At CES 2013, Panasonic unveiled something that I’ve long hoped for, but still it was quite unexpected: a 4K class "Pro Tablet" device, which not only has a PC-size screen larger than any laptop, but also resolution better than anything seen before save those rare 4096×2560 medical displays, and proper Intel Core – not Atom – CPU running the full Microsoft Windows 8 OS (not the restricted RT version).
Panasonic 4K Supertablet – 20", 4K resolution, Windows 8 and Intel + Nvidia Combo. The ultimate for modern DCC/CAD/CAM/CAE professional?
Maybe it shouldn’t be a surprise, after all – the world’s first reasonably affordable 3840×2400 monitor, the 22-inch IBM T221, was made in Japan a decade ago, so the technology was there all along, just not used with all the freeze in PC monitor resolution development. The new tablet shown at CES, with a 20-inch 4k IPS Alpha LCD Panel combines a high precision Anoto Live digital pen with it for super precise input, something valued by an architect, engineer or 3-D multimedia content creator, not to mention the photo-video editing or digital painting gurus. With the target to commercialize the new tablet later this year, Panasonic is gearing itself up to propose new business value this feature-rich device will offer to its customers in a wide range of industries.
Just like the T221 many years ago, viewing PDF or document files on this tablet would be akin to watching color laser printout quality on your screen, or have natural handwriting or hand painting / drawing with literally a painting resolution. The display resolution is actually 3840 x 2560, with nearly ten million – 9.83 million pixels. The 230 pixels per inch screen has a productive 15:10 or 3:2 aspect ratio, same as Apple iPhone 4S, and very useful for displaying actual paper and document proportion, including near A3 size.
The tablet is just 1cm thick, e.g. 0.4 inches. This is thinner than the first generation iPad, for example
Now, at 2.4 kg (5.3 lbs) and 10.8 mm (0.4 inch) thick, this is no iPad, in fact it is easily twice the weight of the lightest Ultrabooks, but the capabilities for anyone in CAD/CAM/CAE, EDA for chip design, any sort of photo / video / desktop / Web publishing or editing, and any kind of 3-D content creation, not to mention 4K video, is the best there would be. While Panasonic preloads Windows 8 Pro 64 bit with 4 GB RAM, you can expand the memory to 16 GB and run Win Ultimate as well. The CPU, Intel Core i5 3427U vPro 1.80 GHz in the CES unit, will likely be replaced with one of those ULV Haswell processors – hopefully the Core i7 type – if mid-2013 is to be the real launch date.
Since Haswell can handle 4K displays natively, the built in NVIDIA GeForce in the CES Sample may be an option but not necessary, although dedicated GPU with discrete RAM is beneficial for 10 MPixel class displays.
What would I change on this? Well, first I’d up the resolution just slightly to 4096×2560 to address the need for native 4K video editing which is still 4096 pixel wide before being cut to 3840 wide displays and also standardize the aspect ratio then to the golden mean 16:10, also the SSD options should go beyond 128 GB – probably still mSATA, while the built-in front camera, right now 720P, should go to 1080 P resolution. An interesting consideration would be to add a nice, large-sensor 10 Mpix or better rear camera as this device would be able to instantly edit and view such photos at pixel-for-pixel resolution! Upping the USB speed to USB 3.0 and including a mini RJ45 native Gigabit Ethernet for connecting to secured engineering departments where wireless is off, would be a good idea.
Last but not least, yes the battery life of some two hours may not sound much, but for a 4K display and associated PC the size of 18.7" x 13.1" x 0.4", it’s not bad at all! Remember, the pros in the engineering and design might use this kind of creation device for an hour or two at most in the field, and then carry it to the office to edit or finish up the stuff, where the power supply would be there. Now, whether Apple would try to make a next super large designer iPad for the same market with even more usable 4:3 aspect ratio, using the 4096×3072 resolution as exact quad of the current iPad, remains to be seen – their arch nemesis Samsung showed an eight-core ARM that can power such Android device anyway, and Nvidia Tegra 4 might also be powerful enough to support such a machine.