Friday, June 27, 2008

Panasonic Unveils Rugged Ultra-Mobile PC

Panasonic on Wednesday introduced a rugged handheld PC that offers field workers the same features as a full-size notebook, but at a much smaller size.

The CF-U1, the first ultra-mobile PC in the Toughbook product line, is 7 inches wide, 6 inches deep, and 2 inches high. The device has a 5.6-inch touch screen that viewable in sunlight and a Qwerty keyboard. The computer is powered by Intel new low-energy Atom processor and comes with 1 GB of memory.

The computer is the result of more than two years of feedback from an array of government and commercial organizations that need a small computer that can withstand the rigors of being out in the field with insurance adjusters, building inspectors, police officers, firefighters, oil and gas employees, and other workers, the company said. The highly portable device includes a 16 GB solid-state drive, which has no moving parts, making it more durable than hard disk drives.

Data capture options include barcode and RFID readers and a 2-megapixel camera. The computer comes with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth wireless connectivity, with 3G support optional. The machine is available with Windows XP or Windows Vista.

The all-weather CF-U1 is fan-less for quieter operation and includes hot-swappable batteries for replacing power supplies without disrupting operation. Approximate battery life is nine hours. The device, which weights 2.3 pounds, has a magnesium alloy chassis that protects against bumps and drops of up to 4 feet.

The Toughbook CF-U1 is scheduled to be available in Panasonic resellers and distributors in August. Pricing starts at $2,499.

Panasonic is one of many vendors offering rugged computers for field workers. Dell (Dell), for example, in March introduced its first notebook for government and commercial customers looking for a computer that can withstand extreme temperatures and moisture.

The Latitude XFR D630 includes a 14.1-inch LCD screen, but is available with an optional touch screen that supports finger, gloved, or stylus inputs. The system is powered by a 2.2 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7500 processor, and comes standard with 512 MB of RAM, Windows XP Professional, and a 160 GB hard disk drive. Solid-state drives are also available.

The XFR D630, which is certified by the Department of Defense for extreme field conditions, costs between $2,699 and $4,000, depending on configuration.