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A rugged notebook offers mobile professionals the ability to work in any environment and in any location. Versatile and powerful, rugged notebook computers are designed specifically for both in-plant and outdoor industrial (and military) applications. Built to handle the toughest environments, fully ruggedized notebooks should have IP54 environmental protection, meet MIL-STD 810F and have heavy duty - generally magnesium alloy - cases. Rugged notebook computers enable professionals to work smoothly in adverse environments and are adequately equipped to face almost any tough situation with ease. Naturally, these rugged notebook computers are heavier than non-rugged models but offer substantially more protection than standard laptops. offer a variety of semi-rugged and rugged notebooks, wireless tablets and even rugged PDAs in their Recon series. They also offer custom solutions.

Arguably the most rugged and heavy-duty notebook available is the Rough Rider III from . Meeting IEC and MIL-STD 810F, temperature, humidity, altitude, shock, vibration and drop standards, the case also conforms to IEC 529 and Ingress IP 54 requirements. It has extensive configuration options and a second bay available with internal PCI connector that supports a wide variety of options including two additional COM ports (RS232, RS422, or RS 485), two additional PCMCIA slots, a SCSI-2 port, DGPS or wireless modules, an auxiliary battery, or fixed floppy drive. It can be configured with 1.4 or 1.6 GHz Intel Pentium M processor, up to 2GB of DDR RAM, a 60GB HDD, and up to a 14.1 inch screen. It also provides extended wireless communications with 802.11b Wi-Fi, GSM/GPRS and DataTAC connectivity. As you might expect, all this ruggedness comes with a penalty and with the primary battery installed, the Rough Rider III rugged notebook weighs 12.7 pounds, definitely not a light-weight. offers a variety of semi-rugged and rugged notebooks, wireless tablets and even rugged PDAs in their Recon series. They also offer custom solutions. As one of the premier providers of notebook computers that meet and exceed military (810F and 461E) and industry standards (IP54), anyone interested in a high quality semi- or rugged notebook should make it a point to check them out.

Sterling Computer Sales in Landenberg, PA, offers a series of rugged notebooks meeting MIL STD 810E (which primarily involves small drops and rough transport). Their RB1500 has a rubber mounted HDD, spill-proof keyboard and magnesium alloy case. It comes with a 15.1 inch TFT boasting sXGA+ resolution (1400X1050) and a Pentium 4 Mobile 1.6Ghz processor. You can stuff it with up to 2GB of DDR ram and a 100GB HD. For communications this rugged notebook includes modem, Ethernet and 802.11b/g Wireless. This might be better considered a semi-rugged, but the price with default options starts at only $1,595.

The Durabook N15RI is a rugged notebook that has a magnesium alloy top and bottom case - which is 20 times stronger than plastic. This rugged notebook has anti-shock mounting and spill-resistant keyboard, scroll buttons and touch-pad. While it meets some (modified) 810F military specifications for ruggedness it doesn't appear to be IP54 compliant and is probably best viewed as a more rugged than usual semi-rugged notebook. It still provides the mobile professional with a tough, durable notebook at a more reasonable price than a fully rugged notebook.

HP also has a rugged notebook series - the HP nr3610 Rugged Notebook. This model meets MIL STD for ruggedness in the areas of ESD (Electrostatic Discharge), low pressure, humidity, sealing, temperature and vibration - and the Ingress IP-54 Protection rating for dust and water. However, it is very pricey for a notebook with a 12.1 LCD (over $4000) and nearly impossible to find currently.

Another rugged notebook, offering the choice of 14.1" and 15" Tflex displays - which work very well both outdoors and indoors, is the Argonaut Ranger. The hard drive and LCD are both shock mounted and the case is constructed of magnesium alloy. Both models of this rugged notebook - Argonaut Ranger - meet military specifications for ruggedness. The keyboard is spill-proof and the circuitry of this rugged notebook makes use of anti-corrosive technology for extra protection. Designed particularly for marine use the TFlex display works extremely well under any lighting conditions - from full darkness to direct sunlight.

Panasonic has its ToughBook line of semi-rugged and rugged notebook computers which are also worth looking into. The semi-rugged notebooks have a variety of features from the T2 with touchscreen weighing in at only 2.7 pounds to the Toughbook 51, available with a 2GHz Intel Pentium M 760, a shock-mounted 80 GB HDD and up to 2 GB of DDR2 SDRAM, with a 15 inch TFT Active Matrix Color LCD and a standard Combo Drive of a DVD multi-drive, weighing in at about 6.7 pounds. Base pricing for the T51 seems to start around $1600.

The Panasonic Toughbook-29 is a fully rugged notebook tested to MIL STD 810F. The vibration and drop-shock resistant design has Intel Centrino Mobile Tech and integrated 802.11 a/b/g wireless LAN. It has a 13.3 inch outdoor-readable TFT Active Matrix Color LCD (optional touchscreen), a shock-mounted removable HDD in a stainless steel case, sealed port and connector covers and a full magnesium alloy case with handle. With battery and floppy drive it weighs 7.9 pounds. Base version pricing seems to be around $3500 currently.

One thing you need to be aware of about rugged notebooks - particularly full MIL-STD ruggedized models - they can be a little hard to find at your local computer store - or even on some of the big internet sites. The substantial added costs of manufacture and testing - and sometimes, the performance compromises that are made, make them a questionable option for the usual notebook user. If you will be working under harsh conditions, then they may be your only rational choice. However, for a user who will simply be doing a lot of traveling, day in and day out, and wants a notebook computer that can better tolerate the inevitable shocks and bumps, a semi-rugged notebook could be a much more affordable option, providing reasonable protection and better performance at a lower price.

Copyright 2005 Richard Keir