Hands on with Panasonic’s 20-inch 4K Windows 8 tablet

The trend toward 4K resolution is in full swing in the HDTV world, so it’s not surprising that this display technology is already starting to infiltrate computing. What is surprising is Panasonic’s bold move to not only create a 4K PC, but to make it into one of the biggest tablets we’ve ever seen. And yes, the 4K Windows 8 all-in-one is indeed a tablet, because it has a battery and can operate away from the A/C adapter. Is this something anyone needs? Well, why not?

To start, the 20-inch 4K panel is absolutely gorgeous. If you’re impressed with 4K on big HDTVs, this is even better. It reminded us of the first time we saw the Retina display on the iPad, except even more awesome. Of course colors really pop, and the viewing angles are very wide. At the very least, this would make an amazing multimedia machine. However, Panasonic has loftier goals.

All of the use cases on display at the company’s CES booth are high-end professional ones. We got to see Photoshop running on it, wireless photo control and capture with a Panasonic Lumix DSLR, and real time collaboration in software made for architects. Since the 20-inch surface is so large, it’s perfect for big imaging or drafting projects. There’s an accelerometer inside, giving users the option to work in portrait or landscape. In the demos we also saw a Bluetooth digitized pen, an optional accessory, for working in photo editors and other pro software.

This tablet is clearly destined for professional and business use, which makes sense given the level of detail offered by the 4K resolution. We’re sure plenty of consumers will still drool over it, though.

The tablet weighs around 5 pounds (that may change with the final release), around the same weight as a mainstream laptop. So it’s quite easy to move around the office or a studio, freeing you up to work wherever you want without having to worry about wires or outlets. The battery lasts two hours. Panasonic might have been able to shove more longevity into the tablet except it seems that the company wanted to keep it slim and svelte. Accordingly, there are few ports, which might be an issue with business users.

Intel Core i5 processors ran the units on display in Panasonic’s booth. When the final product comes out, there may also be a Core i7 option. The demo units are pre-production, so they weren’t at their absolute best. Still, we got an inkling of how powerful the 4K tablet will be. It runs full Windows 8 at the moment, and we suspect it will be offered with Win8 Pro. The only issue with running Windows and other programs is that they aren’t made for such high-resolution displays. Thus icons are very tiny. When this product comes out, software makers will have to update their wares to deal with the huge jump in pixels.

Overall, the Panasonic 4K Windows 8 tablet is really impressive. The gorgeous 20-inch screen is only the beginning of the story of how awesome it is. And while it’s likely to be so expensive at first that many consumers won’t be able to afford it, we look forward to a time (that may not be so far in the future) when giant 4K tablets take the place of all-in-ones as go-to multimedia PCs for families and college students.

Panasonic isn’t releasing any pricing or availability details yet, they’ll only say the tablet is coming out in 2013. We can’t wait.

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