Matsushita, better known by its Panasonic brand name, is adding to its Toughbook line of rugged computers with a Tablet PC model based on Intel's yet-to-be launched Centrino package.

The Centrino product combines a Mobile Pentium processor with companion chipset and wireless LAN support.

The Toughbook CF18 will be launched in mid March and is based on a 900MHz version of the new Mobile Pentium ULV (ultra low voltage) processor, which was previously known by the Intel codename Banias.

Like some other Tablet PCs, the CF18 features a display that can be swivelled around and folded down face-out. This means it can be used as a conventional laptop or as a slab-type tablet computer.

In addition to the Mobile Pentium, the CF18 has 256MB of DDR (double data rate) SDRAM (synchronous dynamic RAM), a 40GB hard drive and a TFT (thin film transistor) LCD (liquid crystal display) with 1,024x768 pixel XGA resolution.

On the networking side, wireless LAN (802.11b) support comes as standard, while options include Bluetooth, CDMA2000 1x or GPRS (general packet radio service). GPS (global positioning system) support can also be included. Preloaded software is minimal: Windows XP Professional Tablet Edition, an online manual and Acrobat Reader.

A magnesium alloy case, moisture and dust resistant LCD, keyboard and touchpad, sealed connector covers and a shock-mount for the hard drive all contribute to the product's ruggedness. Matsushita said the machine was designed to comply with the MIL STD 810F standard for shock and vibration absorption and dirt ingress.

A touchscreen version of the machine is also available, which can be operated using the special pen or a finger, but it does not support functions such as handwriting recognition. There are two touchscreen models — one with an XGA resolution outdoor-viewable display and one with a lower resolution SVGA (800x600 pixels) sunlight-viewable display.

The price to be paid for all this ruggedness comes in the physical dimensions, weight and cost of the product — the machine measures 1.9x8.5x10.7in and weighs 2Kg. Pricing begins at $3,200 (approx £2,000) for both the tablet and touchscreen models.