Mar 15 2021

Review: Get Rugged Functionality with the Panasonic Toughbook A3

Powered by Android’s OS, this military-tough tablet is secure and manageable for any business.

Panasonic has long created rugged equipment popular with the military and domestic first responders. In recent years, more private sector organizations have started to see the value in providing fully functional rugged equipment to their workforces. Utility workers, field service agents and traveling salespeople may not be operating in battle zones or responding to house fires, but it still makes sense for their employers to protect their computing investments from the rigors of outside exposure. It’s a smart move that can eliminate downtime for critical workers.

The A3 tablet is the latest in Panasonic’s Toughbook line and tested well against grueling military specifications. It also has a few surprises that business users will love.

A Tablet That Builds in Extra Security

The A3 is locked in on Android’s version 9.0 operating system. The reason is that the OS offers a good balance of functionality and security. Users don’t get all the bells and whistles of later Android versions but aren’t exposed to unnecessary security risks either.

MORE FROM BIZTECH: How organizations can take a new approach to security to meet the moment.

In fact, when using the optional Panasonic productivity+ suite, administrators can lock down their new tablets so that they only perform valid business functions specific to the worker assigned to use the tablet. A warehouse manager might have access to an inventory control program and barcode scanner, while a sales manager can look at a client database. Both could be restricted from playing games and using unauthorized social media applications. Administrators can even control things like which wireless networks can connect with the tablet. It makes the A3 a business tool that is highly specialized, secure and easy to use.

The tablet itself is extremely functional, with a 10.1-inch touch screen. It’s powered by two swappable batteries that provide for an 800-nit brightness display and about 9 hours of runtime. You can swap out either of the batteries for a fresh one while the tablet is still powered on to add even more runtime as needed. The A3 has five programmable buttons so businesses can fully tailor its functions to their environments.

In terms of extras, the tablet has a gadget port, so businesses can add a smart card reader, a second USB slot, a barcode scanner or almost any other compatible business tool.

With customizations made by administrators, the Panasonic Toughbook A3 tablet can become a specialized business tool that is flexible enough to tackle almost any environment or need.

Panasonic Toughbook A3

The Toughbook A3 Meets Military Standards

The Panasonic Toughbook A3 is a fully rugged tablet designed to survive all kinds of harsh situations, from being dropped onto a concrete floor to sitting for hours in a sweltering or freezing car and getting bumped around in transport. It can even resist driving rain or having water directly spilled on it.

Panasonic is one of the few companies that actually runs its products through a series of tests defined by the military. The series includes 28 tests for withstanding shock, vibration, high and low temperatures, sand and dust exposure, wind, humidity and altitude. This allows users to evaluate the potential survivability of a prospective device against the expected environment that it will face.

Business users probably won’t have to face many of the harsh conditions presented by military testing. However, knowing what the tablet can survive gives peace of mind that you probably won’t lose all of your data if you drop the device on the airport floor or spill a drink across its screen.

I tested the Toughbook A3 against most of the military standards. While alternately powered on and turned off, the tablet was dropped from as high as 3 feet onto plywood laid over concrete, so there were no soft falls. The A3 tablet survived it all and operated perfectly immediately afterward, though the plywood landing zone became splintered by the end.

Liquid was spilled onto the tablet and also blown through a fan over the unit. The same procedure was used to check for dust ingress. Although the tablet got very messy, it never quit, and since it consists of a large front screen, it was easy to clean.

Finally, it was placed on a shaker table to simulate computing while mounted in a vehicle on a very bumpy road. It experienced no data loss and no read or write errors after 30 minutes of testing.

Business users can employ their Panasonic A3 tablets with confidence that they will survive almost any unexpected trauma in their environment. They may never face some of the harsher conditions of military testing, but it’s nice to know that the tablet will mostly likely survive if it ever does.

Panasonic Toughbook A3

RESILIENT: Swappable batteries deliver long runtimes
CUSTOMIZABLE: Supports any business or application
FLEXIBLE: Full functionality without excess security risks