Rugged Laptops, also known as rugged notebooks come in several different variations. We will begin by talking about non-rugged commercial laptops and then we will outline the different types of rugged notebook categories based on their degree of ruggedness.
Non-Rugged, Commercial Plastic Laptops
Laptops, also known as notebooks, are the most common portable computers. Laptops are characterized by having a display screen, keyboard and mouse in one self-contained unit. They include a battery which allows the user to use the computer while away from a power outlet. Commercial, plastic laptops are designed to be carried around, but are generally used in a protected-from-the-elements office or home environment and also used for travel. These computers are manufactured and marketed by well-known companies such as Dell, HP/Compaq, Toshiba, Fujitsu, Lenovo (ex-IBM), Acer, etc. These commercial laptops are mass produced with off-the-shelf components and are generally less expensive than computers designed for in-vehicle or in-field use. Because of their low price, some organizations buy these commercial, plastic laptops and attempt to use them in the field. This is a mistake since these computers are not intended for in-field or vehicular use. We have heard many stories about the constant downtime and never ending headaches that organizations experience as a result of not buying the right tool for the job.
Group Mobile Comment: Don't buy a rugged laptop if you are just going from office to home, or on an occasional business trip. It would be over-kill. By the same token, don't buy a commercial plastic computer if you are primarily in a vehicle, in the field, outdoors, in a factory or in a repair shop, etc. They are not designed to handle this type (or place) of usage.
Business Rugged Laptops
Business Rugged Laptops, or slightly ruggedized laptops, are designed for road-warriors, but not necessarily for in-field, in-vehicle, or outdoor use. They have shock-mounted hard disk drives and partial magnesium casings, but are not sealed against the elements and can only handle a drop of 18 inches or less. Business rugged laptop computers are ideal for those who need a portable computer that is somewhat tougher than commercial laptops, but do not need to compute in the bad environments. They hold up well to the vagaries of airline travel and they are also great for salespeople, students and others who are often out and about and in and out of their vehicle. Business rugged laptops are always designed to be lightweight for maximum portability and will weigh less than a semi-rugged or fully-rugged laptop.
Click here to purchase or browse our selection of Business Rugged Laptops.
Semi Rugged Laptops or semi rugged notebook computers are similar to commercial plastic computers with three main exceptions: 1. Semi-rugged laptops have a full magnesium casing instead of a hard plastic casing. Magnesium is at least ten times stronger than plastic and provides a level of protection against shock (drops). 2. Semi-rugged computers have a shock-mounted hard disk drive. Since the hard disk drive is mounted on shock absorbing materials, it protects against shock and also vibration. 3. This class of computer normally has a water-resistant or water-proof keyboard. This protects against liquid spills such as coffee or soda, which is a fairly common occurrence when computers are used in a vehicle or a repair shop for instance.
Some semi-rugged laptops also have additional protection such as a shock-mounted display screen and cushioning materials that are strategically placed inside the computer around key components. These additional rugged features are typically found in the higher-end semi-rugged computers. Some semi-rugged laptops also have daylight-viewable display screens, or at least offer daylight-viewable as an option. Some include a keyboard lighting system for night-time use. Semi-rugged laptops are called semi-rugged because they are not fully-sealed against water and other elements in the outdoor environment.
Group Mobile Comment: Semi-rugged laptops are typically tested against drops of three feet, therefore should be able to handle being accidentally dropped while working in the field. They are typically less expensive than a fully-rugged laptop. The primary reason for this is that they can utilize an internal cooling fan to bring in the external air and thus do not need an elaborate internal cooling system that is necessary in a fully-sealed, fully-rugged computer.
Click here to purchase or browse our selection of Semi Rugged Laptops.
Fully Rugged Laptops or Fully Rugged Notebooks have all the ruggedization features of the semi-rugged category and then some. In addition to the features listed above, fully-rugged laptops are sealed. This sealing is what keeps out the rain, fog, salt spray, wind, dust, sand, humidity, cold and hot ambient temperature, etc. The tricky part is when you seal a fully rugged laptop against the outdoor elements, you also seal the heat generated by the microprocessor inside the computer. Fully-rugged laptops normally have an internal cooling system to mitigate the heat produced by the micro-processor (since they cannot have fans or air vents for ventilation). Also, the heat is cleverly channeled throughout the laptop in order to turn the entire machine into a heat sink. Some fully-rugged laptops offer an internal heater to allow the laptop to operate in below zero. All fully-rugged laptops have daylight-viewable display screens or the option to add this feature. The fully-rugged laptops cost more, but they tend to last for years out in the field with no appreciable downtime.
Group Mobile Comment: Most fully rugged computers are sealed to an IP54 rating. This means that they can keep out a heavy spray of water from all directions but they are not vacuum sealed. If the computer is submersed in a bucket of water, for example, water would eventually seep in.
Click here to purchase or browse our selection of Fully Rugged Laptops.