Panasonic to debut Centrino-based rugged Tablet PC

Panasonic is adding to its Toughbook line of rugged computers with a Tablet PC model based on Intel Corp.'s yet-to-be launched Centrino package.

The Centrino product combines a Pentium-M processor with companion chipset and wireless LAN support.

The Toughbook CF18 will be launched in mid-March and is based on a 900MHz version of the new Pentium-M ULV (ultra low voltage) processor, which was previously known by the Intel code-name Banias. Like some other Tablet PCs, the CF18 features a display that can be swiveled around and folded down face-out. This means it can be used as a conventional notebook computer or as a slab-type tablet computer.

In addition to the Pentium-M, the CF18 has 256M bytes of DDR (double data rate) SDRAM (synchronous dynamic RAM), a 40G byte hard disk drive and a 10.4 inch TFT (thin film transistor) LCD (liquid crystal display) with 1,024 pixel by 768 pixel (XGA) resolution.

On the networking side, wireless LAN (IEEE802.11b) support comes as standard, while options include Bluetooth, CDMA2000 1x or GPRS (General Packet Radio Service). GPS (Global Positioning System) support can also be included. Preloaded software is minimal: Windows XP Professional Tablet Edition, an online manual and Acrobat reader.

A magnesium alloy case, moisture and dust resistant LCD, keyboard and touchpad, sealed connector covers and a shock-mount for the hard disk drive all contribute to the product's ruggedness. Matsushita said the machine was designed to comply with the MIL STD 810F standard for shock and vibration absorption and dirt ingress.

A touch-screen version of the machine is also available. Users can use their fingers with the touch-screen version, rather than needing a special pen, but it does not support functions such as handwriting recognition. There are two touch-screen models, one with an XGA resolution outdoor-viewable display and one with a lower resolution SVGA (800 pixels by 600 pixels) sunlight-viewable display.

The price to be paid for all this ruggedness comes in the physical dimensions, weight and actual price of the product. The machine measures 1.9 inches by 8.5 inches by 10.7 inches (4.8 centimeters by 21.6 centimeters by 27.2 centimeters) and weighs 4.4 pounds (2.0 kilograms). Pricing begins at US$3,200 for both the tablet and touch-screen models.

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Martyn Williams.

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