Panasonic Toughpad FZ-G1 review
The price is high, but the rugged build and thoughtful design make this the ultimate tough tablet
We’ve seen plenty of Panasonic Toughbook laptops over the years, but this is the first time PC Pro has encountered one of its hard-knock tablets. The fully ruggedised Toughpad FZ-G1 is as robust as they come: it’s rated to survive falls of more than a metre, and capable of operating in the kind of damp, dusty environments that would spell doom for the average Windows tablet.
Panasonic Toughpad FZ-G1 review: design
From the first moment you clap eyes on the Toughpad FZ-G1, it’s clear that this isn’t your usual 10.1in tablet. The main body is shod in metal, and a thick ring of rubberised plastic stretches around its circumference, flaring out to offer extra protection on the corners. It’s immensely chunky, weighing a hefty 1.02kg and measuring 24mm at its thickest point, but the construction feels indestructible – we almost pulled a muscle trying to flex the chassis from side-to-side.
This is a tablet designed to suffer the worst treatment you can dish out - and to keep going. It has an ingress protection rating of IP65, and every detail has been designed to help it flourish in harsh environments. The buttons along the screen’s bottom edge are waterproof switches, and the “on” button has to be held down for two seconds before the tablet flickers into life, to prevent accidental activation. Every port is hidden behind a rubber sealed flap, and the stylus clips securely into a slot on the rear with a coiled tether to prevent it getting lost.
Panasonic Toughpad FZ-G1 review: display
The Panasonic’s 10.1in display is a cut above the average. With a 1,920 x 1,200 resolution producing a pixel density of 224ppi, text and images are breathtakingly sharp, and the LED backlighting is unusually potent, reaching a maximum brightness of 861cd/m[sup]2[/sup]. This, in combination with a circular polarising layer, means the FZ-G1’s display remains readable in even the brightest of conditions, and from the most oblique of angles. There’s precious little cost to image quality: there’s some graininess, but colours appear vibrant and lifelike, and the contrast ratio of 852:1 lends images plenty of punch.
The touchscreen and digitiser work well, too. It remains usable even with gloved hands, and while the small plastic stylus is too short for our liking, it’s still perfectly good enough for scribbling handwritten notes. Handily, the stylus also doubles as a mouse, giving more precise cursor control when it’s required.
Panasonic Toughpad FZ-G1 review: performance & accessories
Beneath its armour-plated chassis, there lies the heart of an Ultrabook. It has a 1.9GHz Intel Core i5-3437U, 4GB of RAM and a 128GB mSATA Toshiba SSD - a partnership that makes for a responsive tablet. An overall score of 0.63 in our Real World Benchmarks indicates there’s more than enough power for most applications, and the only downside of squeezing such powerful components inside is noise. During the Multitasking segment of PC Pro’s benchmarks, the FZ-G1’s fan spun up with a noticeable whine.
Those powerful components also mean that the FZ-G1 can’t rival Atom-powered Windows 8 tablets in the battery life stakes, but it’s more than a match for similarly specified Ultrabooks, or indeed the Microsoft Surface Pro. Its 4,400mAh battery lasted an impressive 8hrs 13minutes in our light-use tests, and since the battery is also removable, keeping a spare or two in reserve is a welcome possibility.
Indeed, one of the Toughpad FZ-G1’s greatest strengths is its flexibility. A range of accessories is available, including car chargers, travel cases and desktop cradles. The standard model comes with HDMI, a single USB 3 port, 3.5mm headset output and a 1.3-megapixel front-facing webcam, but there’s room to tailor the FZ-G1 to your needs. Unscrew the FZ-G1’s configuration port, and it’s possible to replace the Gigabit Ethernet connection with an optional USB 2, serial or microSD port instead; the dual-band 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4 radio can be supplemented with a Gobi 3000 3G modem; and there’s the option to add GPS and a 3-megapixel rear-facing camera with LED flash.
Panasonic Toughpad FZ-G1 review: verdict
Just like its laptop cousins, the Toughpad FZ-G1’s ingenious design and rugged build don’t come cheap. With our review unit nearing the £2,000 mark – and that’s without any optional extras – those hankering after a fully loaded model will need very deep pockets indeed. This is no ordinary Windows tablet, however: for rough-and-tumble applications where a standard tablet simply wouldn’t last the working week, the Toughpad FZ-G1 will relish the challenge.
|Warranty||3 yr return to base|
|Dimensions||270 x 188 x 24mm (WDH)|
Processor and memory
|Processor||Intel Core i5-3437U|
Screen and video
|Resolution screen horizontal||1,920|
|Resolution screen vertical||1,080|
|Resolution||1920 x 1080|
|Graphics chipset||Intel HD Graphics 4000|
|Replacement battery price inc VAT||£0|
|802.11 draft-n support||yes|
|Integrated 3G adapter||no|
|3.5mm audio jacks||1|
|SD card reader||no|
|Pointing device type||Touchscreen/stylus|
|Camera megapixel rating||1.3mp|
Battery and performance tests
|Battery life, light use||8hr 13min|
|Overall Real World Benchmark score||0.63|
Operating system and software
|Operating system||Windows 8 Pro 64-bit|
|OS family||Windows 8|