I've never been fully convinced of the merit of a UMPC. The problem with the platform has always been that a general purpose PC simply doesn't work in this form factor. However, Panasonic has taken the right approach, by creating a device that can be targeted at specific tasks, and has the potential to excel in the right environment.
If you're a field worker that needs a fully rugged machine, but doesn't need a fully featured notebook, the CF-U1 will make a perfect companion. The Atom platform gives this device a decent amount of grunt, while the dual battery setup makes for impressive operation times. The hot swap battery is the icing on the cake, meaning that you won't have to shut down in the middle of something important when you run out of juice.
The fully configurable nature also means that you can spec the CF-U1 with exactly what you need to get the job done. Ultimately, if you've been put off rolling out fully rugged ToughBooks to your team because of the high cost and heavy, bulky form factor, the CF-U1 is what you've been waiting for.
Panasonic contacted me today to say that I had been given the wrong pricing for the CF-U1. Instead of the simply staggering base price of £900 ex VAT that I had initially been quoted, has now risen to £1,330 ex VAT, which is just short of a 50 per cent increase!
With this in mind I have lowered the value score by two points, but the rest of the scores still stand. The new, or should I say correct pricing, has actually placed the CF-U1 in the price bracket that I had expected it to occupy in the first place.
Whether the significant price increase affects your decision to buy the CF-U1 is debatable. As I've always said, you either need a fully rugged device or you don't, and price is usually a secondary consideration at best. However, it does mean that anyone who was considering kitting their field workers out with CF-U1s instead of CF-19s on the basis of price differential, may think twice.