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A Consumer’s Guide to Rugged Computers

Are you looking for a guide on how to research and purchase a semi-rugged or rugged laptop or notebook computer? If so, then you have come to the right place. In this article, you will learn the terms used in the industry, the history of rugged computers, and which hardware features you should look for in a computer.

Understanding the Difference Between a Laptop and a Notebook Computer

Portable computing devices include laptops, notebooks, cell phones, mobile devices and more. However, in this guide, we will only be discussing notebooks and laptops. Generally, people will use the words laptop and notebook interchangeably. However, a notebook computer is smaller than a laptop computer. In addition to this, as technology keeps advancing, people are now using handheld devices such as tablets and smartphones as portable computer platforms. Additionally, there are a number of names that can be used for these handheld electronics, including ultra-mobiles, PDAs, handhelds, minicomputers, and UMPCs.

Mobile computing devices are becoming more and more durable and rugged all the time.  Additionally, as electronics become smaller, they are generally designed to be more rugged than their predecessors. Now that you understand the differences between all the different technologies, let’s take a look at rugged versus semi-rugged.

Understanding the Differences Between Semi-Rugged and Rugged

The differences between these two types are confusing, misleading and often interchangeable. These items can be described as “good,” “better,” or “best”, or any other advertising degrees of order such as “strong” and “super strong.” These terms are often subtle in the consumer’s market; however, in the military and industrial market, these terms are very specific. There are only a few standards that are accepted when it comes to rugged computers like those from Chassis Plans. If a portable computer is designated as durable, it often offers numerous advantages over conventional notebook computers and laptops.

Companies Specializing in Rugged Computing Devices

Until recently, many of the brands associated with rugged computing devices were not well-known brand names. Some of the top companies that produce military style computers include Getac, General Dynamics, and Panasonic.

What to Look for in a Rugged Laptop

If you are trying to determine if a rugged laptop is right for you, check out this checklist. Because you will pay more for a rugged laptop, you should understand the benefits that this type of laptop offers. These benefits depend on upon your working conditions and work habits. The two most beneficial aspects of a rugged laptop are mobility and flexibility. Rugged laptops allow you to work in a variety of environments and conditions. If you work outdoors, in harsh conditions or inclement weather, you need a laptop that will withstand the elements, which means you need a rugged laptop.

The Standard Benefits of Rugged Laptops and Rugged Computing Devices

There are many common features in a rugged laptop or computing device, including:

Shock Resistance

Shock resistance is the amount of shock a rugged laptop can withstand and still function properly. This test is measured by the number of drops and the height of drops a laptop can endure. The drop surface is a 2-inch piece of plywood placed on top of a steel plate on a slab of concrete. The standard drop distance is 36 inches. After each drop, the laptops are inspected and turned on to check for any performance issues.

Water Resistance

Moisture and water can obliterate electrical components in a laptop computer. The water-resistance specification measures how the laptop performs after being subjected to varying degrees of moisture and water.

Dust Resistance

The cooling system of an electronic device tends to collect dirt and dust. Because of this, many rugged laptops dissipates heat without fans. The casing materials are used as heat sinks and help to prevent dust from entering the case. The heat from the CPU is dissipated and released through the casing of the laptop.

Vibration Resistance

Rugged laptops are often used in and around vehicles and other equipment. This means the laptop must withstand continuous vibration, which can damage the keyboard and the internal components if not properly designed to resist vibration.

Temperature Resistance

Rugged computers are often exposed to extreme temperatures. Rugged laptops can operate in arctic conditions (-10° F) to desert conditions (140°F). If the laptop will be used in cold climates, it may come equipped with a hard drive heater for better startup and operation. Furthermore, rugged laptops often have a diagnostic software installed that measures the internal conditions of the computer to prevent outage due to extreme heat or cold.

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