Rugged laptops are not easy to build. Many consumer laptop manufacturers don’t produce rugged versions because of the additional cost and smaller demand. We looked at the handful of manufacturers who do produce rugged laptops. For most of them, these are the only laptops they make. We included both fully rugged and semi-rugged laptops.
Despite the relatively small number of products on the market, there are some major distinguishing factors. We looked for the best rugged laptops in the following categories: small size, budget-oriented and extended use. Read on for our findings. You can also find more information by reading our other articles on rugged laptops.
Best Small Rugged Laptop
For tight spots, the Algiz XRW is a good choice. Despite its small size, this laptop can handle a proper workload and even take a hit or two. Its IP65 rating makes a good case for field use. The XRW is completely dustproof and can operate in wet conditions. It isn’t waterproof, but its water resistance means you can take it most places you need to go.
The Algiz XRW’s main drawback is the low number of ports and space for storage. Due to its small size, there simply isn’t enough room on the device for adding more hard drives or ports. Still, what it does have should suffice for most situations.
The Algiz XRW rugged notebook is one of the smallest in its category. Yet the small size doesn't diminish its ruggedness. The problem with such a small rugged laptop is the lack of space for ports and storage. That said, the XRW is a useful tool for many different work situations since it is so portable.
Best Budget Rugged Laptop
Fully rugged laptops are expensive, often reaching more than $3,000 per unit. There’s simply no getting around that. What you can do is opt for a semi-rugged device like the Getac S Series. This series is much more affordable. While not quite as durable as more expensive models, the S Series can still withstand punishment and operate in adverse conditions.
The biggest differentiator in cost here is water resistance. The Getac S Series can hold its own against some water dripping from above. But more than that, or from any other direction, and you could run into trouble. Its IP51 rating is great compared to consumer laptops but less impressive when looking at fully rugged devices.
The Getac S Series is made up of semi-rugged laptops. Unlike fully rugged laptops, the S Series wasn’t built from the ground up as a durable device. Instead, it went through a ruggedization process that adds protection to vital components and an outer casing. Generally, semi-rugged laptops aren’t quite as durable as fully rugged models, but they also tend to be more portable and less expensive.
Best for Extended Use
Getac specializes in creating laptops that stand up to the elements. The Getac B Series is no exception. What sets it apart is outstanding battery life. The vast customization options make true battery life predictions difficult, but the B Series should last for around 11 hours on a full charge. That’s an impressive amount of time. You can also add a backup battery – effectively doubling up time.
Durability, performance and excellent battery life all come at a high cost. This is one of the best rugged laptops you can get, and as such it commands a high price point.
As rugged laptops go, the Getac B Series has some of the hardiest certifications the industry provides. This rugged notebook has the typical MIL-STD 810G and IP65 certifications. It also has a Class 1 Div II certification. This is very useful for hazardous situations. It means that the device can be used in areas with dangerous gasses or particles and it won’t explode.
Rugged vs Semi-Rugged
Some manufacturers produce both rugged and semi-rugged laptops. A few laptops are called "business rugged," which is not completely self-explanatory. Figuring out which rugged laptop is the best fit for you isn’t always easy. The terminology can be difficult to sift through, but each type has its own ideal use.
These laptops are built to operate in any environment. Wind, rain, dust or even submersion won’t bring truly rugged laptops to their knees. They’re usually very expensive – but for good reason. Every part of the laptop is individually sealed and weatherproofed. This prevents any outside elements from interfering with the laptop’s ability to function. Usually, the screens are designed for outdoor use. They reduce glare and are viewable in direct sunlight. Fully rugged laptops function in extreme temperatures without any loss in performance.
These durable laptops originally started out as a standard device that you could buy off of any shelf. However, they were adapted for adverse conditions through a ruggedization process. This process adds a sturdier case and puts any HDDs on a shock or gel mount to absorb impacts. While not as reliable or durable as fully rugged laptops, a semi-rugged laptop can still withstand very hot or cold environments; however, performance may suffer.
Business Rugged Laptops
The third type of rugged laptop is designed to handle extra wear and tear from travel. Generally, they don’t get any sort of weatherproofing treatment and should be used like a standard laptop. They aren’t suited to field work but are great for business people who travel often. Usually, HDDs have shock mounts, and business rugged laptop frames are sturdier than standard counterparts.
The Importance of Connectivity
In field work, connectivity is often an important feature. Connecting to other tools and devices is part of a normal day. The more ways you have to connect, the better. You never know when you might need to connect a new device to your laptop.
Most rugged laptops have Bluetooth and Wi-Fi capabilities. Some come with cellular and GPS connectivity. All of them can be greatly beneficial in the right circumstances.
USB ports are standard on most laptops, including the rugged variety. However, there are a large number of other ports to consider. RJ-11, PCMCIA, IEEE, Serial and SD ports are some examples. Make sure your laptop has all of the ports you need now and might need in the future.
IP & MIL-STD Ratings Explained
Exactly what do those durability ratings mean? How do they impact you and what you can expect from a durable laptop? These ratings can be confusing, so let’s break them down.
The IP rating is not just for the United States; it is an international protection rating for most electronic devices. An IP rating lists two numbers. The first number refers to protection against solids and the second number pertains to liquids. Together, the IP rating signifies dust and water protection levels. The higher the number, the more rugged the product.
For example, an IP rating of 65 means that the laptop is dust tight and survived being doused by water from a nozzle. Bring that up to IP66 and the laptop can handle heavy seas and much more powerful streams of water. To reach complete protection from water for any length of time, you need a laptop with an IP rating of 68. This means it will continue to function normally while completely submersed in water.
MIL-STD is the United States military standard for testing and certifying devices to meet military requirements. This is done by subjecting the device to various tests based on size, weight and use. The two main tests that apply to rugged laptops are 810F and 810G. The difference is the requirements for changing electromagnetic environments.