Normally I report on the latest and greatest from the Tablet PC space, however today I want to share with you a rather different experience, a Tough Experience I had. On many occasions there is the smell of brand new enamel paint dripping off of alloy encrusted PCB; usually these same smoldering units carry the sex appeal that Generation X or Y are looking for, and the price tag to match. The last 10 days however I have been graced by something very different.
10 Days ago Panasonic delivered me the CF-18 Tablet PC as part of their Toughbook range. If you’ve never owned or played with a Toughbook it may interest to you that it’s actually a rather nice machine in both look and feel. At first glance there are all the features you would expect from a manufacturer targeting Military and Utilities as its main audience; there are exposed screw heads, rubber mounts, latches, panels and more brushed alloy than a Hummer (well almost).
My first stumbling block was reached very quickly. Being Australia’s Tablet Guy I wasn’t so much interested in its ruggedisation as I was its Tablet PC features. As I placed my hand on the top of the screen and went to snap the screen into Tablet mode – still not sure if it was left or right I should be pushing – I found that the screen would not budge. It turns out this was to be my first rugged experience. You see, to turn the screen one needs to physically hit a release latch to unlock the swivel mechanism for it to go into Tablet mode. Although at first glance I didn’t think much of this feature it does make a lot of sense; given that I am very prone to picking up my convertibles from their screen having the screen locked gave this unit a lot more rigidity and firmness than other convertibles.
An IP Rating is often used when specifying the environmental protection afforded by enclosures around electronic equipment. These ratings refer to specific tests and each test is awarded a specific rating via an IP Number. The IP number is made up of two components as follows: for e.g. In IP44 the first number refers to the protection against solid objects and the second against liquids. The higher the number the better the protection.
In case you are interested the number that follows the IP Rating is broken into two components. In this case, IP54, looks something like this:
- (5) Protected against dust, limited ingress (no harmful deposit)
- (4) Protection against water sprayed from all directions - limited ingress permitted
Let’s keep working our way clockwise shall we?Looking at the back of the device we find, once again hidden behind the IP Rated doors, access to an SD Card Slot, a VGA Out Port, and a seldom found Serial Port. Given the target audience of these device is Telecommunications Companies and the Military the serial port was an obvious inclusion for work with Cisco gear, and more.
Finally one more clockwise movement and we find the battery chamber and the hard drive chamber. For those of you unfamiliar with Ruggedisation it’s important to note that most of the Intellectual Property that surrounds this technology can be found in the later, i.e. the Hard Drive chamber. Because the spinning platters of a standard 2.5” hard drive do not like sudden jolts or movements then the Hard Drive chamber of a rugged notebook is where you will find most reggedization occurs. Panasonic terms this the “Shock mounted removable hard drive in stainless steel casing.”
For your convenience I have shot a small video of the enclosure to give you a closer look. Silly me forgot I was holding a CF-18 so when I mention CF-19 just replace it - in your clever little heads - with CF-18. LOL.
The CF-18 has one more definable feature in that it is 100% fanless. With dust protection such an integral part of the IP Rating process the fact that this notebook can operate without a fan makes its ruggedisation even more successful. Panasonic has gone to great lengths to protect its Intellectual Property surrounding this feature, and no matter how hard I tried, the representative from their office was as tight lipped as the hard-plastic doors protecting the USB ports on the device. Even more remarkable is that the successor to the CF-18, the CF-19, deliverable in February 2007, will in fact sport an Intel Dual Core Processor while still remaining fanless. Well done Panasonic.Overall I was pleased with the device and its intended use. Ruggedisation is something that will become more popular in the mainstream as devices like Ultra-Mobile PC and Tablet PC become more mobile, i.e. full day usage. Because end-users will look at taking UMPC on extreme sports outings, and even as a travel mate, ruggedisation is going to become a key factor. Given that TabletKiosk launched its first entry into the Tough Tablet market via the ToughTab 7” UMPC this week at CES 2007 it’s not hard to see that I am right. Many corporate and enterprise folks favour ruggedisation as a form of future proofing their dollars and one can only expect that mum-and-dad consumers will do the same in the not too distant future.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this deep dive into Panasonic’s Toughbook CF-18. If there’s any questions you have or anything in particular you want to see this year on the UberTablet Blog just let me know…it’s your resource!