It's either a big phone or an ultra-mini tablet. Maybe it's neither. Panasonic's five-inch Toughpad is probably best described as somewhere in between. It's heavy, it's thick, and it's far from sexy. What it is, though, is the most durable little tablet you've ever likely seen.
The new Toughpad weighs in at 15 ounces and it's an eye-popping 1.2 inches thick, but that's where the drawbacks end. It's tricked out with loads of features for the hardcore industrial user, like the ability to withstand submerging in water up to five feet or allowing you to keep using it in pouring rain or high-pressure jet spray. That's a first for a touchscreen. Speaking of the screen, it's a full HD display that's readable even in direct sunlight, made to prevent reflection and glare. It's capacitive at up to 10 points and it'll recognize your digits even if you're wearing heavy gloves.
The Toughpad can survive a 10-foot drop onto solid concrete, even if it falls on its face. Best of all, its bulk allows it to hold a bigger-than-normal battery that lasts an incredible 14 hours. What's more, you can switch out your dead battery with a fully-charged one and the thing won't even turn off. It charges fast, too, reaching 50 percent charge in one hour.
Here's a feature you don't usually find on a 5-inch device: it has a built-in heater in case of temperatures so cold the battery may freeze. The heater works automatically to keep the battery warm in environments down to -4 degrees Fahrenheit (that's -20 Celsius). It will also run in very high temperatures, all the way up to 140 degrees Fahrenheit (60 degrees Celsius). Panasonic has built heaters into its Toughbook laptops before, but this is the first time it's put one in a tablet.
Panasonic offers the Toughpad in two flavors: the FZ-X1 runs Android "Jelly Bean," while the FZ-E1 runs Windows Embedded 8.1.
Starting at $1,849 for the Windows model and $1,799 for the Android version, you can add 4G LTE for $50 and/or the ability to use it as a phone for $50. Another $100 will get you a barcode reader or credit card reader. Seven pin ports are included to attach those peripherals to, and there are physical buttons that can be customized to operate a scanner, push-to-talk, take photos, and more. The Android model has four of these buttons; the Windows model has two.
In case you do manage to somehow break your five-inch Toughpad, Panasonic includes a three-year warranty.