Tablets may no longer be the darling of the consumer tech world, but they continue to make inroads in the enterprise -- look no further than the battle between Microsoft's Surface Pro and Apple's iPad Pro for proof of that. One area where tablets can make a difference for businesses is out in the field, where the slate form factor can often be more convenient than the traditional notebook one.
Panasonic has been one of the leaders in ruggedized mobile devices (like its Toughbook laptops), but after a flurry of rough-and-tumble tablet releases -- including a 4K model -- it's been relatively quiet of late. That's changed with the announcement of the Toughpad FZ-Q1, a 12.5-inch Windows tablet that won't require a business loan in order to buy it.
While tablets designed to handle drops, spills, and whatever the great outdoors can handle often run over $2,000, especially for one with a larger size, the FZ-Q1 is starting at a much more modest price. The Standard version starts at $999, but as often the case, that's because Panasonic has cut down on the specs to meet that agressive price. You get an Intel Celeron N2807 processor, rather than a higher-performing Core CPU, 4GB of RAM, and 64GB of built-in flash storage. That combination means it won't be able to take advantage of Windows BitLocker Drive Encryption.
In comparison, the Performance edition features a Core i5-4302Y chip, double the RAM of the Standard model, and a 128GB SSD for $1,699. You also get the option to downgrade from the pre-installed Windows 8.1 Pro to Windows 7 Professional. Either version includes a 1,920x1,080 screen, built-in 802.11ac Wi-Fi with optional LTE capabilities, and up to 9 hours of battery life, according to Panasonic.
The FZ-Q1 is described as "semi-rugged," which owes to its shock-absorbing magnesium alloy chassis that's dirt and dust resistant but isn't certified for durability using MIL-STD-810 standards. Other field-friendly features include a 350-nit, anti-reflective touchscreen and an optional spill-resistant keyboard attachment that comes with a carrying strap. Employees on the go will have a chance to put the FZ-Q1 to work starting in March.