Durable Laptops – Are Ruggedized Laptops Indestructible?

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Durable laptops … Ruggedized laptop … what exactly does ruggedized mean? Does it really mean the PC is indestructible? And what does durable mean?

Ruggedized laptops are defined by the military standard MIL-STD-810G. This standard defines the criteria for what type of abuse or harsh conditions the ruggedized laptop must be able to end and still boot up.

Ruggedized laptops must be able to be dropped from a certain height. They must also be able to withstand a certain amount of dust in the environment. They should also be able to function in the presence of a certain amount of water or moisture.

In order to determine how durable a PC is, the military does a drop test from 3 feet a total of 26 times onto a surface of plywood covered concrete. This is a fairly good test of drop durability for most situations which would have been encountered in the field.

One might assume that the military tends to drop their laptops a lot. LOL

All joking aside, I was intrigued recently when I came across a video on YouTube which demonstrated a head to head competition between the Panasonic Toughbook and the Dell XFR e6400. The results were fascinating. The Dell XFR and the Toughbooks were both dropped from 4 feet, a total of 26 times. Why 4 feet when the military standard is 3 feet? Well, the tester was not testing these ruggedized PCs against the military specification. This tester wanted to see how the Dell did against their own specifications for the XFR. You see, Dell designed the XFR to end up to a 4 foot drop at least 26 times.

This was an interesting test to see how durable these laptops are. And it was pretty funny to see pieces falling off of one of the ruggedized PCs, which shall rename nameless. However, I will say, it was not as tough as the name would imply. In all fairness, however, the tester was dropping these "durable laptops" directly onto concrete without the benefit of having the plywood "cushion" the blow, which is what the military standard would normally call for.

By the end of this test, the Dell was still looking good and would boot up fine. The Toughbook, on the other hand, had been pretty badly damaged by the 11th drop. The screen on the Toughbook was cracked and was no longer readable. Thus, the system was pretty much unusable given the state of the screen, without attaching an external monitor to it.

In conclusion, the term, ruggedized laptop, by any measure, means nothing close to indestructible. In defense of the Toughbook, it was not designed to meet the 4 foot drop specification. It was to be dropped from, let's say 5 feet in the air directly onto concrete, possibly the Dell XFR might perform just as poorly … But, that did not keep the test from being durable the PCs are and just how indestructible they are NOT.

Ruggedized laptops are durable, but definitely can be destroyed if they suffer abuse beyond the specifications to which they are built.