woman in black top using laptop for work

Business Tough

A Rundown of the Best Rugged Laptops

If you need to take your laptop out in the field, or work under adverse conditions, you’ve got a couple of options. You can buy a cheap computer and expect to replace it regularly, or you can invest in a rugged model that can withstand drops, knocks and extreme temperatures.

What to look for
Top choices for a durable laptop will have a solidly-built body, not only for drops, but withstanding pressure (such as something falling on it), and protection against invasion of liquids, dust and temperature variations.

While a hard-wearing unit is crucial, so are the computing features. Make sure the laptop you choose has the operating system, memory, storage and graphics card that will fit your needs.

There are clear contenders for the top rugged laptops, great for those mission-critical operations in law enforcement, military or extreme conditions such as studying ice flows in Northern Minnesota. Also included are some very good choices for less extreme working conditions, including those who work in industrial settings or travel frequently for work and are constantly juggling, jostling and bumping their laptop as part of daily life.

Laptop surrounded by multicolored lights

Here are the top contenders:

Panasonic Toughbook CF-31
A notebook with a tank-like outer shell, there is really nothing else on the market like the Panasonic Toughbook CF-31. This die-hard is rated to withstand numerous six-foot drops, 70-mph winds and 6 inches of rain per hour. On the inside, the CF-31 is packed with a quick Intel Core i5 processor, a super long 18-hour battery life (or 27 hours with optional second battery), and a sunlight-viewable touchscreen. It will even overcome spotty Internet coverage when paired with the optional 4G LTE Multi-Carrier Mobile Broadband connection. This 13-inch tough notebook lists for $3,799. Check with Panasonic certified resellers for pricing.

OS
Windows 10 Pro;
Windows 7 Professional available through downgrade rights in Windows® 10 Pro.
Durability
Fully Rugged
Display
13.1-inch XGA 1200 nit touchscreen
Battery
18 hours (27 hours with optional media bay second battery)
Wireless
Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional 4G LTE, optional GPS
Weight
7.9 lbs. (8.2 lbs. with optional media bay second battery)

Alternative: Panasonic Toughbook CF-54
Packed with many of the same features as its rugged sibling, the Toughbook CF-54 is great for those involved in outdoor work like field service, or challenging indoor conditions like manufacturing and automotive repair. It is considered “semi-rugged,” but still able to withstand a three-foot drop and adverse weather thanks to a storage drive heater. The spill-resistant, full magnesium alloy design is the thinnest and lightest in the semi-touch class. With an entry price of under $1,300 on Amazon, this little workhorse will be attractive to many business users.

OS
7th Gen Intel CPU: Windows® 10 Pro
6th Gen Intel CPU: Windows® 7 Professional downgrade
Durability
Semi-rugged
Display
14″ FHD gloved multi touch (1000 nit); Intel® graphics
Battery
7th Gen Intel CPU: 10 hours (17 hours with optional 2nd battery)
6th Gen Intel CPU: 11 hours (18 hours with optional 2nd battery)
Wireless
Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional 4G LTE, optional GPS
Weight
4.6 lbs.

Business woman using laptop
Laptop next to tablet on table

Dell Latitude 14 Rugged
If surviving extreme temperatures tops your list, the Latitude 14 Rugged is a great fit. Dell’s latest 14-inch notebook thrives in extreme temperatures with QuadCool thermal management, while withstanding shocks, drops and vibrations. During the day, optional FHD resolution helps reduce glare without battery drain, while the fully sealed, dimmable backlit keyboard will keep you going at night. The Lattitude 14 Rugged comes with Wi-Fi and optional mobile broadband. The base unit starts at $1,299 at Dell.com, and is fully customizable when ordered from Dell, so you can choose an Intel Core i3 (standard), i5 or i7 processor, up to a 1TB mobility solid state drive (500GB 5400 RPM SATA is standard), an upgraded graphics card and up to 32gb of memory (4gb is standard).

OS
Windows 10 Pro;
Windows 7 Pro (optional) available through downgrade rights in Windows® 10 Pro
Ubuntu Linux 14.04 SP1 (optional)
Durability
Fully Rugged
Display
14-inch 1920 x 1080 (touch screen optional)
Battery
10 hours (Up to 27 hours with the optional hot-sway second battery)
Wireless
Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional 4G LTE, optional GPS
Weight
4.2 lbs. (without second battery)

Alternative: Lenovo ThinkPad 11e
Originally designed for rough use in classrooms, many businesses have put the ThinkPad11e to work in the field. With an extremely attractive entry price starting at $569 at Lenovo.com, this semi-rugged laptop will withstand hard use. Reinforced corners and ports help it withstand drops up to three feet. Lenovo built this durable ThinkPad to military specs, so it can withstand a lot of punishment, including high pressure, vibrations and temperature variations. If a smaller screen, Intel Core i3 processor and only 8GB of memory are acceptable, the ThinkPad 11e is a great, affordable choice.

OS
7th Generation Intel® Core™ i3-7100U Processor (3MB Cache, 2.4GHz)
Intel Celeron N3450 Processor (2MB Cache, up to 2.20GHz)
Durability
Semi-rugged
Display
11.6″ HD (1366×768) TN Non-Touch
Battery
10 hours
Wireless
Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC/B/G/N 7265 + Bluetooth 4.0
Weight
3.3 lbs.

Evaluate your rugged laptop needs. For all but the most extreme conditions, a semi-rugged solution will work well at a much lower price. If you are purchasing multiple laptops for a field team, call the business sales department of the manufacturer or preferred reseller to negotiate a better bulk purchase price. For volume purchases, ask for a demo to try, or if that is not possible, purchase one laptop and put it through its paces before buying multiple units.

Related Posts

Video showing a USB drive
Woman cleaning laptop with yellow cloth and you can see her reflection