Feb 24 2022

Review: Panasonic Toughbook A3 Gives Civilian Feds a Military-Grade Tablet

The rugged device provides protection against spills, drops and other mishaps.

Panasonic has long created rugged equipment popular with the military and domestic first responders. In recent years, more civilian federal agencies have started to see the value in providing fully functional, rugged equipment to their workforces as well. It’s a smart move to protect computing investments from accidental drops, the rigors of time spent in hot cars or even a spilled cup of coffee — and to eliminate downtime.

The A3 tablet is the latest in Panasonic’s Toughbook line and is fully rugged when tested against grueling military ­specifications. This tablet also has a few surprises that are ­perfect for civilian users.

Feds Can Turn to Android OS for Extra Security

The A3 runs on an Android operating system as opposed to Windows, and it’s locked in at Android version 9.0 — an OS that offers a good balance of functionality and security. Users don’t get all the bells and ­whistles of later Android ­versions, but they aren’t exposed to unnecessary security risks either.

When using the optional Panasonic Productivity+ suite, administrators can lock down tablets so that they perform only valid ­work-related functions specific to the employee using the tablet. Employees could also be restricted from playing games and using unauthorized social media applications.

Administrators can even ­control details such as which wireless networks can connect with the tablet. It makes the A3 a tool that is highly specialized, secure and easy to use.

Panasonic Toughbook A3 tablet

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

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

With customizations from administrators, the Panasonic A3 tablet can become a highly ­specialized tool that is flexible enough to tackle almost any ­federal agency’s environment or need. 

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The Toughbook A3 Meets Military Standards

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

Panasonic is one of the few companies that 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 helps users evaluate the potential survivability of a prospective device against the environment it’s expected to face.

Federal civilian users probably won’t have to confront 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 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.

Civilian users can have confidence that their Panasonic A3 tablets 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.

SPECIFICATIONS

PROCESSOR: Qualcomm SDM660 2.2GHz/1.843GHz Octa-core
RAM: 4Gb LPDDR4 SDRAM
OPERATING SYSTEM: Android 9.0
STORAGE: CAPACITY: 64GB embedded multimedia card
WEIGHT: 1.98 pounds
DIMENSIONS: 10.7x7.7x0.6 inches
DISPLAY: 10.1-inch WUXGA touch screen

Image courtesy of Panasonic

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