From major disasters like torrential rain and merciless sandstorms to the more mundane threats of drops, spills, bumps, and bashes, there are any number of ways to ruin a PC when you need it the most. Panasonic, makers of the Toughbook, are solving this problem in the tablet space as well, with the Panasonic Toughpad FZ-G1, a fully-rugged Windows tablet. The Toughpad FZ-G1 isn’t really made for consumers, and you can only purchase it through Panasonic’s reseller channel, but if you’re on a busy warehouse floor, in an ambulance or police car, or serving in Kabul, you need a versatile PC that can both run with the best and survive the worst. For doing all this and more, the Panasonic ToughPad FZ-G1 is our Editors’ Choice for rugged tablets.
The Toughpad FZ-G1 is a fully rugged Windows tablet; think something like the Microsoft Surface Pro or the Kupa UltraNote X15 Ultra, but with the same sort of heavily armored design seen on a rugged notebook, like the Dell Latitude E6420 XFR. The resulting design for the Toughpad FZ-G1 takes all of that nigh-invincible ruggedness and applies it to the slim tablet form-factor. Measuring 0.8 by 10.6 by 7.4 inches (HWD), the narrow dimensions of a Windows tablet get beefed up with a magnesium alloy chassis and case, chunky elastomer bumpers at each corner, stout metal port covers that fend off dirt and moisture, and a dozen or so unique construction elements inside and out that harden the tablet against shock, drop, spray, heat, cold, and all around abuse.
Rated for full ingress protection (IP-65) and durability (MIL-ST-810G), the Toughbook FZ-G1 is so tough Panasonic actually recommends 10 different testing scenarios that would have me hyperventilating were they performed on any other tablet or laptop. Some are mild, like checking out screen visibility in bright sunlight, but others are pretty intense for delicate electronics, like drop tests from a four foot height, processor testing after 30 minutes in a small steam-filled bathroom, spraying down the tablet with a garden hose, or running a video test while baking the tablet in an oven at 120 degrees (Panasonic also recommends wearing oven mitts to handle the tablet when it comes out of the oven). All told, the Toughpad FZ-G1 is rated to operate in spite of shock and vibration, extremes in temperature, and inclement weather.
The Toughpad FZ-G1 features a 10.1-inch touch display with 1,600-by-1,200 resolution, adjustable brightness up to 800 nits (for full readability in glaring sunlight) down to 2 nits (for use in dark environments or covert operations). The display features both capacitive touch for use with fingers and a Wacom digitizer, for use with an included stylus. There’s also storage and tethering for the stylus built into the tablet chassis, so you’ll always have a place to stow it, and it won’t get lost when a situation gets hairy. On the front of the tablet, you’ll also find seven buttons (Power, Screen Rotation, Windows button, Volume Up/Down, and two User-Definable buttons). By using physical buttons instead of capacitive sensors, these various commands can be easily accessed, with tactile feedback, even while wearing gloves.
Because the Toughpad FZ-G1 is made for use in far flung places and high-impact environs like battlefields in Afghanistan, factory floors, healthcare facilities, and on the go with first responders. As such, there’s a need for not only rugged durability, but also a wide range of connectivity for networking and specialized peripherals.
Safely ensconced behind a locking metal port cover you’ll find an HDMI out port, a single USB 3.0 port, and a headset jack. The protective port cover is made of the same magnesium as the tablet chassis, with a rubberized seal keeping out all dust, grit, and moisture. On the bottom of the tablet is a 24-pin docking connection, letting you easily dock the tablet with a desktop or in-vehicle cradle. There are also not one, but two high-gain antenna pass-thru connectors, for use with external and vehicle mounted antennas. The tablet also comes equipped with front and rear cameras. The front-facing camera offers 720p video capture (with mic) for use with Skype or any similar video conferencing tool. On the back, for snapping photos and shooting video in the field, there’s a rear-facing 3 megapixel camera, complete with an LED light for shooting in dim environments, and an optional barcode reader for scanning inventory.
Our review unit had a covered slot on the top of the tablet, but that same slot can be configured with a second USB 2.0 port, a microSD card reader, a LAN connection, a 9-pin serial port (for use with older hardware), or a dedicated GPS module. There is also an optional accessory hand strap (sold separately) that makes one handed carrying more stable and offers easy rotation between horizontal and portrait modes without having to reconfigure the strap.
Internally, the Toughpad FZ-G1 is equipped with Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6235 wireless for 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth 4.0 + EDR for use with headsets, wireless keyboards, and an array of other wireless devices. If you need further wireless connectivity, the ToughPad Fz-G1 is also available with optional 3G or 4G WAN.
On the back of the tablet, you’ll find two access panels. One provides access to the user swappable battery, which lets you switch from one battery to another with minimal downtime. The other provides access to the 128GB solid-state drive, letting you remove the drive so that the tablet can be serviced without giving the drive to someone who may not be cleared or vetted to see the data on it.
The 128GB SSD comes with almost nothing preinstalled, except for Windows 8 Pro (64-bit), along with a Dashboard app, which lets you calibrate different inputs and program the two user-defined buttons, and a Panasonic Camera App. Beyond that, our review unit was perfectly plain, though Panasonic does offer plenty of security and data protection, with Trusted Platform Module (TPM) v.1.2 built in, Computrace for BIOS-level theft protection, and Intel Anti-Theft Technology coming standard. It also features a half dozen authentication protocols (LEAP, WPA, 802.1x, EAP-TLS, EAP-FAST, PEAP) and other security protocols (CKIP, TKIP, 128-bit and 64-bit WEP, Hardware AES). As one final bit of protection, Panasonic covers the ToughPad FZ-G1 with a three-year warranty.
The Toughpad FZ-G1 is outfitted with an Intel Core i5-3437U, a third-generation 1.9GHz processor paired with 2GB of RAM. It’s a tested and proven CPU, and it’s miles ahead of the Intel Atom processors found in the likes of the Dell Latitude 10 Enhanced Security or the handheld Panasonic Toughbook U1 Ultra (CF-U1). In our PCMark 7 and Cinebench tests it offered performance–4,472 points in PCMark 7 and 2.4 points on Cinebench–on par with top Windows tablets like the Editors’ Choice Microsoft Surface Pro and the Kupa UltraNote X15 Ultra. Those scores also put it well ahead of rugged competitor Xplore Wildcat 5 M2, which completed those same tests with 1,704 points (PCMark 7) and 1.34 points (Cinebench).
That processing power also translates into speedy performance, even in more demanding tasks, like our multimedia tests. The Toughpad FZ-G1 completed Handbrake in 1 minute 20 seconds, and Photoshop in 5 minutes 44 seconds. By comparison, the Microsoft Surface Pro finished those same tests in 1:28 (Handbrake) and 6:11 (Photoshop), and way out in front of the Xplore Wildcat 5 M2 (2:52 Handbrake, 12:47 Photoshop).
There’s not really enough room in the tablet for a discrete graphics processor, so the Toughpad FZ-G1 relies on Intel integrated graphics solution. While it’s not up to heavy 3D rendering (AutoCAD is out of the question), it did lead the competition in 3DMark 11, scoring 1,175 points (Entry) and 212 (Extreme).
While the rugged Toughpad FZ-G1 is made to endure all sorts of adverse conditions, the impressive battery life adds another sort of endurance to the tablet. In our battery rundown test the Toughpad FZ-G1 lasted 6 hours 6 minutes, outlasting other Intel Core CPU-equipped tablets and besting the Xplore Wildcat 5 M2 by more than two and a half hours. The only devices that offer longer life are those that opt for Atom processors, sacrificing processing power and performance in exchange for energy efficiency.
With performance that rivals the top consumer and business tablets, and a rugged design that is surprisingly slim while still shrugging off the elements, the Panasonic Toughpad FZ-G1 is tough indeed. The combination of powerful performance, ease of maintenance, broad usability and unstoppable ruggedness puts this rugged tablet at the top of the category, making the Panasonic Toughpad FZ-G1 our Editors’ Choice for rugged Windows tablets.
|Processor Name||Intel Core i5-3437U|
|Operating System||Microsoft Windows 8 Professional|
|Graphics Card||Intel HD Graphics 4000, Intel HD Graphics 4000|
|RAM||4 GB, 4 GB|
|Processor Speed||1.9 GHz|
|Primary Optical Drive||External|
|Screen Size||10.1 inches|
|Storage Capacity (as Tested)||128 GB|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc