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Rugged laptops – Pushing it to The Limit

General, Hardware, Industry

Imagine yourself being an archaeologist doing a research somewhere at the edge of the Earth, or maybe a construction engineer working hard by building a new skyscraper and spending the whole day at the job site, or maybe a police officer patrolling over an area. You might even think of being a high ranking military officer working in Department of Defense making a visit to a war zone. Regardless of what you could have chosen (if you haven’t done so already in real life) there’s one thing, which is quite common and unique for all of these professions– all these people tend to work in a tough conditions and sometimes, even in a harsh and extreme environments. Heat, cold, dust, moisture, mud, vibrations, explosions or loud noise – you name it. Actually, there is another thing that unites these people – using mobile gadgets for their tough work. In particular – rugged laptops.

Getting tough

Obviously, working on a standard laptop under tough and harsh conditions implies a certain level of risk, since such laptops are not designed for that in the first place. Nobody wants to lose half a year of research data in the field or confidential information just because their laptop was caught under the rain. So, in order to protect your data and to ensure you are able to keep working and get your job done despite the environmental conditions, rugged laptops were designed, developed and created.

Rugged laptops were first introduced to the marked at the beginning of 80’s and immediately drew the attention of engineers, scientists, military etc. Since the requirements to such mobile computers were high, a separate design, development and production divisions were created for the most of the manufacturers who involved themselves into this business. Later on, the companies fully dedicated to development of the rugged laptops appeared on the marked.

What is rugged?

What makes a good protected laptop in a first place? That’s right – the protected case. By installing the components into a protected laptop case, manufacturer makes sure that they will stay operational for as long as possible in the most common of the harsh environments, such as moisture (up to being submerged) or high concentration of dust or sand. Moreover, the case should be strong enough to protect the components from impact pulse, vibration and ease down the pressure and temperature fluctuations. For example, fully sealed keyboard to protect against dust or liquids or a scratch-resistant screen that is readable in direct sunlight. Secondly, the internal components themselves are developed in compliance with certain standards in order to withstand above-mentioned environmental threats in comparison with typical commercial components. For example, hard drives in special shock-mounted cases that dampens vibrations.

Types of rugged laptops

Today, there are several categories of rugged laptops were developed in order to meet the demand of the market:

Business rugged

These laptops are for working outside of the office. Notable by robust design of magnesium alloy chassis with partial protection against falling and impacts. Components that sensitive to vibration put inside vibration dampening cases. Equipped with the sealed keyboard or built-in drainage systems (some models) to protect components against spilled liquids. Laptops are compliant with manufacturer’s internal quality standards, but not certified by internationally accepted standards. The main advantages of are relatively small external dimensions, affordable price in comparison with regular commercial models and variety of designs.

Semi rugged

Laptops that are suitable for people who travel a lot and tend to use it in a different weather and temperature conditions (not extreme). As well as business rugged models, having a magnesium alloy chassis with good protection against falling from certain height, impacts and vibrations, including internal components. Dust and water sealed case with drainage system. Although, these laptops are able to operate within certain range of temperature fluctuations, operation in the extreme heat or cold conditions does not guaranteed. Certified and compliant with international standards.

Fully rugged

Laptops for military specialists, laboratory personnel, industrial engineers and other professionals who works in potentially tough and harsh environments. Case and chassis are specially designed to fully protect all components from the most common environmental and accidental hazards – water (although these laptops are not vacuum sealed, some models allow to be submerged for very short-time without a risk to be damaged), dust, mud, atmospheric pressure, falling, vibration, aggressive liquid substances such as aqueous salt solutions. All components are individually protected as well. Screens are readable in direct sunlight and matrix has a low-grade sensitivity on temperature drops below zero degrees by Celsius, whereas thermal isolation allows to operate normally under high heat conditions. Although, external design of these laptops is not as elegant as regular commercial models and the cost is quite high, it is an effective and robust tool will serve very well in the most difficult working conditions and moderately harsh environments and tend to last for years out in the field with no appreciable downtime. Certified and compliant with the most international standards.

Apart from these three main categories, there are couple of sub-groups of the rugged laptops like Ultra or Vehicle rugged laptops that certified for use in the unique and special environmental conditions, such as high radiation, hazardous evaporation of chemicals, very strong vibrations and impacts etc.

I'm a marketing professional who loves to get down to the geeky details. When I'm not studying the latest components or industry news, I can be found biking, hiking or gaming.