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Panasonic ToughBook CF-U1 Rugged UMPC review




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Panasonic ToughBook CF-U1 Rugged UMPC


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There has been a lot of talk about Intel's new Atom platform of late, much of it centred on the Asus Eee PC and its imitators. Already we've seen the Eee PC 901 and MSI Wind, both of which employ the Atom platform. But this "Netbook" category, as Intel has decided to call it, isn't where the Atom was originally pitched. Back when Intel was first talking about the Atom chip, using its codename Silverthorne, the story was about Mobile Internet Devices (MIDs), or the evolution of the Ultra-Mobile PC (UMPC), and although there have been many prototype MIDs shown at various events, the first actual MID/UMPC device to hit the market comes from a rather unusual source - Panasonic.

Despite the fact that Panasonic creates some truly impressive mobile computers, the ToughBook range is generally more about rugged performance than cutting edge components. It was therefore a surprise when Panasonic announced that it would be launching a product based on the Atom platform a few months ago, and even more of a surprise that it's the first UMPC style device to hit the market with Intel's new chip. So, the ToughBook CF-U1 is stuffed full of cutting edge mobile components, but does it still live up to Panasonic's super-rugged heritage?

The simple answer to the question above is a resounding yes. You just have to pick up the CF-U1 to realise that this is a seriously rugged bit of kit. In fact, the CF-U1 is rated as "fully rugged", meaning that it shares the same category as machines like the CF-30 and CF-19 notebooks. In fact, the CF-U1 has the potential to be the most rugged machine that Panasonic has ever made, since this is the first device to ship with no moving parts. Whereas Panasonic put huge amounts of R&D into creating protective caddies for notebook hard drives, the CF-U1 comes equipped with a solid state drive, which is intrinsically more robust than a standard Winchester drive.

The inclusion of a solid state drive removes a potential point of mechanical failure from the equation, and theoretically, provides the CF-U1 with greater long term durability than any other ToughBook. The drive inside my review sample has a 16GB capacity, but a 32GB disk is optional. With standard ultra-portable notebooks already shipping with 128GB SSDs, it's probably a safe bet to assume that Panasonic will offer higher capacities over the coming months. However, it's worth remembering that ToughBooks are generally used by field workers, who only need them to do specific tasks, and therefore masses of storage space is rarely required.

lams 007

July 9, 2008, 7:19 am

I´d like to have on. But i don´t need it.It's impressive. I think Panasonic ToughBook are also made for the army that have to be totally rugged.

Hans Gruber

July 9, 2008, 4:09 pm

"The Atom platform gives this device a decent amount of grunt, while the dual battery setup makes for impressive operation times," how long exactly?

Where's the DVD drive? ;)


July 9, 2008, 4:24 pm

Try reading page three which mentions the dual two cell batteries and nine hour battery life - you tend to miss a lot of the detail if you just read the verdict and nothing else :)


July 9, 2008, 9:07 pm

hot swappable batteries are a brilliant idea - i find it incredible nobody else had thought of implementing it. i feel like going for one of these over an asus eee pc ;)

Hans Gruber

July 10, 2008, 12:58 am

I did actually read the whole article but clearly missed that bit. Typical I should miss the important bit. Thanks anyway.


July 10, 2008, 7:39 am


No Word about the GPS? , i know its optional but i dont see it on any web site the review or sell them.


July 10, 2008, 1:53 pm

I know that Panasonic offers GPS as an option on most of its ToughBooks, but I didn't see the option listed for the CF-U1. That said, Andy is attending the official launch of the U1 tonight, so he can ask about the GPS module there.


July 10, 2008, 5:41 pm

Hey Riyad

take a look on this pathetic video make by panasonic about the new U1.


i was asking about the gps because i saw it on the video.


August 1, 2008, 7:45 pm

They showed that video at the launch - it's hilarious :)

Yep, there's definitely a GPS module available, but I don't know how much it costs. Hopefully all this info will be up on the Panasonic site soon.

However, Panasonic informed me today that the pricing they originally gave me was wrong, and the device is actually 50% more expensive, which is annoying to say the least. I'm not convinced that the price increase will put off the target market, but Panasonic definitely needs to get it's pricing right in the first place, especially since I made a point of how affordable it was in the review!

Max Clifford

August 27, 2008, 1:50 pm

Warning, the lead time for first units has already slipped to END of September. Only orders placed early this month stand any chance of being fulfilled then too.

Useful guy at www.toughnrugged.com for any UK buyers. Prices and options all listed.

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