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Back from dead: Intel's Atom chip, in Panasonic's $2,189 Android tablet

Intel is phasing out Atom chips from mobile devices and has scaled back Android development for such devices.

But Panasonic has come out with a new tablet with an Atom chip and Android 6.0 anyway. Panasonic's new Toughbook FZ-A2 has a crazy starting price of US $2,189, and its Atom x5-Z8550 chip is a big problem.

Atom chips are almost disappearing from tablets, especially devices with Android. There are also questions on whether the Toughbook will get upgraded to the newer Android 7.0, code-named Nougat. Panasonic didn't provide a response to the query.

Panasonic's release of the new Toughbook with Android is an interesting move, especially as other PC makers abandon Atom and excitement around Android tablets fade. Dell last year stopped selling Android tablets -- which had x86 chips -- and won't be delivering OS upgrades to its existing Venue devices.

Last year Lenovo started offering the Atom x5-Z8550 chip in its Yoga Book 2-in-1, which can be purchased with Windows or Android. The Yoga Book is unique as it replaces a hard keyboard with a virtual keypad, much like on tablets. At the time, Lenovo had to turn to Atom as the chip was ready for Android.

But now, Intel is focusing on Windows, and promoting low-power Core, Pentium, and Celeron chips for tablets and 2-in-1s. The chipmaker continues to work with Google on Chromebooks and IoT devices using the Brillo OS, which is based on Android.

Most Android tablets have chips based on ARM architecture, which dominates the mobile market.

Panasonic's Toughbooks are known for their rugged features. The Toughbook FZ-A2 is water resistant and can withstand a 1.2-meter drop.

The tablet is not targeted at average users. It's for enterprise users and field workers who use tablets in harsh conditions. Panasonic also offers rugged tablets with Windows.

The Toughbook FZ-A2 has a 10.1-inch screen with a 1920 x 1200 pixel resolution. The tablet offers nine hours of battery life. The battery is replaceable.

With all its aging technology, the tablet is keeping up with a USB Type-C port, a USB 3.0 port and Wi-Fi. The tablet can be bought with 4G LTE capabilities. It also has Bluetooth 4.2. 

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