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Ruggedized Notebook Guide

About the Ruggedized Notebook Guide. This guide discusses specific features of ruggedized notebooks and laptops. Those seeking general information on notebooks and laptops should see our Laptop Buying Guide.

Introduction. Notebooks are a great invention. You can lug them around and compute just about anywhere. You don't have to use a stylus or a touch screen on a PDA, and you don't have to settle for running scaled down software.
However, the mobility of the notebook is also one of its more hazardous characteristics. It is very easy to drop a notebook, get it wet, expose it to too much heat, or to otherwise put it in harm's way.

To combat these hazards, the ruggedized notebook was invented. Ruggedized notebooks are built to take punishment. They are usually enclosed in an aluminum or magnesium casing (instead of molded plastic), the keyboard and ports are sealed against dirt and liquids, and critical internal devices (like hard disk drives) are shock mounted.

We rounded up three of the most rugged of the ruggedized, by making sure they met the specifications of the military notebook torture test known as Military Standard 810E (MIL-STD-810E). Among other things, the standard requires the notebook survive a 3 foot drop onto concrete. The standard also requires survivability of prolonged vibration, extreme temperatures changes, excessive heat, and water spraying. (For more information on the MIL-STD-810E tests, see Panasonic's test page at www.panasonic.com.)

Before you get too excited about owning a fully ruggedized notebook, you should know that they generally cost about twice as much as an everyday notebook. Expect to pay $4,000 or more for a fully ruggedized model. These number are approximations, as only two of the four reviewed companies had prices listed on their web site. If you don't need or can't afford complete ruggedized protection, these companies also sell other notebooks that are ruggedized to lesser degrees (semi-rugged), which allows for more features and reduced cost.

 
Ruggedized Notebooks
Manufacturer Name and Notebook Model
Ruggedized Notebook Features Panasonic - Toughbook 27 Mitac - Getac A760S
CPU 1 GHz Pentium III
850 MHz Pentium III
Pentium III 850 MHz
System RAM 256MB SDRAM standard, expandable to 512MB (PC133 memory is required.)
256 MB - 512 MB
128 MB to 512 MB
Hard Drive 30 GB
20 GB
20 GB
Video Adapter/
Memory
Intel 830M graphic controller, UMA (Unified Memory Access) up to 32MB
128-bit video engine with 8MB embedded VRAM
8Mb VRam, ATI Rage Mobility-M1
Screen Type 13.3" XGA TFT
12.1" SVGA (800 x 600) anti-reflective TFT LCD
12.1" XGA TFT Display
Video
Resolution
1024 x 768
800x600
1024 x 768
Options Wireless options, drive options
Wireless options, drive options
drive options, no wireless options
Battery Type Lithium Ion battery pack (11.1V, 5.4Ah)
Removable 10.8V Lithium-Ion
Li-Ion battery
Battery Life 4 hours
?
2.5 hours
Weight 9 lbs. 11 lbs. 12 lbs
Warranty 3 years ? 1 year
Company's Description “Panasonic is the only manufacturer building ruggedized computers able to run higher-end Intel processors without a cooling fan,” Poehler said. “At Panasonic we don’t define units with fans as fully ruggedized. We design and build our own magnesium-alloy cases, most of the key components inside those cases, and the proprietary heat-dispersal systems for those components. One of our major competitors offers a Taiwan-OEM-made ‘rugged’ unit that needs a fan to keep from burning up. That kind of design would never meet our case-integrity standards.
"AMREL's ROCKY notebook computer features the latest in rugged computing technology, including an Intel Pentium CPU, a high capacity hard drive, including AMREL's "Advanced Modular Platform" design- a design unique to AMREL rugged mobile computing systems that allows for an array of wireless and other device integration options, enables users to easily swap components in the field at their convenience, and permits future upgrades to new technology."

The A760S is the ultimate portable notebook. Its rugged construction is designed to give you reliability in environments where conventional notebooks would fail. The A760S can be trusted with all of your mission critical applications wherever you may be. It's construction and design makes it the perfect choice in the car, on the job site, or at the office.
Warranty 3 year limited parts and labor 1 year parts and labor Not Available
Price Under $4000
Over $4100
Not Available
Company Web Address www.panasonic.com www.mitac.com

Tips on Buying a Ruggedized Notebook. Most of you will probably use mail order to purchase these notebooks. For your protection, use a credit card (not a debit card) when ordering these items, and make sure that you can return the notebook without a restocking fee penalty if you are not happy with it.

Also, make sure you understand the terms of the warranty and how and where the notebook will be repaired if it malfunctions. In general, you should expect these notebooks to weigh about twice as much as a regular notebook.

Like all notebooks, they will immediately devalue about 20% as soon as you use it, so make sure you need the protection of a ruggedized notebook before you buy it. If you are just paranoid about losing data, use a regular notebook and backup your important files to a Zip or CD-RW drive.

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