Panasonic Toughpad FZ-G1 review
The toughest Windows 8 tablet on the planet. But can it justify the near £2000 price?
Panasonic's Tough-branded products are amongst our favourites because their rugged design allows them to withstand more punishment than regular Ultrabooks.
The Toughpad FZ-G1 is the first truly ruggedised Windows 8 tablet, capable of being used in arctic or desert conditions and everything in-between. But is it worth the astronomical price point?
The FZ-G1 is built for extreme environments. The 10.1in screen is recessed inside a thick metal bezel, and the circumference of the whole machine is clad in rubberised plastic, with more material at each corner to protect the device from drops of up to 120cm. It isn't just protected against drops on its rounded corners, either Panasonic has drop-tested the device on more than two dozen points around its surface, so it should be protected from any angle.
Other less obvious touches hint at this machine's outdoor-oriented design. The row of buttons along the bottom edge are waterproof, and the power button needs to be held for two seconds in order to respond. Those buttons can be used as shortcuts, too a Panasonic app inside Windows 8 allows for customisation.
Every port and socket is ensconced behind its own sturdy flap, and the protection extends to the interior. The motherboard and screen are suspended away from the edges of the machine in order to give them a little extra protection, although Panasonic declines to go into detail about the intricacies of the Toughpad's internal construction.
As expect, the Touchpad is rock-solid. There's no give along its edges or on metal rear, and added protection comes from adherence to a couple of US military standards. The IP65 rating combines to protect against water and dust: it'll prevent splashes, sprays, drips and powerful jets from damaging the machine's internals, and it's locked down to ensure that dust doesn't enter in quantities significant enough to harm the system.
The standard unit comes with an HDMI output, USB 3 port, 3.5mm headphone jack and a 1.3mp webcam, but that can be augmented a configurable unit can replace the Gigabit Ethernet socket with USB 2 or serial ports, or a microSD slot.
The back panel is dominated by the removable battery, and it's clear that this is the planet's toughest tablet but there's a downside. The Panasonic tips the scales at just over 1kg, and it's 24mm from front to back at its thickest point. That's twice as thick as the Dell Latitude 10, and several hundred grams heavier.
We'd expect the delicate components to lack quality because of the Panasonic's rugged build, but that's not the case. The Touchpad includes a 1,920 x 1,080 screen, and it's a stunner. That high resolution crammed into a 10.1in screen results in a super-sharp 224ppi that easily outstrips the Dell's panel, which made do with a 1,366 x 768 screen. The sharpness is complimented by the measured maximum brightness of 861cd/m2 and an excellent contrast ratio of 852:1, and the whole screen is topped off by a matte coating.
The screen is kitted up for the outdoors thanks to an extra-sensitive touch layer that works with gloves, and it's also kitted out with a digitiser to work with the touchscreen although, disappointingly, it's not Wacom-certified.
The LED backlight ensures the Panasonic's panel is visible in the brightest sunlight, and there's no glare from harsh office lights to ruin the vibrant colours and deep black levels. Our only complaint concerns that matte coating, which leaves the screen slightly grainy.
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