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Panasonic Toughpad FZ-N1 review: A rugged 4.7-inch handset for mobile workers in demanding environments

toughpad-fz-n1-header.jpg
  • Editors' rating
    8.0 Excellent

Pros

  • Compact, rugged design
  • Excellent 4.7-inch screen
  • Integrated, ergonomically positioned barcode reader
  • Removable, warm-swappable battery
  • Available running Android or Windows

Cons

  • Expensive

Announced at the beginning of this year, Panasonic's rugged 4.7-inch Toughpad range hedges its bets OS-wise, as it's available with Windows 10 IoT Mobile Enterprise (FZ-F1) or Android 5.1.1 (FZ-N1). We had the Android model for review.

Panasonic describes the FZ-N1 as a 'handheld tablet', although with 4G LTE on-board the term 'smartphone' is equally applicable. It's no ordinary smartphone though, being properly rugged (to MIL-STD 810G level) and incorporating a barcode reader on the back.

You won't be pulling this device out to impress your friends in the pub (especially not at £1,268 ex. VAT), but the delivery person who turns up at your door might well be toting one: it's certainly a lot more usable than some of the clunky handhelds used by mobile workers in the field.

Design

With its 4.7-inch HD (720x1,280 pixels) daylight-readable screen, the FZ-N1 has a modest footprint measuring 74mm wide by 156mm deep (2.91in. by 6.12in.). Of course, it's quite thick, thanks to the rugged chassis, coming in at 16.3mm (0.64in.), but the device sits well in the hand, with all buttons and controls within easy reach. It's not over-heavy either, weighing 277g (9.8oz).

toughpad-fz-n1-front.jpg

The 4.7-inch Toughpad FZ-N1 runs Android 5.1.1 -- a Windows version is also available.

Image: Panasonic

Design-wise, the most noticeable points about the Toughpad FZ-N1 are the ruggedisation and the rear-mounted barcode reader/camera unit.

As noted earlier, this device is MIL-STD 810G compliant and can withstand drops from up to 1.8m (6ft) onto concrete, plus 2,000 drops or 1,000 'tumbles' from a height of 1 metre. It's also IP67-rated, meaning that it's completely dust-tight and can cope with immersion in water for up to 30 minutes.

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All that ruggedness is down to a solid chassis with tough plastic cladding to absorb shocks. There are also port covers to seal off the Micro-USB port and 3.5mm audio jack when they're not in use.

toughpad-fz-n1-back.jpg

The barcode reader/camera unit at the rear is mounted at an ergonomic angle.

Image: Panasonic

Panasonic makes much of the integrated barcode reader's positioning: it's angled forwards so that field workers don't have to bend the wrist uncomfortably to make a scan. Obviously this component contributes to the FZ-N1's above-average weight for a 4.7-inch handset.

The daylight-readable 10-point capacitive touchscreen goes up to 500 nits and supports several modes in addition to normal finger-driven operation: 'Glove touch', 'Rain sensing touch' and 'Stylus pen'. Passive and active stylus pens are available as options, but we didn't get either with our review unit. The screen's bezel is slightly raised, to give the LCD some extra impact protection.

Features

The Android-based Toughpad FZ-N1, like its Windows sibling, runs on a 2.3GHz quad-core Qualcomm MSM8974AB processor with 2GB of RAM, 16GB of internal storage and a MicroSD card slot for external storage expansion (up to 64GB). The MicroSD card slot -- along with the handset's dual Micro-SIM slots -- is located beneath the removable battery.

The FZ-N1 comes with plenty of wireless connectivity, in the shape of cellular (LTE, HSPA+, UMTS, EDGE, GPRS, GSM), wi-fi (802.11a/b/g/n/ac), Bluetooth (4.1), NFC and GPS (with GLONASS support).

We've noted the covered Micro-USB and 3.5mm audio ports. Other connections and controls include a proprietary docking port at the bottom, a volume rocker on the left, a dedicated camera button on the right and five user-configurable buttons -- two of them brightly orange-coloured, one on each side, and three (black, labelled A1, A2 and A3) beneath the screen. Clearly there's plenty of scope for integrating this device into your particular workflow.

There are two cameras -- 8MP at the back and 5MP at the front, both with support for 1080p video at 30fps. The audio subsystem is particularly impressive, with three microphones (two at the front, one to the rear) and stereo speakers capable of delivering 100 dBA output.

toughpad-fz-n1-accessories.jpg

There's a wide range of accessories for the FZ-N1, including a charging cup (left), a handstrap (middle) and a docking cradle (right).

Images: Panasonic

Accessories form a key part of the ecosystem surrounding a field-worker device like the Toughpad FZ-N1, and there are plenty of those available, including a charging 'cup' with stand, single or four-bay device cradles with LAN and USB connections, a hand-strap, a vehicle dock and a variety of chargers and adapters. The aforementioned active and passive stylus pens are also optional extras.

Performance & battery life

Performance probably isn't uppermost in mind when selecting a rugged device -- after all, it won't matter how fast it goes if it's damaged the first time you drop it or get it wet. That said, it has to be up to handling the workloads required of it. The Toughpad FZ-N1 delivered a multi-core Geekbench 4 score of 2199 -- by way of comparison, a leading flagship smartphone such as Apple's iPhone 7 or Samsung's Galaxy S7 delivers more than twice this performance level. Be that as it may, there's no reason to suppose that field workers will be kept waiting while their apps to fire up and do their stuff on the FZ-N1.

The FZ-N1 is equipped with a removable (and warm-swappable) 3,200mAh li-ion battery that Panasonic rates as good for 8 hours of continuous data access, 24 hours of talk and 700 hours (29 days) on standby. An optional extended-life 6,400mAh battery is available, which doubles these figures.

Conclusions

This is a well-thought-out rugged handset with a high-quality screen, good ergonomics and a feature set that should help mobile workers in a variety of vertical markets get their jobs done. If Android isn't your company's thing, take a look at the Windows version. Neither is cheap for a smartphone, but you'll be getting what you pay for.

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Specifications

General
Packaged Quantity 1
Operating System Android 5.1.1 (Lollipop)
Processor / Chipset
Number of Cores Quad-Core
Display
Touchscreen Multi-Touch
Multi-Touch Display Yes
TFT Technology VA
Diagonal Size 4.7 in
Diagonal Size (metric) 11.9 cm
Native Resolution 1280 x 720
Resolution 1280 x 720
Monitor Features 10-point multi-touch, anti-glare, glove touch mode, rain sensing touch mode, sunlight readable
RAM
Installed Size 2 GB
Memory
Storage 16 GB eMMC
RAM 2 GB
Processor
Type Snapdragon 801
Number of Cores Quad-Core
Processor Number MSM8974AB
Manufacturer Qualcomm
Clock Speed 2.3 GHz
Flash Memory
Installed Size 16 GB
Form Factor Embedded MultiMediaCard
Communications
Wireless Protocol 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.1, NFC
Wireless Broadband (WWAN)
Cellular Protocol CDMA 2000 1X EV-DO Rev. A, EDGE, GPRS, GSM, HSPA+, LTE, UMTS
Navigation
Navigation GPS/GLONASS receiver
Cellular
SIM Card Type micro SIM
Modem
Mobile Broadband Access 3G, 4G
Card Reader
Slots (for SD) microSD slot
Supported Flash Memory Cards microSDXC
Flash Memory Cards Max Supported Capacity 64 GB
Header
Brand Panasonic
Product Line Panasonic Toughpad
Model FZ-N1
Packaged Quantity 1
Monitor
Diagonal Size 4.7 in
Networking
Wireless Connectivity Bluetooth 4.1, IEEE 802.11a, IEEE 802.11ac, IEEE 802.11b, IEEE 802.11g, IEEE 802.11n, NFC
System
Platform Android
Handheld Type tablet
Rugged Design Yes
Miscellaneous
Features ARM TrustZone, anti-reflective, anti-vibration, charging via USB, drop-resistant, dust-resistant, port covers, rainproof, raised bezel, sand-resistant, shock-resistant
Compliant Standards Bluetooth Class 1, FIPS 140-2 Level 1, IP65, IP67, MIL-STD 810G
Color Category black, silver
Dimensions & Weight
Width 2.92 in
Depth 0.64 in
Height 6.12 in
Audio Output
Type stereo speakers
Manufacturer Warranty
Service & Support Limited warranty - parts and labor - 3 years
Type 3 years warranty
Audio Input
Type three microphones
Physical Characteristics
Weight 9.91 oz
Operating System / Software
OS Provided: Type Android 5.1.1 (Lollipop)
Battery
Capacity 3200 mAh
Technology lithium ion
Run Time (Up To) 8 hour(s)
Talk Time 1440 min
Standby Time 700 h
Recharge Time 2 hour(s)
Digital Camera
Cameras (for SD) rear camera + front camera
Rear-facing Camera Yes
Camera Light Source LED light
Barcode
Barcode Reader Yes
Scan Element Type 2D imager
Mobile Broadband
Service Activation Yes
Cellular Protocol CDMA 2000 1X EV-DO Rev. A, EDGE, GPRS, GSM, HSPA+, LTE, UMTS
GPS System
Navigation GPS/GLONASS receiver
Expansion Slots
Type Micro-SIM card, microSD
Total Qty 1, 2
Interface Provided
Interface Micro-USB, dock, headset
Qty 1
OS Provided
Type Android 5.1.1 (Lollipop)
Battery Life Details
Usage Mode barcode continuous reading
Run Time (Up To) 12 hour(s)
Service & Support
Type 3 years warranty
Service & Support Details
Type limited warranty
Service Included parts and labor
Full Contract Period 3 years