Panasonic’s 20-inch Toughpad 4K wows when it comes to performance, weight and business collaboration, but it remains to be seen if businesses will be impressed enough by the Windows 8.1 system to overlook the high price, plain design and current lack of apps designed to fully exploit the hi res display. (Rating: 3 out of 5 stars).
If we put aside the debate over whether this is or isn’t a tablet for a moment, it’s impossible to ignore the Toughpad 4K’s impressive specs.
The 19.5-inch 3840 x 2560 display (230 pixels per inch) is stunning and bright, while processes zip along thanks to the Intel Core i5 vPro processor and Windows 8.1 operating system. The 10-finger touchscreen responds immediately to pinch-to-zoom and enables you to see photographs in very fine detail at 4K or at lower resolutions.
Looking at the exterior, the Toughpad 4K has a large bezel surrounding the screen and is covered by a rugged fibre glass cover which makes it easy to hold if not beautiful to look at. Previous Toughpad designs have usually relied on a magnesium chassis.
On the side of the device there are volume buttons, a rotation lock button and at the bottom there is a Windows icon to go back to the start screen. More impressively, there is a small lock that bears some similarity to the Kensington Locks popular on most laptops.
The Toughpad 20 features two speakers on the right hand side, heat dissipating fans on the rear, a smart card reader and connectivity ports for USB 3.0. If you want to add HDMI or LAN, you’ll need to buy the optional cradle.
There is a fairly basic 720p webcam on-board that will suffice for some basic videoconferencing, although Panasonic officials advised buyers to go with third-party offerings from Logitech or other competitors if they want greater clarity. If you’re looking to share detailed designs in this fashion, you definitely don’t want to rely on the standard webcam.
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Advanced optional stylus is pricey, but pretty cool
One of the neatest features on the Toughpad 4K is the optional stylus, which is light, easy to hold and much more precise than conventional capacitive stylus pens.
Using infrared technology to communicate with the LCD display, the stylus pen offers 2048 levels of sensitivity, even has a small display of its own for showing when in ‘standby’ or ‘connected’ mode and features a 2.5 hour battery life. You can charge the stylus via USB. The only downside is that it is an optional accessory and an expensive one at that, costing about $277.
I should note that for this demo I only had access to apps that were solely created for the demonstration. There was an app called ‘Car Catalog’ – essentially a digital version of a paper catalog, but with videos and rotatable 360 degree images of cars – and a ‘Digital Museum’ application for zooming into photographs and paintings.
Both offered great clarity and could be used in many business environments, but it remains to be seen how many apps on the Windows Store will truly be able to upscale to such a high-resolution. (Panasonic has said that it hopes the Toughpad 4K will spawn some customized business apps for CAD, 3D and other creative types).
In summary, the Toughpad 4K promises power, performance and should be welcome addition to the tech arsenal of most creative folks working in CAD, 3D, engineering or just looking to collaborate with fellow workers. But be prepared to open your wallet as the Toughpad 4K is slated to cost about $5,940 (€4,508) when it ships in November.
The design is rather basic so we’ll have to see if it wows retailers and those working in cosmetics and other customer-facing environments. Panasonic officials say that Ferrari, Prada and Lamborghini are already planning to test out the new Toughpad 4K for use in their showrooms.