Most consumer laptops are not rated for outdoor use, so look into a rugged laptop if you plan on taking it with you to the great outdoors. A fully-rugged laptop is geared more for industrial and military use, but there are other outdoors-capable laptops without the steep price tag that comes with fully-rugged laptops.
There is no specific standard for a rugged laptop, though most manufacturers create rugged laptops that meet the MIL-STD-810F standard. Designated in January 2000, MIL-STD-810F defines the characteristics required for equipment used in Department of Defence agencies, and rates a laptop’s resistance to shock, vibration, water, extreme temperatures, sand, extreme altitudes and long drops.
Rugged laptops come in three unofficial categories: business-rugged, semi-rugged and fully-rugged. Of the three, business-rugged laptops are the most susceptible to damage — while they may feature a spill-proof keyboard, for example, they are not rated as waterproof. Semi-rugged laptops are more resistant to vibration, drops, dust and humidity. Fully-rugged laptops are able to withstand drops of three feet and run in high humidity or altitude.
Ingress Protection Rating
Rugged laptops have an ingress protection, or IP, rating that tells you exactly how well the enclosure fares against both solid objects and liquids. The rating has two numbers, such as IP22. The first number indicates how well the laptop fares against solids, with zero indicating no protection, and 6 indicating total protection. The second number is for liquids, and runs to 8, though laptops do not exceed a 5 on the IP scale.
Panasonic’s Toughbooks CF-30 and 19 both have an IP rating of 65, which means that they are completely impenetrable by dust and dirt, and are able to withstand jets of water from all directions — in other words, functional in the rain. Dell has several models that meet IP65, but if you don’t need quite that much protection, you can opt for the Latitude XT2 XFR, which has an IP rating of 54.
Rugged laptops are designed with significantly higher-capacity batteries than standard laptops. For instance, the Getac B300 is a fully-rugged laptop that boasts 30 hours of battery life by using two batteries. While the Dell Latitude E6420 XFR doesn’t give a specific estimate battery life, it does offer a standard 6-cell battery that can recharge by 80 percent in one hour, as well as the option to add a 12-cell battery slice — a battery that fits onto the bottom of your notebook using the dock connector.
Vibration and Shock
Rugged laptops are made to endure shocks, drops and vibrations. The screens are designed to withstand varying levels of impact from heavy debris, and hard drives are encased in shock-absorbing material. Getac’s B300 and Panasonic’s Toughbooks use a standard magnesium alloy case to prevent damage due to drops, while the Dell Latitude E6420 XFR uses a proprietary BallisticArmor casing.