The display itself is touch-screen, allowing you to tap and drag icons using the supplied stylus. However, the touch-screen is so good that it’s perfectly usable with your finger, despite the relatively high resolution. The screen is also viewable in a variety of environments, including bright sunlight or heavy rain – exactly as you’d expect from a ToughBook.
A plethora of buttons flank the screen on either side. On the left are the aforementioned zoom controls, along with a very useful scroll control – basically up/down buttons that will scroll through your active window. To the left of the screen are also indicator lights for when the device is plugged into the mains, when the wireless adapters are active and when battery one is charging. On the right hand side you’ll find the power button and four assignable application buttons, allowing you to create shortcuts to your most used programs. There are also indicator lights for power, HDD activity and battery two.
You’ve probably already spotted that I mentioned two batteries in the paragraph above. You see the CF-U1 has dual two cell batteries, providing a quoted battery life of nine hours, which should get most field workers through their gruelling day. However, the real advantage that the two batteries bring to the party, is hot swap functionality. So, as one battery runs out, you can swap it for a fresh cell, while the second battery is powering the device. This is yet another example of how Panasonic really understands its target market, after all, you wouldn’t want to run out of juice while you’re up a telegraph pole!
Below the screen is a full alphanumeric keypad, but like the Samsung Q1 Ultra, the QWERTY keyboard has been split in half. This is a good idea, since it allows you to easily reach each and every letter of the alphabet with your thumbs. It’s surprisingly easy to type on the CF-U1 and pretty much everyone in the office that picked it up commented that the keypad was far more usable than they would have imagined. However, whereas the Samsung Q1 Ultra has its keys either side of the screen, Panasonic’s decision to place the keys below the screen has allowed for the inclusion of numbers, symbols and even cursor keys.
At the rear of the CF-U1 is a fingerprint scanner for biometric security, along with an integrated camera. The latter will no doubt be appreciated by many users, especially those who are assessing damage or the progress of a project. There’s also a leather hand strap, making for very secure handling while tapping at the screen. Obviously holding it like this isn’t ideal for typing, but many users will be using bespoke applications that require stylus taps rather than text input.