Over the past year or so, Panasonic has carved out a niche for itself in the tablet market with the Toughpad series of ruggedized units, from 10-inch Windows and 7-inch and 10-inch Android models to a massive 20-inch slab with 4K resolution. Now the company is expanding into the burgeoning Windows mini-tablet space with the new FZ-M1.
Toughpads aren't designed for the consumer market, so this isn't a 7-inch tablet with measly specs. It will be the first Toughpad to use an Intel fourth-generation Core (or Haswell) processor -- in this case, the Core i5-4302Y -- and includes a hefty 8GB of RAM and either 128GB or 256GB of solid state storage. Those parts are needed to run Windows 8.1 Pro and power the 1,280x800 touchscreen.
The "tough" in Toughpad means that it's also certified to handle the MIL-STD-810G and IP65 specifications for drops (up to 5 feet), water and dust resistance, and temperature and climate extremes. It also includes security features like a Trusted Platform Module v1.2 chip, along with Computrace and Intel anti-theft technology.
Ruggedizing means that the FZ-M1 doesn't exude the sex appeal of other mini-tablets (just check out the image above for proof), but Panasonic still claims that it's the "world’s thinnest and lightest fully-rugged 7-inch Windows tablet," weighing in at 1.2 pounds and 0.71 inches in thickness. That factors in a raised bezel designed to protect the screen from impact.
It may also be tough to swallow the FZ-M1's starting price: $2,099, which is before you add options like 4G LTE connectivity, long-life battery, and other accessories. Of course, some occupations require rugged mobile devices like the Toughpad, so if you are need of one, starting saving for when the FZ-M1 becomes available in the spring of this year.