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Rugged Laptop Buying Guide

Rugged or industrial laptops, often used by the military and other organisations operating under extreme conditions, come with a number of associated features that differentiate them from your everyday office-use laptop. As the name suggests, these laptops need to be rugged – tough and hard-working, resistant to certain elements and conditions that would make a regular laptop shutdown for good. Here is a guide to buying the best rugged laptop.

A Guide to Buying a Rugged Laptop 

1. Extreme durability features

When receiving and disseminating critical information that could impact on human life, it’s absolutely vital that the laptop is able to withstand incredibly harsh conditions. Rugged laptops will undergo rigorous tests to ensure they are not only able to survive these various forces, but able to function fully as well. Here are a few of the durability features to consider when buying a rugged laptop:

  • Shock and drops - Rugged laptops must have protective casings and shock-mounted hard drives which are able to withstand continuous shocks and drops while in use.
  • Vibration - When being transported over rough terrain or operated while in flight, these laptops will experience various vibrations, again, making it necessary to have shock-mounted hard drives.
  • Blowing sand and dust – Every rugged laptop will be put through a test which simulates conditions that exist in sandstorm environments or those near military aircraft which means particles will be blown across the surface of the computer at different speeds and temperatures. There can be no keyboard jamming because of a little sand.
  • Water – Information access and dissemination will have to continue even if it’s raining which means the rugged laptop will have to go through demanding water tests. These include the simulation of rain, splashing, immersion or partial immersion.
  • Extreme temperatures – Rugged laptops will need to function in temperature extremes which are both high and low. Whether being used in hot or cold climates, or near artificial hot or cold sources, rugged laptops will be able to function.

2. Enhanced connectivity

It’s likely that users of rugged laptops will need to access a variety of cellphone networks as dependence on only one could create a connectivity gap. The laptop should have embedded or Gobi technology or mobile broadband as an option. The rugged laptop will also – as stated before – have to operate when in motion which means associated features to allow for continued connectivity during these conditions. In addition, there need to be a number of ports to support various industrial devices and interfaces.

3. Advanced security

The nature of rugged laptops often means that high-level information is being stored which cannot be accessed by any means. To protect this confidential information, the rugged laptop should come with enhanced security features which are layered to prevent any form of hacking. This can include the trusted platform module (TPM) security chip which authenticates passwords, encryption keys and digital certificates; cable lock slots to prevent theft and fingerprint scanners.

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4. Usability features

Rugged laptops are often going to be used in unpredictable conditions but the manufacturers need to make every attempt to predict these potential conditions so that the laptop is always operational. Here are some of the usability features that are worth asking about:

  • Screen display – Laptop use may occur in extremely bright light or at night so it’s important that the screen is clearly visible in all conditions. It’s worth considering the screen size during this assessment as well.
  • Touch screen and touchpad – An oversized touchpad which allows for scrolling and multi-touch is useful and a touch screen these days is almost commonplace.
  • Integrated speakers – These ensure the laptop is compact for easy manoeuvrability and volume control should be accessed via the keyboard.
  • Interface capabilities – These include serial, USB, ethernet, headphone, speaker, microphone and external audio ports, many of which are standard issue.
  • Control features – Rugged laptops are often used when standing so an elastic shoulder strap and dome support for the hand are useful, as well as an inbuilt or detachable handle.


If there are particularly clear-cut conditions during which you will be using the rugged laptop, then it’s quite easy to assess exactly which features will be needed. If, however, conditions will be variable, then it’s worth looking at all the above-mentioned features, consulting with industry specialists and other users before deciding on the best purchase. The more safety and usability features, the better in the long-run. 


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