Panasonic Toughpad JT-B1 review
A rock-solid and well-specified tough tablet, but the high price means it's a luxury most businesses will find hard to justify
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.
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.
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.
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.
|Price ex VAT||£708|
|Price inc VAT||£850|
|Warranty||1 yr return to base|
|Features & Design||5|
|Value for Money||2|
|Dimensions||129 x 18 x 221mm (WDH)|
|Resolution screen horizontal||600|
|Resolution screen vertical||1,024|
|Display type||Multitouch, capacitive|
|CPU frequency, MHz||1.5GHz|
|Camera megapixel rating||13.0mp|
|Built-in flash type||LED|
|Upstream USB ports||0|
|Mobile operating system||Android 4|