Panasonic announces Android-based Toughpad tablets

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Panasonic has officially announced a new line of rugged Android tablets today that will sell under the Toughpad moniker. Just like the company's Toughbook products, the 10-inch A1 and 7-inch B1 Toughpads are designed to withstand mountains of abuse, from extreme temperatures between 14 and 122 degrees Fahrenheit to 4-foot drops as well as dust and water spills. The new tablets are aimed at users operating in heavy-duty usage scenarios, such as utility crews on the road, military staff in combat situations, or engineers doing the rounds at a construction site.

The Toughpad A1 will arrive in spring 2012 for a hefty $1,299. That will get you a 1.2GHz dual-core processor, Android 3.2 Honeycomb, a daylight-readable LED-backlit display (1024x768), 1GB of DDR2 memory, Wi-Fi, options for WiMAX or LTE connectivity as well as 3G networking, a front-facing 2-megapixel camera and rear-facing 5-megapixel camera with an LED flash, 10-hour battery life, and ports for microUSB, microSDHC and HDMI.

In addition, the Toughpads will sport enterprise-class security features such as software and hardware encryption, dual-factor authentication and enhanced VPN. Panasonic says the tablets should meet security standards like FIPS 140-2 for government use and HIPAA for medical use. They also include custom device management controls, which should make them easy for IT administrators to deploy, and access to Business AppPortal for curated enterprise apps.

Clearly, this isn't the thinnest and prettiest tablet on the block -- the A1 weighs in at a hefty 2.13 pounds, compared to the iPad 2 and 10-inch Galaxy Tab, which weigh in at around 1.3 pounds. Then again, Panasonic is going for a niche market here where security, reliability and durability are key selling points.

Unfortunately, while the A1's specs look competitive by today's standards, by the time this tablet actually arrives on the market it might feel a bit dated next to tablets running Android 4.0 powered by quad-core chips. The 7-inch Toughpad B1 will launch even later in 2012, though no specifications or pricing details have been revealed so far.

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