Panasonic Unveils Toughbook Ultra U1

The Toughbook Ultra U1 is a light ultramobile PC designed for enterprise mobility use and featuring an Intel Atom processor and a 64GB solid state drive.

Panasonic is targeting mobile workers with the Toughbook U1 Ultra, its latest feature-packed ultramobile PC designed for rough handling on the road and in the field.

Weighing a mere 2.3 pounds, the Toughbook U1 Ultra comes with a 1.6GHz Intel Atom Z530 processor, a roomy 64GB solid-state hard drive and 2GB of memory, and runs the full Windows 7 operating system.

The display is a 5.6-inch WSVGA touch screen with anti-glare and anti-reflective treatment. The screen has LED backlighting and uses TransflectivePlus technology with up to 6000-nit viewability, Panasonic said Sept. 23. Being able to view the display in bright sunlight will be important for users using the handheld PC out in the field.

For online connectivity, Bluetooth 2.1 and 802.11 a/b/g/n is built in, and users have the option of including Qualcomm's Gobi 2000 3G mobile broadband technology. Multicarrier wireless deployment is possible with Gobi 2000, since it can switch between EvDO (Evolution Data Optimized) and HSPA cellular technologies. It will be certified on the Verizon Wireless, Sprint and AT&T Wireless networks, the company said.

Targeting markets such as supply chain management, public safety and utilities, the U1 Ultra has a slew of peripherals built into its compact body, including 1D and 1D/2D barcode readers, a fingerprint reader and a GPS receiver. The 2.0 megapixel auto-focus camera with dual LED lights is optional.

Besides being able to run the latest Windows 7 software, the Toughbook U1 Ultra can also run Windows Mobile and Windows CE software in emulation mode using Clearview Software International's tWinrunner software.

"Relying on a single-purpose device that runs a pared-down or proprietary OS is no longer acceptable," said Kyp Walls, director of product management at Panasonic.

Panasonic also gave the Ultra U1 some usability and navigation enhancements, including enlarged screen icons, a larger soft keyboard and a "zoom and pan" mode to allow users to navigate robust content. A single Ctrl-Alt-Del button on screen simplifies hitting that three-key-combination. The on screen "right click" button is programmable, as well.

Users have the option of a 29-key numeric keypad for data entry and navigation. The numeric keypad also has the combined "Ctrl-Alt-Del" button, as well. The numeric keypad is ideal for applications that don't require a full QWERTY keyboard, such as warehousing and forklift applications, Panasonic said.

Battery life for the Toughbook U1 Ultra is said to be up to 9 hours. It comes with twin hot-swappable batteries, which is another plus for workers who spend long hours on the warehouse floor or in the field.

Like other Toughbooks in the family, the U1 Ultra is encased in magnesium alloy and can withstand 6-foot-drops while powered on, and the fanless design keeps out water, Panasonic said.

The Toughbook U1 Ultra's estimated street price is $2,799 and it is available through authorized Panasonic resellers and distributors. It comes with a standard three-year limited warranty.