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Panasonic ToughBook CF-U1 Rugged UMPC - Panasonic ToughBook CF-U1
When it comes to connectivity, Panasonic has pretty much every base covered. As standard you get an Intel Wireless WiFi Link 5100 adapter that supports 802.11a, b, g and Draft-N. There's also Bluetooth 2.0 + EDR, so you'll be able to transfer files to and from suitably equipped devices. And if you positively have to be connected anywhere and anytime, you can specify a built-in HSDPA module - again, very handy when you're up a pole/tree/half constructed building. You can even get the CF-U1 RFID equipped, which means that it can act as your access key for certain areas or warehouses.
Despite this being a preproduction sample, and me promising Panasonic that I'd take extra special care of it, I couldn't help but be a little clumsy with it, just for the sake of testing of course. Unsurprisingly, the CF-U1 didn't so much as blink, no matter how many times I dropped it or failed to catch it as Hugo tossed it to me. Panasonic guarantees a drop height of 1.2 metres, which is slightly higher than its most rugged notebooks - the extra height is probably due to the solid state drive. I also gave the water resistance a bit of a test, by leaving the CF-U1 out in the car park during a rain storm - yet again it didn't seem in the least bit bothered by its harsh environment.
There's no denying that the CF-U1 is pretty small by ToughBook standards, but it's still a fairly chunky UMPC. Measuring 184 x 151 x 57mm (WxHxD) and weighing in at 1.06kg, it's not particularly svelte or feather light. However, as with all fully rugged ToughBooks, the CF-U1 is built to survive copious amounts punishment, because that's what the target customer needs.
Traditionally fully rugged ToughBooks carry a price tag that borders on the scary. This is offset by the fact that if you really need a fully rugged notebook, that cost will be a small price to pay for your peace of mind. Surprisingly though, the ToughBook CF-U1 is comparatively affordable. The basic price of £900 excluding VAT is very attractive, especially since the majority of customers will be businesses that will claim back their VAT. Of course that price rises depending on what options you wish to equip the CF-U1 with, and that just highlights another key selling point of the ToughBook range - customisation. Panasonic is well aware that no two ToughBook customers are the same, and therefore there is no "standard spec" so to speak. All the fully rugged ToughBooks are built to the customer's needs, which includes the ability to have your own disk image loaded.
So, not only is the ToughBook CF-U1 far smaller and lighter than any other fully rugged ToughBook, it's also very affordable. This will make it a very attractive proposition for any field workers that don't do a lot of typing, and even then, the built-in keypad is very usable in short bursts. Not only will the CF-U1 potentially cut purchase costs for corporate customers, it will also save field workers the hassle of carrying a large and heavy notebook around when they don't need one.