Panasonic ToughBook CF-H1 Mobile Clinical Assistant - Panasonic ToughBook CF-H1

By Riyad Emeran

Reviewed:

Summary

Our Score:

8

Panasonic has made the CF-H1 very easy to use by designing a hand strap at the rear. This allows the user to hold the device like a clipboard in one hand while operating it in the other - in fact I'd say that it's easier to hold than a clipboard. There's also a moulded carrying handle at the top, making it easy to transport the device from one room/ward/area to another throughout the day. A nice touch is that there are activation buttons for both the RFID sensor and barcode scanner mounted on the carry handle. The latter is particularly useful as it allows you to activate the barcode scanner and easily aim it at the thing you want to scan.

Panasonic has managed to ensure the CF-H1's fanless design by going for a low power platform, in the shape of Intel's ever pervasive Atom. However, unlike pretty much every other Atom based machine we've seen here at TR, the CF-H1 boasts a 1.86GHz version, which should make it that bit more snappy than most of the netbooks we've reviewed. The Atom CPU is backed up by 1GB of RAM, which seems somewhat meagre by today's standards, but as long as you choose Windows XP instead of Vista, that shouldn't be a problem.

Considering that the CF-H1 is designed to be extremely rugged, you may be surprised to hear that Panasonic has equipped it with an 80GB hard disk as opposed to an SSD. But since the company has spent years developing protective caddies for hard drives, you shouldn't have to worry about this one giving up the ghost after a few knocks.

Wireless networking comes courtesy of an Intel WiFi Link 5100 adapter, which provides 802.11a, b, g and draft-n compatibility. The full complement of Wi-Fi standards should mean that the CF-H1 can get connected no matter how old the infrastructure might be at a hospital. There's also Bluetooth 2.0+EDR thrown in for good measure. You can also specify an integrated 7.2mbps HSDPA adapter, or even a GPS receiver.

Martin Leventon

January 29, 2009, 6:57 pm

The question is wether at 2K a machine is will the NHS be able to afford to add some into the IT infrastucture they have. Personally if I had a spare 2k id be buying one myself !

Riyad

January 29, 2009, 8:00 pm

Oops - just realised I'd worked out the VAT at 17.5 per cent instead of 15. Fixed now - sorry about that!





Yes it does remain to be seen whether the NHS will adopt this kind of device, but I'd be happy to know that my taxes were going into the health service rather than certain other areas. Best not to get me started down this road though :)

MobyVia

January 29, 2009, 8:16 pm

I've tried one out & found them too heavy to balance in your hand whilst on a ward, what did you think Riyad? ps What OS does it have & how much RAM on yours?

Riyad

January 30, 2009, 1:47 am

@MobyVia - Everyone in the office, myself included, found it really comfortable to use with one hand through the strap at the back. Of course how long you’d want to use it like that is debatable, but I’m assuming that you wouldn’t be holding the thing the whole time you’re with a patient.





The version I had was running XP and only had 1GB of memory, but was still surprisingly nippy. I imagine that anyone thinking about rolling these things out would employ a very lean OS build and then run bespoke apps. Ultimately any hardware is only as good as the software that runs on it.

bar simpspinn

January 30, 2009, 5:19 pm

Just how much were you paid for this - ahem, 'article'?

Hugo

January 30, 2009, 5:34 pm

We're on 10 per cent commission for every CF-H1 sold in the UK :)





No, seriously, just because it's a little uncommon doesn't mean we've been paid to feature it. We just thought it was something a little more different, and thus interesting, than "just another notebook." And TR has a history of featuring TooughBooks which, we concede, most consumers would never buy.

Dave Manchester

January 31, 2009, 2:21 am

This was a real stab from the past for me.





In 1992 I formed a partnership to design and build such a device as this. At first we were going to use the EO-440 and EO-880 (PenPoint OS) but that was killed by AT&T as soon as we finished writing the proposal (for a nursing home).





The target device would be a tablet PC, wireless, lan connected, and have a bar code reader. It would also have had fax and voicemail. We had in mind using it on medicine carts in convalescent and nursing homes.





We actually went to many trade shows looking for equivalent functionality to the discontinued EO pc's. Our final proposal included the Dauphin DTR-1 with MS Windows for Pen extensions, PenOP for signature authentication, with PowerBuilder generated applications on a Novell Network.





Alas, our Client had nowhere near the amount of money to fund the pilot project (and I learned a valuable lesson about doing proposals on spec). On the upside, we learned a lot about the state of the art circa 1992-1996. Also, many of the features we demanded and communicated to vendors started to appear around 1996-99 with the initial iterations of PDA's from Palm and others.





Sigh. It just doesn't pay to be too far ahead of Your time without Angel Investors. It's been 17 years, and here is this fine machine.





Good Job Panasonic!





- David C. Manchester


http://dredeyedick.wordpress.c...

Riyad

January 31, 2009, 8:34 pm

@bar simpspinn - And there I was thinking that a fully rugged touch screen device with unique features like integrated RFID and wireless smartcard security might be of interest to some people. I'm glad you pointed out the error in my thinking, what would I do without you. Strangely though, my bank account doesn't seem to have grown since publication - do you think I should contact someone about that?





@Dave Manchester - I've spoken to a few people over the years who had great ideas, but simply couldn't find the backing to implement them. It's a frustrating situation, especially when you have to watch someone else bring something similar to market. That said, I think the only reason that Panasonic has gone down this route is because it has already carved such a strong niche for itself with its ToughBooks, that it can carry that reputation and knowhow across, while also making use of existing manufacturing facilities.

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