Panasonic ToughPad FZ-G1: Hands on with the rugged Windows 8 tablet

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If someone thrust the Panasonic ToughPad into your hands introducing it as just another tablet, you’d be positively offended by the look and feel of the device in front of you. Its weight, bulkiness and harsh aesthetics make the ToughPad difficult to contend with for our iPad/Nexus/Galaxy Tab-conditioned brains, but when appreciating the purpose of this rugged beast, you actually have to admire its sturdy construction.

And yet, Panasonic pitches it as the “thinnest and lightest fully-rugged” Windows 8 Pro tablet on the market. In all honesty, while it is not exactly thin, it is

The ToughPad is designed for heavy-impact use in workplaces like building sites, so the feather-weight super-svelteness of those aforementioned slates simply isn’t an option here. Fortifying the 1.1kg tablet is a hard plastic layer running around the perimeter and protruding at the corners for added durability. This surrounds the magnesium alloy chassis which also covers the rear of the device, giving the metallic ToughPad a robust and industrial feel.

Bolts, screws and vents pepper the tablet’s body to further remind the user this is no electronics fashion accessory. If the iPad is the chihuahua peeking out of the handbag, the ToughPad is the bulldog straining at its metal lead.

Seven substantial buttons sit below the display (which is slightly sunken for extra protection), including power and volume controls, and the Windows 8 home button. Above the screen is a front-facing 720p camera with accompanying mic, which despite its limited quality, caters for those video calls on the move.

On the ToughPad’s right-hand edge, a bulky flap encases a headphones jack, HDMI slot and a USB 3.0 port, while a shielded Ethernet port sits on top. Tucked behind the ToughPad’s left flank is a stylus pen sporting a particularly narrow nib, which helps accuracy and general ease of use against the touchscreen. A 3-megapixel camera also adorns the rear.

All of these hardware features feel suitably hardwearing, which is very much the name of the game with the ToughPad. We can attest to Panasonic’s claim the 10.1in tablet can survive a four-foot drop to the floor, and the ruggedness factor is enhanced by its dust and water resistant qualities.

More specifically, the device is IP65 compliant which means that it is totally protected against dust and is protected against low pressure jets if watered from all directions. On top of that, it adheres to the stringent MIL-STD-810 standard, which means that it is approved for use by the US DoD.

Inside lies a powerful third generation Intel Core i5-3437U vPro processor, a dual-core model that is clocked at 1.9GHz and Turbo Boost to 2.9GHz with 3MB L3 cache and an Intel HD Graphics HD 4000 GPU. Despite being fabbed on a 22nm process, having a 17W TDP and an enclosure that doubles as a giant heatsink, it still needs air vents to cool down.

The other notable feature is that gorgeous 10.1in WUXGA IPS display (1,920 x 1,200 pixel) with a 800cd/m^2 brightness. It is noticeably brighter than the rugged Getac Z710-Ex we reviewed in July and is a proper fingerprint magnet.

The rest of the specification list reads as follow. 4GB of RAM, 128GB SSD, up to eight hour longevity thanks to a 4,400mAh removable battery plus a better-than-average three-year warranty. The tablet lacks NFC, a fingerprint scanner, GPS, 4G connectivity and a card reader.

All in all, you certainly wouldn’t have any worries with the ToughPad being slapped around more austere environments and its top-notch hardware will ensure that you spend more time doing actual work than waiting for your tablet to respond. You can grab the Panasonic FZ-G1 rugged from Laptopsdirect for just under £1800.