for things such as Gigabit Ethernet, a serial port, a Smart Card slot, a GPS module, NFC, and even a barcode reader, RFID, or magnetic stripe reader.

As for standard built-ins, there is a USB 3.0 port, a microSDXC slot for expanding storage, dual-band Wi-Fi up to 802.11ac, and Bluetooth 4.0. A docking connector is present for making use of the tablet back in the office. You can also get a 4G LTE mobile broadband module embedded in the tablet if Internet connectivity is required where Wi-Fi isn’t available.

Other features of the Toughpad FZ-M1 include a front-facing camera with a 720p resolution, and a rear camera with a 5-megapixel sensor and LED light. The chipset features Intel’s vPro technology, Intel’s Anti-Theft is also available, and data encryption can be enabled.

Battery life

Battery life is stated as being up to eight hours (Panasonic tested this with MobileMark 2007), and it’s a user-replaceable battery. Not only that, there is an optional bridge for the battery that can allow for the battery to be hot-swapped without interrupting a user’s work, and a high capacity battery is also available. A quick-charge feature is said to allow the standard battery to get up to full capacity in 2.5 hours.

Availability

The Panasonic Toughpad FZ-M1 will be available in April through Panasonic’s distributors and resellers, with a starting price from $2699.

Common usage scenarios for the Toughpad FZ-M1:

• Customer service
• Inventory management
• Asset tracking
• Maintenance work (viewing diagrams, entering field data)
• Electronic forms
• Route delivery
• eCitations
• Electronic medical records
• Inspections
• Mobile point-of-sales
• Geographic information systems

Images

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