Panasonic Toughpad JT-B1 review

8 Aug 2013

A rock-solid and well-specified tough tablet, but the high price means it's a luxury most businesses will find hard to justify

Price when reviewed: 
850(£849 inc VAT)
3

Panasonic's Toughpad is the only ruggedised Android tablet on the market, and it's clearly a different proposition to most of the svelte, glossy devices we've reveiewed recently at PC Pro. Its chunky grey exterior is ringed with a thick band of rubbery plastic and, at 18mm thick and 544g, it's the bulkiest 7in tablet around.

The bulk isn't only for show – this tablet is designed to last. It's IP65-compliant, which means it's protected against dust ingress and water jets, and Panasonic has performed its own drop tests. The company claims the JT-B1 can survive falls of up to 150cm.

Panasonic Toughpad JT-B1

It's also packed with the sort of sensible touches you won't find anywhere else. The 5,720mAh battery on the rear is removable, and the Toughpad's DC socket and micro-USB port are kept safe behind a lockable port. A flap hides the headphone jack, and there's also a trio of customisable physical shortcut buttons beneath the 7in screen.

The range of customisation options is extensive: the three buttons can be used to open apps, adjust the volume, take screenshots and even replace the Toughpad's onscreen home, back and menu options. The buttons can be assigned different tasks for long or short presses, too.

All of Panasonic's hard-wearing design features fade into the background when the Toughpad is turned on. The LCD panel's measured brightness of 684cd/m2 is this month's brightest, and it's combined with an anti-glare coating, so the 600 x 1,024 panel is easy to read even in the brightest sunlight.

Panasonic Toughpad JT-B1

It isn't all good news, though. The anti-reflective layer makes the screen extremely grainy, and the contrast ratio of 627:1 means black levels aren't as deep as we'd like. As this tablet wasn't designed with gaming or movie-watching in mind, though, that's less of a problem than it would be on a consumer tablet.

The poor responsiveness of the screen, however, is a problem. We found it required sharp prods, rather than gentle taps, to register touches.

Panasonic has crammed virtually every feature imaginable into the Toughpad's chunky chassis. The full complement of sensors sits alongside NFC, dual-band 802.11n Wi-Fi and a microSD card slot, although, irritatingly, you have to remove the battery to access it.

The Toughpad also has something no other tablet in this test offers: a 13-megapixel autofocus camera. It's easily the best of the cameras in this Labs, and its reliably sharp shots are aided by an LED flash for low-light photography.

Panasonic Toughpad JT-B1

One area where the Toughpad doesn't stand out is its CPU. It's powered by a TI OMAP 4460 dual-core part that runs at 1.5GHz, which struggled in the benchmarks. Its score of 1,115 in Geekbench means it's barely half as quick as the fastest compact tablets, and its result of 2.7fps in GFXBench is dreadful. It isn't the slickest tablet to use, either, with juddering menus and slow app loading times.

It's just as well the battery life is good: the Toughpad lasted 11hrs in our looping video test, placing it up there with the best tablets on the market.

That might have been enough to soften our opinion of the Panasonic Toughpad JT-B1 had the price not be so ridiculously high. We appreciate a lot of effort went into turning it into a super-tough tablet, ready for anything life can throw at it, but it's almost nine times the price of the Nook HD. Even the most affluent businesses may balk at the idea of paying that much.

Detail

Price ex VAT £708
Price inc VAT £850
Warranty 1 yr return to base
Overall rating 3
Performance 3
Features & Design 5
Value for Money 2

Physical

Dimensions 129 x 18 x 221mm (WDH)
Weight 544g

Display

Primary keyboard On-screen
Screen size 7.0in
Resolution screen horizontal 600
Resolution screen vertical 1,024
Display type Multitouch, capacitive
Panel technology TFT

Battery

Battery capacity 5,720mAh

Core specifications

CPU frequency, MHz 1.5GHz
Integrated memory 16.0GB
RAM capacity 1.00GB

Camera

Camera megapixel rating 13.0mp
Focus type Autofocus
Built-in flash? yes
Built-in flash type LED
Front-facing camera? yes
Video capture? yes

Other

WiFi standard 802.11abgn
Bluetooth support yes
Integrated GPS yes
Upstream USB ports 0

Software

Mobile operating system Android 4