First look: Panasonic's Atom-powered mini Toughbook

As for that display, 5.6 inches is not exactly massive, but it's just large enough to see icons and text at normal size. Should enlargement be needed, there are zoom buttons just to the left of the screen.

Above those, there's a pair of scroll buttons for paging through multiple screens and a trio of LED indicators showing if the Wi-Fi is on or off, the presence of a second battery and SSD access.

Over on the far side of the screen we have a recessed power switch, four hotkeys for pre-assigned applications and three more indicators keyed to the first battery and various power-related functions.

Hot swapping

Astute readers will have spotted that we mentioned two batteries – these can be hot-swapped to eliminate downtime, which is going to be one of the U1's biggest selling points. Sticking a battery in each of the dual bays raises the operating time to a maximum of 10 hours, which is impressive.

Naturally, the Atom CPU plays a major part in power management, but the Z520's 1.33GHz clock speed isn't going to allow users to run many power-hungry applications simultaneously. Also, an upper RAM limit of the pre-installed 1GB might be too restrictive for power users.

Nevertheless, in normal use we found things running smoothly with a browser and a few other simple apps open, which is about all that is likely to be asked of the U1 in the real world anyway. It comes with little else pre-installed.

Even though this isn't a machine that's going to be purchased by individuals, the price has to be mentioned. Panasonic told us the U1 will cost the local equivalent of around £1,250 when it launches in October, which isn't cheap. The US and EU should be getting it slightly earlier, in August.

Overall, this latest Toughbook is an impressive showcase for both Intel's Atom and Panasonic's engineering nous and we fully expect it to do well in its intended market and to spawn plenty of imitators – the most sincere form of tribute, after all.