Panasonic CF-U1. Brief hands-on. 8hrs of Menlow-based Pro-Mobility.

Posted on 06 August 2008 by

cfu1-lightsThe important element of this little report is that, for the first time, I’ve been able to play with a Menlow-based ultra mobile PC (Atom 1.33Ghz Z520, Poulsbo) running Windows XP although I have to say, the Panasonic CF-U1 is an awesome device that needs to be talked about first. Lets get my excitement about the CF-U1 out of the way…

  • Dual, hot-swappable 20Wh batteries. Now that’s a feature I want, with an external charger.
  • Dual high-brightness LEDs around the camera. For that night-time report or just to scare young boys!
  • Fingerprint reader for security and speed benefits.
  • Modules all over the place! This one had a laser barcode scanner and RFID reader.
  • Hand strap options.
  • Amazing Wifi and Bluetooth reception. I didn’t get a chance to test it out but apparently a lot of time was spent getting it right. The person showing me the U1 [Hi Jason. Thanks for breakfast!] had done some tests to confirm this.
  • Peace-of-mind ruggedness.
  • High efficiency build.

More after the images below…

Panasonic U1- (5) Panasonic U1- (6) Panasonic U1- (8) Panasonic U1- (2) Panasonic U1- (4)
Click for full sizes or see gallery

So lets talk about that ‘high efficiency build.’  I was playing around with the device, enjoying it and didn’t think once about the speed of response. The OS was totally transparent. It was running XP and it performed just as I’d expect a PC to perform. I’m not saying that XP was 100% the reason as this device is built with an SSD and I’m not saying that it’s a powerful PC but compared to the Vista-based SC3 that is built on the same Intel platform, the OS response was smooth and without issues. Once again, XP and SSD turn out to be a winning combination for pro-mo users.

Secondly, battery life. I dropped out one of the two batteries (while it was running, see images above) and checked the battery life. With Wifi on and unknown software build, it was instantly returning 3hrs with Wifi on. Screen brightness wasn’t as good as the SC3 but it was viewable in the bright sunny area that we were sitting in. Checking perfmon put a smile on my face. Between 4 and 5w of drain without any need to wait for the device to settle down. I assume that the modules were turned off at this point! With both batteries installed we were seeing 8hrs on the battery life meter.

This sort of quality doesn’t come cheap but at least we know it can be done. I’d love to see a consumer version of this as a 7″ mininote. If they can do 8hrs in 1KG with all that ruggedness, i’m sure they can reach 800gm but still keep 40wh of battery. But then again, maybe we don’t have to wait for Panasonic. Maybe the Clevo 1.6Ghz Menlow-based 40whr design will do exactly the same.

[Note: The keyboard design shown here is not as you’d find it on a standard version.]

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20 Comments For This Post

  1. kyuss says:

    well…a true workhorse! :-)

  2. kyuss says:

    btw.:

    love the two evil eyes on the back! :-D

  3. dtucker says:

    Panasonic has been putting out highly portable laptops with amazing battery life for years. I’m not surprised that they managed to get a UMPC like this; I’m actually more surprised that they took so long doing it.

    As for the mininote, they’ve had something very much like it for several years already. As I’ve said multiple times in these comments, their R-series of laptops (currently at R7) is a (Japan-only, unfortunately; that’s what importers are for) 10″ laptop with similarly excellent battery life that comes in under 1kg. It’s only a little bigger than the original Eee (it’s 20mm larger in length, but that’s the only significant difference). But it’s a full-fledged laptop, and is priced accordingly, so it’s not really competing with the current flurry of mininotes.

  4. Sarig says:

    I really love this pc :)

  5. bluemonq says:

    Now if they could only put out a less industrial-looking version and keep the dual batteries…

  6. turn.self.off says:

    love the battery solution!

    and i agree, get the laptop charger to also charge the batteries outside of the device.

  7. turn.self.off says:

    had a look at the images, and love the carry strap on the back.

    its something similar to what i find myself doing with the stand on my N800 at times ;)

  8. ecsk2 says:

    What no actual real QWERTY keyboard?!
    Or are there several models?

  9. ecsk2 says:

    Nowhere can I find any hints of the one shown in your pics (without the “normal” QWERTY keyboard)

    http://catalog2.panasonic.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/ModelDetail?storeId=11201&catalogId=13051&itemId=262732&catGroupId=12871&surfModel=Toughbook-U1&displayTab=F

    Just in case the long link won’t work..
    http://tinyurl.com/6xtduo

    Help me out here!

  10. turn.self.off says:

    as stated at the end of the article, the keyboard shown is not the one that will be on the end product.

  11. ecsk2 says:

    Oh ok, I guess I should’ve read the article (more carefully) :)

  12. Dukeswharf says:

    Chippy,
    this device looks very intereting, in fact the best I have seen thus far.

    Is the CF-U1 available for purchase and if not when can we expect it on the market?

  13. ecsk2 says:

    Love the battery time, and also the DOUBLE battery solution that is something more devices should use, it could eliminate the problem of having to have the device plugged in or turned off when swaping batteries! :)

  14. Brent says:

    What kind of storage does it have? Hard drive, flash? SD card reader? Video out?

  15. ecsk2 says:

    http://tinyurl.com/6xtduo

  16. peejay says:

    Very impressive battery life. Have I got the following right, when comparing with the current best-in-class?

    Panasonic: 40wh battery, 8hr battery life (wifi on?), 5w drain
    Everun: 26wh battery, 4hr battery life (wifi on), 6.5w drain

    If that’s right, the Panasonic with its Atom is quite a lot more efficient than the Everun – and with a processor that’s quite a lot faster.

    So if Raon produced an Atom-based Everun, you could be looking at 25% improvement in battery life? That would be good. I don’t think Raon are going to do this, but still. For the first time, we’re seeing that an Atom based machine could indeed offer better battery life than the previous best-in-class.

  17. Dukeswharf says:

    I received the following factsheet information, this morning, from Panasonic, which some may find of interest:

    http://www.toughbook.eu/ENG/umpc_cf-u1.aspx

    Also, the following is of interest:

    http://tinyurl.com/6xtduo

  18. Judge says:

    Any ideal on the price I am guessing its gonna cost alot? Great design though with hot swap battery.

  19. Dukeswharf says:

    Chippy,
    do you have any plans to do a video review of the CF-U1?

  20. focus says:

    See this price:http://www.dynamism.com/toughbook_u1.shtml
    and conclude your self!
    For this money this is bullshit!

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