Panasonic has added two new additions to its range of rugged Toughpad tablets designed for workers on the move. Both ready-for-anything 5-inch slates can shrug off being dropped on concrete, dive under water, and even include a built-in heater to help keep things moving in sub-zero temperatures. They promise a long battery life, include a nifty rain-sensing feature that prevents accidental activation of the HD touch panel by falling rain, and are available with voice and data connectivity. The only marked difference between the two is the operating system running the show, the FZ-E1 coming with Windows Embedded 8.1 Handheld and the FZ-X1 home to Android 4.2.2.

"Our Toughpad FZ-E1 and Toughpad FZ-X1 build on the legacy of nearly two decades of rugged devices from Panasonic to accomplish the mission of keeping professionals in the most demanding work environments connected to the data they need to do their jobs, to one another and to the customers they are supporting," said Panasonic's Rance Poehler.

The new Toughpads were developed for use by first responders, the military, transportation and logistics professional, utilities workers, and retail. They've been built to exceed MIL-STD-810G military-grade ruggedness standards. They're IP65-rated against dust and water ingress, and IP68 rating means continued operation under water to a depth of 5ft for up to 30 minutes. FIPS 140-2 Level 1 security compliance should also make them a good fit for use by government officials.

The enterprise-class handheld tablets have been drop-tested onto a solid concrete floor from a height of 10 ft (3 m), and also tested for resistance to impact, shock, vibration, altitude and extreme humidity. Thanks to the built-in heater, they can remain operational in temperatures as low as -4° F (-20° C), and won't even break a sweat when the heat rises to 140° F (60° C. The glass of the display has been found capable of brushing off drop attacks from a 14 oz (400 g) steel ball from a height of 31.5 in (80 cm).

Both the FZ-E1 and FZ-X1 feature a 500 cd/m2, 1280 x 720 HD resolution LCD display panel that's reported sunlight readable. The capacitive touchscreen is capable of supporting up to 10 simultaneous touches, and there's a glove touch mode too – though users looking for IPS wide-angle viewing will be disappointed.

Stereo speakers to the front are said to throw out audio at up to 100 decibels, to help cut through construction or site noise, and there are three physical function buttons lined up inbetween. A 1.3 megapixel webcam up top caters for video calls, and there's an 8 megapixel AF shooter to the rear with LED flash.

Both 6.5 x 3.4 x 1.2 in (165 x 86 x 30 mm), 15 oz (425 g) tough tablets are powered by a Qualcomm quad-core processor, but the FZ-E1 has been given a 2.3 GHz Snapdragon 800 over the FZ-X1's 1.7 GHz Snapdragon 600. There's 32 GB of storage and 2 GB of RAM, with microSD expansion. Users are promised around 14 hours of battery life from a hot-swappable 6200 mAh battery, which can be quick charged to 50 percent capacity in an hour, or fully charged in 3 hours.

Some models will come with 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC connectivity and GPS only, while others will also be treated to a dual-SIM slot for voice and data connectivity over 4G LTE, HSPA+, UMTS, EDGE, GPRS, CDMA 1x and EVDO Revision A mobile networks. Both have covered USB 2.0 and audio ports to the top and a 13-pin docking connector to the bottom, and can support an optional barcode reader and magnetic stripe card reader.

The Toughpad FZ-X1 will be first off the starting line in August for a list price of US$1,799 (Wi-Fi only) or $1,849 (mobile broadband data). The Wi-Fi version of the FZ-E1 is also set for an August release for $1,899, but the telephony and mobile broadband version is not due to follow until October for $1,999. The voice/data mobile broadband version of the FZ-X1 has been given target availability of January 2015 for $1,899.

Product pages: FZ-X1, FZ-E1

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