updated 09:05 pm EST, Mon November 7, 2011
Panasonic Toughpad A1 and B1 official with Android
Panasonic formally launched into Android tablets on Monday night by rolling out the Toughpad. The 10-inch A1 and seven-inch B1 are considered "professional-grade" and have the durability more commonly associated with Toughbooks. Either can meet US military 810G specs for resistance to shock, dust, water, and sometimes temperature, and they have extras intended for years-long use, such as removable batteries.
Either also gets significant expansion, both for cards and ports as well as peripherals ranging from basic cases to card readers and multi-device charging stations. The screens can support both pen and finger input.
Software is also shipping to help them focus on work. Panasonic is promising hardware-level encryption, better VPN than what Google offers, two-piece authentication, and tools to remotely manage devices, such as pushing apps and remotely wiping or locking down devices that get lost. It should be one of the first Android tablets to meet FIPS 140-2 federal government standards and HIPAA in health care.
The A1 has the most detail and is launching first. It carries Android 3.2, a Marvell-made dual-core 1.2GHz processor, 16GB of built-in storage, and 1GB of RAM. Hardening it against the elements has bulked it up to 2.13 pounds and 0.67 inches thick, but it has a 500-nit, 1024x768 display that's outdoor-viewable. Extras come both through five-megapixel rear and two-megapixel front cameras along with one each of micro HDMI video, microSDHC, and micro USB. Owners can optionally go for either LTE or WiMAX for 4G data if the hardware has to be used out in the field.
Battery life is a standard 10 hours on the A1.
The Toughpad A1 ships first, although a distant release in spring for $1,299 will both make it the most expensive Android tablet ever released and could see it ship with an outdated OS. Little is known about the B1 other than its size and common features, although it too will only come later in 2012.
In launching the Toughpads, Panasonic has been unusually aggressive and claims that other companies are treating tablets as the "flavor of the week" and that everyone has to have a model. The company sees others as claiming to do something but that, for workers, they're all dominoes that can't withstand the demands a pro tablet needs. Other tablets are "just a bunch of toys," Panasonic argues, and puts the iPad as the first model to be knocked down. The statement nonetheless comes with either tablet not shipping for several months, leaving the iPad and others as the only models that customers can actually buy.