The 6 Best Rugged Computers for Business – LeMagIT

Rugged laptops were originally intended for military use, in the field, or for first responders in hostile environments. Today, these rugged devices are often used by utility workers and delivery drivers, which can make choosing the right device difficult.

The variety of use cases in the rugged device market can make selecting a device difficult. Executives and IT teams need answers to important questions such as the need for robust endpoints, the environments in which devices operate, and whether to invest in military-grade robustness. This article helps answer these questions and explores the features of duscis computers from Dell, Durabook, Getac, MobileDemand, Panasonic and Xciel.

Why aren’t all laptops rugged?

Robustness seems to be a quality feature that all laptops should have, as the technology is very well established and the market is mature. However, the truth is that a laptop is more expensive to manufacture and protect than stationary terminals. Rugged devices typically cost more than one and a half times as much as their non-rugged counterparts, so purchasing them doesn’t necessarily make sense unless the use case requires it.

Here are some common scenarios that require rugged laptops and tablets:

  • Military and defense applications. Rugged laptops are provided to pilots, soldiers and other military personnel who require computer access during combat operations, in remote locations and in other hardware-demanding outdoor situations.
  • Public safety, first responders or emergency services. Those we consider frontline officers – for example, police, firefighters and paramedics – must communicate and manage information in emergency, disaster or rescue situations.
  • Industrial and manufacturing environments. Engineers, technicians and field workers who monitor and control machines, devices or processes in factories or construction sites require access to endpoints in environments that can be extremely hostile and demanding.
  • Field service and transport. Maintenance technicians, delivery drivers and other field workers use rugged laptops when working with tools, test equipment and parts. Workers in communications, cable, utilities, sprinkler systems, and construction may all carry rugged laptops or tablets.
  • Outdoor or adventure situations. Researchers, field scientists and travelers can carry rugged laptops for communications, data collection and storage, or entertainment when working in remote outdoor environments where weather conditions can be harsh. This can include rain, snow, wind and extreme temperatures.

Choose robust devices for your business

When selecting and equipping a robust device, two important criteria must be taken into account:

  • Requirements for use. It’s important to know what applications users need and what types of communication, data volumes, display capabilities, and interactions between devices IT needs to support. Choosing between a tablet and a laptop depends on whether a keyboard is needed or to improve on-site productivity.

In addition, more traditional computing requirements such as processor speed and multitasking capabilities, memory, storage capacity, and support for external ports and connections (USB, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi) also apply. Because of their higher cost, rugged devices are generally more feature-rich than regular computers.

  • Target environments. This involves defining the limits of use situations, including temperature ranges, exposure to environmental factors such as moisture, dust, electronic interference or jamming, and rough handling (shocks, vibrations, drops and impacts). Additionally, access to charging options or the ability to swap batteries is an important concern. If the nearest power outlet is far away, problems with power and charging can quickly arise.

Once the criteria for a rugged device’s use cases and the extreme conditions it will be exposed to are captured, companies can narrow down potential purchasing options.

MIL-SPEC and MIL-STD-810

The rule of thumb for rugged terminals is whether they comply with relevant military specifications (MIL-SPEC) and related standards, ensuring their tested and proven ability to operate in various extreme conditions. The newest and most relevant standard is MIL-STD-810, maintained by a multi-service partnership between the US Air Force, US Army and Navy. It is managed by the US Army Test and Evaluation Command.

This standard covers tests for atmospheric pressure, high and low temperatures, rain, humidity, fungus, salt spray for rust testing, exposure to sand and dust, explosive atmosphere, acceleration, shock and transport shock, as well as gunfire and accidental vibration. These are demanding and expensive tests to plan, design and execute. A rugged device that meets MIL-STD-810 requirements can generally handle most situations that do not result in total destruction. The most current version of the standard is Variant G, commonly referred to as MIL-STD-810G.

6 rugged laptops and tablets

The author used Google and Bing to identify devices labeled “rugged,” “milspec,” “hazardous use,” and “emergency response.” By reading third-party reviews and reviewing law enforcement, emergency response, and military industry magazines, he was able to complete his research and find the best rugged equipment for business use.

There are many options for rugged laptops and tablets, but this in-depth look covers six top product lines, listed alphabetically.

Dell Rugged Extreme

Dell entered the rugged laptop business in 2007 with the release of its All Terrain Grade line of rugged terminals and followed with an Extreme Fully Rugged tablet model in 2009. Today, the Rugged Extreme product family represents the collection of rugged laptops and tablets. It offers screens of different sizes and capacities.

Complies with MIL-STD-810: Yes, up to the G variant.

Supported Operating Systems: Windows 10 or 11 Pro, with some models only supporting Windows 11. These devices also support some Linux distributions.

Intel processors: i3-8145U/i5-8365U and i708665U for the 7220 model, i5-1145G7 and i7-1185G7 for the 7330 model and i5-1135G7 and 1145G7/i7-1185G7 for the 5430 model.

Graphic: Intel HD 620 for the 5410 model and Iris Xe Graphics for the 7220 and 7330 models.

Battery life: 15 to 20 hours with optional second battery for hot swapping.

Maximum RAM: up to 16GB for the 7220 model, up to 32GB for the 7330 model and two SO-DIMM slots from 8 to 64GB for the 5430 model.

Maximum storage space: Up to 2TB SSD. Class 40 offers up to 1TB. Screen size and resolution: 11 inch FHD to 14 inch FHD.

Mobile connection: 4G LTE Band 14 available. This is an option and involves additional costs.

Dedicated GPS: Snapdragon Global 5G available, but optional and at an additional cost.

Antenna continuity: There are many antenna pass-through options available.

Windows Hello webcam: Yes, but optional and at an additional cost.

Peripherals: Fingerprint reader, smart card reader and numerous expansion port options available.

Durabook

Durabook is a PC and tablet manufacturer specializing in rugged PCs, including laptops and tablets. Its roots go back to the company GammTech, which focused on doing business with various branches of the US military starting in the late 1980s.

Today, Durabook focuses more broadly on military, public safety, oil and gas, and field service organizations. The Durabook branch’s name dates back to 2000, when the company released its first military-grade rugged laptop. Durabook Americas is a subsidiary of Twinhead International Corporation. Durabook devices offer a wealth of ports and peripherals, with an obvious focus on military applications and specialty ports.

Complies with MIL-STD-810: Yes, up to the G variant.

Supported Operating Systems: Windows 10 or 11 Pro, with some models only supporting Windows 11. These devices also support some Linux distributions.

Intel processors: i7-8565U for S15AB model, i5-1135G7 and 1145G7/i7-1165 and 1185G7 for Z14I model and i5-1230U/i7-1250U for 11U tablet model.

Graphic: Iris Xe Graphics for the Z14I and 11U models and UHD 620 for the S15AB model. Graphics options include the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 for the Z14I model.

Battery life: Six to eight hours with an optional second battery for hot swap.

Maximum RAM: two SO-DIMM slots. 8-64GB for the Z14I model and 8-32GB for the S15AB and 11U models. Maximum storage space: up to 2TB SSD. Durabook devices support up to two additional Non-Volatile Memory Express (NVMe) drives.

Screen size and resolution: from 8″ HD to 15″ FHD.

Mobile connection: 4G LTE Band 14 available. This is an option and involves additional costs.

Dedicated GPS: Snapdragon Global 5G available, but optional and at an additional cost.

Antenna continuity: There are many antenna pass-through options available.

Windows Hello Webcam: Yes, but optional and at an additional cost.

Peripherals: Fingerprint reader, smart card reader, Peripheral Component Interconnect Express 2 slot expansion cage, RAID storage expansion, numerous expansion port options available with additional costs that vary by model. Durabooks have multiple USB 3.2 Type-A ports, Thunderbolt 4 USB-C, micro SD, audio minijack, 1 or 2 RJ-45 GbE, HDMI, VGA and RS-232.

Getac

Getac Technology Corporation was founded in 1989 as a joint venture between GE Aerospace and the MiTAC-Synnex Group. Its original mission was to design, build and deliver rugged electronic products for the defense industry. Getac offers robust computer and video products with excellent warranty and customer service options, as well as a variety of additional features, functions and options.

Getac covers a wider range of screen sizes and configurations than the other providers listed. Additionally, it is the only provider listed that offers robust servers.

Complies with MIL-STD-810: up to variant H.

Supported Operating Systems: Windows 10 or 11 Pro and Windows Server 2022.

Intel processors: Xeon W-11855M for X600 server model, i5-1240P/i7-1260P, 1270P and 1280P for B360 Pro model. i5-1230U and i7-1250U for the 11U tablet model.

Graphic: Iris Xe Graphics for all models with dual-channel storage, UHD 620 for the Server X600 model and HD Graphics for the T800 tablet model.

Battery life: 14 to 24 hours. An optional second battery for hot swapping is supported, as is an external battery.

Maximum RAM: two SO-DIMM slots with 32 to 128 GB of RAM for the X600 server model, two SO-DIMM slots and 8 to 64 GB of RAM for the B360 Pro model, and 4 to 8 GB of soldered RAM for the T8 tablet model .

Maximum storage space: up to 2TB SSD with support for up to two additional internal NVMe drives. An external RAID array of up to 8TB is also available on server models. Tablets are more limited with 128-256GB eMMC SSD for the T800 tablet model.

Screen size and resolution: 7″ HD for Android terminals and 8″ XGA to 15″ FHD for Windows terminals.

Mobile connection: 4G LTE available for T800 tablets and Snapdragon Global 5G. This is an optional feature and involves an additional cost.

Dedicated GPS: Yes, although it is an option and an additional cost.

Antenna continuity: There are many transit options available.

Windows Hello webcam: Yes, although it is an option and an additional cost.

Peripherals: Smart card reader, barcode reader, many expansion port options available at additional cost which varies by model. These include USB 3.2 Type-A, Thunderbolt 4 USB-C, micro SD, audio mini-jack, 1 or 2 RJ-45 GbE, HDMI, VGA or RS-232.

MobileDemand

Since the early 2000s, MobileDemand has been meeting enterprise needs for rugged mobile devices that meet the requirements of the MIL-STD-810 standard. The company offers a variety of tablets and cases for many device types – including Android and iPad devices – to ensure durability.

The rugged Windows tablets range in size from 8 to 11.6 inches and feature a variety of plug-in keyboards and stands for laptop-like configurations. Special handles and a variety of accessories, including barcode readers, magnetic card readers, 3D cameras and scanning handles, are also available.

Complies with MIL-STD-810: yes up to variant G.

Supported Operating Systems: Windows 11 Pro.

Intel processors: Intel Celeron N4100 for the Flex 10B tablet, Pentium N6415 for the T1110 tablet, i5-1230U and i7-1250U for the 11U tablet and Intel Atom x7-28750 for other terminals.

Graphic: Iris UHD 600 for the Flex 10B and T1110 models. Battery life: 12 hours or more.

Maximum RAM: 4GB LPDDR4 soldered for the Flex 10B model and 8GB LPDDR4 RAM for the T110 model.

Maximum storage space: up to 2TB SSD with support for up to two additional internal NVMe drives. An external RAID array of up to 8TB is also available on server models. The tablets are more limited with 128-256GB eMMC SSD for the T800 model.

Screen size and resolution: 10.1 inch 1280 x 800 pixels for the Flex 10B tablet and WUXGA 800 x 1280 for the T1110 tablet.

Mobile connection: none.

Dedicated GPS: Yes, although it is an option and an additional cost.

Antenna continuity: none.

Windows Hello webcam: none.

Peripherals: Office dock, vehicle dock, accelerometer, gyroscope and electronic compass.

Panasonic Toughbook

Panasonic pioneered the rugged laptop category in 1996 with the introduction of its Toughbook family of devices. Today, Toughbook devices include laptops and “2-in-1s” that can function as standalone tablets or as laptops when an external keyboard is connected. Optional devices include power supplies, vehicle docks and mounts, dedicated cellular antennas, rugged printers and DVD players. The Toughbook remains a widely available line of rugged devices with screen sizes ranging from 11 to 14 inches.

Complies with MIL-STD-810: yes, up to the G variant.

Supported Operating Systems: Windows 10 or 11 Pro. They also support various Linux distributions.

Intel processors: i5-1145G7 and i7-1185G7 for Models 40 and 55. i5-10310U/1245U and i7-10810U/1207P for Models 33 and G2.

Graphic: Intel Iris Xe.

Battery life: 15 to 38 hours with optional second battery for hot swap.

Maximum RAM: two slots for dual in-line memory modules (SO-DIMM) up to 64 GB.

Maximum storage space: up to 2TB OPAL SSD.

Screen size and resolution: 11″ HD to 14″ FHD.

Mobile connection: 4G LTE Band 14 available. This is a paid option.

Dedicated GPS: Yes, although it is a paid option.

Antenna continuity: There are many double pass options available.

Windows Hello webcam: Yes, but optional and at an additional cost.

Peripherals: Barcode reader, DVD reader, smart card reader, Blu-ray reader, fingerprint reader and many optional external ports.

Xciel

The company Xciel, founded in 2011, specializes in robust packaging for iPad and iPhone devices, but also sells complete iPad devices. The aim is to provide terminals that meet MIL-STD-810 requirements to support their use in hostile and harsh environments. It offers similar coverage for select Android smartphones and Windows devices, including the 2021 and 2018 Surface Go models.

Aside from models that include iPads, Xciel’s products are designed to protect third-party devices and provide protected access to their built-in wired and wireless ports and connections. These products are intended primarily for non-military, non-disaster or emergency use scenarios. Anyone purchasing iPhone, iPad, Android or Surface Go devices that does not include a device should send those devices to Xciel for installation and testing to ensure the warranty is valid.

Complies with MIL-STD-810: yes, up to the G variant.

Supported Operating Systems: Windows 10 and 11 Pro, but also ARM for Android and iPad/iPhone terminals.

Intel processors: as included in the 2021 or 2018 Surface Go models. The same applies to the Android, iPhone and iPad models supplied to Xciel. Models with built-in iPads include up to 11-inch 2022 iPad Pro models.

Graphic: as included in the manufactured device types listed above.

Battery life: 16 hours or more.

Maximum RAM: depending on the models.

Maximum storage space: Up to 1TB flash storage, depending on device model.

Screen size and resolution: 7″ HD for Android devices and 8″ XGA to 15″ FHD for Windows devices

Mobile connection: 4G LTE available for T800 tablet and Snapdragon Global 5G. These are options and sometimes come with additional costs.

Dedicated GPS: Yes, although this is an option and has an additional cost depending on the device model.

Antenna continuity: none.

Webcam: yes, depending on the model.

Peripherals: none.


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