Panasonic, the market leader in the rugged tablet space, has announced European availability for the Toughbook FZ-L1, which was unveiled in the US at the end of July. This 7-inch Android 8.1 tablet is relatively slim and lightweight, yet rugged enough to cope with use cases in retail, hospitality, manufacturing, transportation and logistics. Within Panasonic's Android line-up, the new tablet slots in between two fully rugged devices -- the 7-inch FZ-B2 and the 10-inch FZ-A2.
The Toughbook FZ-L1 is available in several configurations, including wi-fi only, wi-fi and 4G, and with an integrated barcode reader. It's more compact and lightweight than the Intel Atom-based FZ-B2, measuring 193mm by 132mm by 12.7mm and weighing 422g, compared to 203mm by 132mm by 18mm and 544g. The chipset behind the FZ-L1 is Qualcomm's quad-core 1.1GHz Snapdragon 210, with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of eMMC internal storage (expandable via a MicroSD card slot).
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Although its chassis is not protected to the same extent as the FZ-B2 (which is encased with ABS and features elastomer corner guards), the sleeker FZ-L1 is still MIL-STD 810G compliant, can withstand a 1.5m drop (5 feet) onto concrete and has dust/water resistance to IP65/67 level. That means full dust protection and the ability to handle being sprayed with a hose and immersed in 1m of water for 30 minutes.
The 7-inch touch screen has 720p (1,280x 720) resolution and supports 10-point input via fingers, an optional passive stylus or gloved hands. The touch screen, which is protected by Dragontrail Pro glass, can also operate when wet -- outdoors in the rain, for example.
The optional barcode reader attaches to the back of the tablet and supports 44 types of barcode, according to Panasonic. To maximise usability, there are barcode triggers on both sides of the scanner, which itself can be mounted in portrait or landscape orientation. The back of the tablet also houses an 8MP FHD-resolution camera with LED flash.
The FZ-L1's 3,200mAh battery is good for around 12 hours in 'standard enterprise user profile', Panasonic claims, and can be warm-swapped (with the device suspended) for a fresh unit to minimise workflow disruption. Charging time, via a Micro-USB port, is around 2 hours.
Because it can support a variety of use cases, the FZ-L1 comes with an array of accessories including charging cradles, battery packs, hand straps, stylus pens and screen protector films. Typical environments for this device include warehouses, restaurants, retail outlets and factories. Healthcare is another sector where this relatively lightweight, mid-range rugged device could gain traction.
To address security issues -- often a worry for enterprise customers considering Android devices -- Panasonic offers its COMPASS software suite, which offers customisation of the Android OS, over-the-air firmware and software services, EMM (Enterprise Mobility Management) support, separate corporate and personal data management, as well as third-party security solutions.
The Toughbook FZ-L1 will be available Europe-wide 'in the autumn', at £1,049 (ex. VAT) for the wi-fi only model and £1,130 with wi-fi and 4G.
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