Panasonic ToughPad FZ-A1 review

Designed for workers and people who like to drop things

Panasonic ToughPad FZ-A1
Tough enough?

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The Panasonic ToughPad is not a tablet for the everyday user. It's a niche product built for professions who require a more robust solution than an iPad or Galaxy tablet can provide.

While Panasonic has carved out a bit of a niche for itself in this space, there are some simple changes that could go a long way in making this a much more attractive device, even for its niche audience.

Panasonic ToughPad FZ-A1 review

We liked

Anything you can drop from waist height and not have concerns over its safety is a good thing, and this tablet does that well. The fact you can spill a drink or use it at the beach without worrying about its pots clogging up with sand is also a win.

The included stylus - while not for everybody - is comfortable enough to use that professionals that need to use it will be greatful for its presence.

And while they are ugly as sin, the hard buttons on the bottom of the screen make controlling the device with gloves on possible. The inclusion of a user-dedicated shortcut button is something we wouldn't mind seeing on other tablets too.

Panasonic ToughPad FZ-A1 review

We disliked

The microphone and speaker on the ToughPad are abysmal, and should be upgraded post haste. While not everyone will use those two features of the tablet, those that need them will be sorely disappointed, especially given the amount of cash you need to spend to own one of these tablets.

The proprietary charging port is a disaster. Sure, it has the benefit of quick charging, but it's an absolute nightmare to have to carry around the charger as well as the tablet. At least give the option to charge via USB, Panasonic.

The fact that all the main ports are hidden under one water and dust proof cover sort of undoes all the good work - expose one and you expose them all. Individual covers would be a much better solution.

Panasonic ToughPad FZ-A1 review

Final Verdict

Panasonic is essentially playing in the rugged tablet space by itself at the moment, so it's hard to offer any meaningful comparisons. The ToughPad is very much a niche product with a targeted customer, who will definitely see the advantage in having such a robust device at their disposal.

But at $1499 a unit, there does seem to be quite a few compromises in the final product. Things like the microphone and speaker feel like hardware from a $100 device, and that's not really up to the standard we were expecting.

That said, if you work in a job where a solid device is essential, one ToughPad is going to be cheaper than buying three iPads in the long run.

Having spent the past decade editing some of Australia's leading technology publications, Nick's passion for the latest gadgetry is matched only by his love of watching Australia beat England in the rugby.