Rugged Laptop vs Normal Laptop - What is the Difference?


Worker using a rugged laptop which is more durable and adheres to MIL-STD-810G standards

Rugged laptops are more durable, working in conditions where a regular laptop would fail. Most rugged laptops adhere to MIL-STD-810G standards. This means the laptop has met durability standards created by the US Department of Defense and is suitable for soldiers to use in combat. A rugged laptop with MIL-STD-810G certification means that the equipment has been stress tested in a variety of situations to survive high temperatures, vibrations and drops.   

The video below shows the Getac X500 rugged laptop tested to meet military standards. The test simulates the force a laptop encounters if a ship gets hit by a torpedo.

The key features that make a laptop rugged are:

Vibration Resistance

Most rugged laptops use a solid-state drive (SSD). These SSDs have less moving parts compared to normal hard disk drives (HDD) and are less prone to damage. An older laptop with a regular HDD will be more prone to damage from sudden vibrations or shocks.

Some advantages of SSDs are:

  • Smaller and lighter than HDD
  • Saves space
  • More resistant to damage from shocks and vibrations
  • Requires less power so you work for longer
  • Lower failure rate than HDD

Rugged Laptops are Dust & Water Resistant

Rugged laptops work well in dusty work conditions. MIL-STD-810G standards entails some vigorous dust testing. The first step involves small dust particles blown on to the laptop for six hours. After the first six hours, the test area heats to 60 degrees celcius and the test is done again. The second part of the test blows sand onto the laptop for 90 minutes at wind speeds of more than 80km/hour. As well as being sealed against dust, rugged laptops are also water resistant. Being splashed with water won’t do any damage which makes them very useful for people who use them in the field.

They Work in Extreme Temperatures

Military standards require the device to operate in sudden temperature changes. The first tests are conducted with the laptops powered off to test the strength of the materials. The laptop is put through a series of tests while powered on to test how the laptop performs under heat stress. Rugged laptops are also tested to work in environments where the temperature can change up to 10 degrees celsius within one minute.

Tougher & Brighter Screens

Because they are designed for use outdoors, rugged laptops come with brighter displays. The screens are typically made from toughened glass for durability, and anti-reflective coatings are used to reduce reflections and glare which means that many rugged laptops can be used outdoors in bright sunlight.

Screen brightness is measured in nits - a unit of luminance. Standard laptops and tablet displays are in the 200 - 300 nit range. A rugged laptop like the Getac B300 has a 700 nit display with an optional upgrade to 1400 nits. For people working outdoors in direct sun this means their laptop is completely usable all day whereas with a regular laptop, even at full brightness, they would struggle to read the screen.

Electromagnetic Compatibility

Most rugged laptops have certification that stops the devices from generating electromagnetic energy that could interfere with the operations of other equipment.

Vehicle Mount Ready

Many rugged laptops are designed to be paired with a vehicle dock so are ideal for mounting in vehicles. Their vibration resistance and heat resistance makes them more suitable for use in vehicles than regular laptops. Typically, rugged laptops and their matching vehicle docks are designed to work with pass-through antennae and other communication inputs so they can be used in high-tech environments like police,fire emergency vehicles and autonomous mine sites.

Semi Rugged vs Fully Rugged

Semi-rugged laptops are in another category that sits in between regular and rugged laptops. Semi-rugged devices are typically improved versions of off-the-shelf laptops. The components are usually the same, but they are better protected. For example, a semi-rugged laptop could have a thicker case or a spill-resistant keyboard. Semi-rugged laptops are best suited for people who work outdoors but don’t encounter extreme conditions.

Rugged laptops are more expensive but can be a better investment long term

All the added features of a fully-rugged laptop comes with extra costs. You are paying more for increased functionality, longevity and convenience. Although rugged laptops are more expensive upfront, you save in the long run by investing in rugged technology. According to Pearl Solutions Group data, the failure rate for rugged laptops is 4.6% compared to 16.6% for non rugged laptops. The data also shows that workers were losing between 50 to 80 minutes of productivity thanks to failed devices.

By spending a little more money on a fully-rugged laptop you can end up saving yourself time and money. If your work causes your laptop to vibrate, be exposed to dust or to be subjected to constant wear and tear, you should invest in a rugged laptop.

If you need any advice on rugged tablets, don’t hesitate to ask one of the experts at Roaming Tech by calling 1300 131 933 or contact us online.

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