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Dell Rugged Laptops Not Quite Tough Enough

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the one-good-hit dept.

Portables 225

An anonymous reader writes "Trusted Reviews has put the new Dell XFR rugged laptop through the grinder and it hasn't fared as well as expected. Considering that these guys drove a car over a Panasonic Toughbook, they went pretty easy on the Dell, but it still couldn't take the punishment. It looks like Dell still has a way to go to steal the ball from Panasonic when it comes to all terrain computing."

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225 comments

I see... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29964028)

So the Dell blends after all!

Interesting... (2, Informative)

TrisexualPuppy (976893) | more than 4 years ago | (#29964036)

But as for ruggedness testing, do you think that they were going a little overboard? I have been using my Latitude D810 for about four years now, have dropped it multiple times at the airport, the wife stepped on it while the lid was shut, and my aging cat urinated on the keyboard. Thing is that it still works. I am impressed with Dell's quality for the higher-end models made to withstand abuse. I would have bought two or three HPs in the time that I have had my Latitude. End of story for me.

Hey mods?? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29964104)

who midded this down?

Re:Hey mods?? (1)

eln (21727) | more than 4 years ago | (#29964212)

According to the moderation history, nobody did. I believe TrisexualPuppy starts at a score of -1, probably due to his long and illustrious history of trolling and being modded down for it.

Re:Hey mods?? (2, Insightful)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 4 years ago | (#29965144)

Actually, if you look at the OP's history, his posts are always followed by an AC message asking it to be modded up. Either a big coincidence, or Trisexualpuppy is trying to draw attention and upmods to his own posts.

Re:Hey mods?? (1)

eln (21727) | more than 4 years ago | (#29965320)

Unfortunately, even when he gets upmods, he can't resist trolling for long enough to stay above -1 for long.

Re:Interesting... (5, Interesting)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#29964194)

Entirely context dependent. Their testing would be excessive if it were performed on an ordinary "it'd be nice if it survives the daily grind for a few years, and not feeling like cheap plastic crap is always a bonus; but no actual claims are made" laptop. Yours is one of those.

However, this is the special OMG-MIL-SPEC, super durable, extra rugged, no-expense-spared model. If Dell wants to sell a machine in that segment, this sort of testing is perfectly appropriate.

Re:Interesting... (3, Informative)

Kagato (116051) | more than 4 years ago | (#29964484)

This isn't a uber traveler laptop. It's for people working in harsh environments. Do you work on an oil rig, war zone or the middle of the amazon? If you answer no, then you don't need a rugged laptop.

Re:Interesting... (3, Insightful)

hughk (248126) | more than 4 years ago | (#29964796)

A construction site would qualify. Normal laptops can't really go outside site offices because of the copious quantities of general shit floating around (dust, water, temperature extremes, etc).

Re:Interesting... (1)

marcobat (1178909) | more than 4 years ago | (#29965256)

I clicked on "parent" to reply to this post but it didn't do what i expected!? I wanted to add "Do you work on an oil rig, war zone or the middle of the amazon" or are you a parent? Anybody with small children around the house needs a rugged laptop.

Re:Interesting... (1)

hughk (248126) | more than 4 years ago | (#29964884)

The Lats aren't at all bad, but for home/office/general light travel only. I wouldn't think of dragging mine up a mountain or something.

Re:Interesting... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29965090)

I know, I know, "annecdote", but I have three Latitude D820 boxes and they are terrible. I'm not sure if the problem was the third party design company Dell uses, nVidia, or what - but somebody messed up pretty big on the thermal requirements of the nVidia onboard GPU and the things start to overheat so badly that they hit thermal shutdown and just turn off while you are using them. Out of the three, 2 of them have had the mainboard, heatsink, and fan replaced twice and the third has had that all replaced once. Thankfully I had the three year warranty (which is about to expire). From my experience with them and my good experience with Lenovo at work (I am a tech lead for desktop/notebook with 90,000 seats) - I won't buy another Dell notebook and will be getting the follow on to the X200s when it comes out.

Re:Interesting... (1)

Ephemeriis (315124) | more than 4 years ago | (#29964964)

But as for ruggedness testing, do you think that they were going a little overboard? I have been using my Latitude D810 for about four years now, have dropped it multiple times at the airport, the wife stepped on it while the lid was shut, and my aging cat urinated on the keyboard. Thing is that it still works. I am impressed with Dell's quality for the higher-end models made to withstand abuse. I would have bought two or three HPs in the time that I have had my Latitude. End of story for me.

Overboard?

You do understand what a "rugged laptop" is, right?

These are things like the Panasonic Toughbook [wikipedia.org] daily basis. They're supposed to be used at construction sites, or by the military.

I've seen Toughbooks get run over by cars and keep working.

They've typically got a metal case, as opposed to plastic. They've usually got plenty of vibration dampening and shock absorption built in. Their ports are usually somehow protected from foreign objects and/or moisture. They're usually underclocked or cooled at least partly passively, so they don't have as much trouble with dusty environments.

Fine, your Dell is fairly durable for a more-or-less normal home/office environment. That's great. But when you call a laptop "rugged" people expect a bit more than resistance to cat urine.

Re:Interesting... (2, Funny)

bdsesq (515351) | more than 4 years ago | (#29965088)

...and my aging cat urinated on the keyboard...

Some years ago my cat urinated on my Apple powerbook. It never worked again. There were no Apple stores then so I had to take it to CompUSA, again and again and again.
It was Toast!

Looks like Dell wins the pissing contest!

Re:Interesting... (4, Funny)

aicrules (819392) | more than 4 years ago | (#29965188)

my aging cat, may he rest in peace, urinated on the keyboard

That is how that line should have read.

Re:Interesting... (1)

jo_ham (604554) | more than 4 years ago | (#29965672)

Are you kidding? I'd blend the cat.

"May he rest as liquid" is how it should have read.

Does anyone use these? (3, Insightful)

wandazulu (265281) | more than 4 years ago | (#29964126)

I've seen Panasonic Toughbooks in police cars, fire trucks, and in the vehicles of industrial companies, but I guess I don't get why; the laptops are well protected in the car or truck, and it's not like a cop is going to use it as a shield in a shoot out, or a fireman is going to be typing something inside a burning building. When a plumber came over to fix some pipes, he brought with him a battered Compaq laptop that was missing several keys, looked like it'd gone through hell, but was still working and wasn't "ruggedized" in any way I could tell.

This is pure ignorance on my part...I can appreciate there is very likely a need, or they wouldn't make them, but I really don't know what that need is; especially, under what circumstances would it be possible to get my laptop run over by a truck as part of a normal day?

That said, they definitely *look* cool and wouldn't mind having one myself, especially if I thought I'd need to check my email outside, in a snowstorm, in the Sierra Madre. :)

Re:Does anyone use these? (4, Insightful)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 4 years ago | (#29964190)

Think of it as laptop insurance. Just in case. Maybe you won't need it, but maybe you will. Also probably cheaper to pay the ToughBook premium than replacing your laptop a year earlier.

Re:Does anyone use these? (1)

AniVisual (1373773) | more than 4 years ago | (#29964242)

The being-run-over-by-trucks part is probably just a marketing pitch, but the main draw of these ruggedized 'books is that they can withstand more shock than the average laptop. Where your standard laptops die after dropping from the desk, these can withstand a 2-storey drop, and some are very water resistant. Perfect for active engineers.

In my case, temperature tolerance... (5, Interesting)

moosehooey (953907) | more than 4 years ago | (#29964286)

A regular laptop won't start up at -40 after a North Dakota night. The toughbook says "Please wait, warming up" on the BIOS screen while it pre-warms the hard drive. It also works just fine when it's baking in the sun at 150, whereas the old Dell I had would crash at those temperatures.

Re:In my case, temperature tolerance... (4, Informative)

Kagato (116051) | more than 4 years ago | (#29964534)

That's pretty much spot on. They need the hardware to work in temperature extremes. And even then I would assume they would by the semi-rugged model. The Panasonic Toughbook is a great machine. They still make them by hand in Kyoto. Panasonic doesn't trust the quality of factories in other parts of Asia, part of the price premium means you're getting a laptop built by a highly skilled workforce with a keen eye on tolerances.

Re:In my case, temperature tolerance... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29964610)

Yeah, I had my laptop out in the car during a cold Minnesota night, I got it to the office next day and started it, heard bad sounds, got scared and turned it off.

About 20 minutes later I turned it back on, and nothing bad happened, it's been working ever since. Now, if I wanted it to work while still cold, I can understand needing a 'ruggid' computer, but for me, 20m was reasonable.

Re:In my case, temperature tolerance... (1)

Interoperable (1651953) | more than 4 years ago | (#29964792)

I'm sure cold operation has some uses but my fingers stop working somewhere around -10C so I wouldn't know what they are. On the other hand, I suspect that the reason that the battery died on my Asus laptop was walking home in -30C weather with the laptop in my backpack.

Re:In my case, temperature tolerance... (2, Funny)

koxkoxkox (879667) | more than 4 years ago | (#29964882)

Well, you have a right to use an idiosyncratic unit of temperature, but please at least specify it, ok ?

Re:In my case, temperature tolerance... (0, Offtopic)

Looce (1062620) | more than 4 years ago | (#29964936)

At least we know the unit can't be Kelvin.

Re:In my case, temperature tolerance... (0, Offtopic)

clone53421 (1310749) | more than 4 years ago | (#29964950)

Kelvin is a scale, not a unit.

The Kelvin scale uses the same unit as the Celsius scale, FWIW, but I don't think he was using that unit.

Re:In my case, temperature tolerance... (1, Insightful)

quisxt (462797) | more than 4 years ago | (#29964976)

-40 Celsius = -40 Farenheit. -40 Kelvin is meaningless. Seems to me like the op gave you all the information you needed.

Re:In my case, temperature tolerance... (0, Offtopic)

Looce (1062620) | more than 4 years ago | (#29965018)

But the post also has a 150; which unit is that in? (Rhetorical question, I know it's Farenheit, because in Celsius the user would have boiled away.)

Re:In my case, temperature tolerance... (1)

realityimpaired (1668397) | more than 4 years ago | (#29965120)

He gave an upper range for heat, of 150 degrees.... Now, you could apply logic, and realize that it would still be meaningless for this to be 150 Kelvins (as that's lower than -40'F/-40'C), and that it would be in the range that would be lethal to a human being if it were Celcius, but the pedant will still say that he didn't actually clarify which unit of measurement he was using.

You and I, however, probably rightly assumed that he was using Fahrenheit, but you just know that somebody's going to complain about it, even if it's obvious.

Re:In my case, temperature tolerance... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29965030)

  • He specified he was in North Dakota. Temperature measurements in the U.S. are almost always in F, something frequently mentioned on /.
  • -40F == -40C
  • A car could get to ~150F sitting in the sun for a few hours. It's a little more difficult to get to 150C when something is just 'baking in the sun'

In other words, use some common sense.

Re:In my case, temperature tolerance... (1)

that IT girl (864406) | more than 4 years ago | (#29965220)

Context clues, dear, context clues. He said "North Dakota" -- a state in the USA, which uses Fahrenheit...

Re:In my case, temperature tolerance... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29965290)

Math, dear, math.. -40C == -40F. Nice, isn't it?

Re:In my case, temperature tolerance... (1)

littledannynolan (1605021) | more than 4 years ago | (#29965432)

Minus Forty is the magic temperature -40 C = -40 F = Damn Cold

Re:In my case, temperature tolerance... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29965640)

-40F == -40C. The unit doesn't matter in this case.

Re:In my case, temperature tolerance... (1)

jo_ham (604554) | more than 4 years ago | (#29965712)

-40 is the same in both C and F, so no need for units.

Kelvin can't be a negative value, so you know it's not K.

Re:Does anyone use these? (2, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#29964310)

Two possibilities: One is that, through some mixture of poor prediction and being oversold, those users bought the wrong hardware. Just as many people buy "laptops" that end up spending their lives on a desk, essentially never moved, these laptops could well have been purchased to survive the Rigors of a Crime Scene; but then plunked into car mounts and not moved since. Not necessarily good planning; but a hugely common, and fairly understandable, mistake made by all sorts of individuals and organizations.

Second possibility is that the Toughbooks you saw were the semi-rugged versions, which are much closer in price(and durability) to basic business laptops than to their fully rugged brethren. Paying a modest premium for semi-rugged features(keyboard that'll survive coffee and donut crumbs for several years, screen that'll survive the big mean keyring falling off the dash onto it, and so forth) might well be entirely sensible even if paying the substantial premium for the fully-rugged can-be-used-underwater-even-if-there-are-sharks-with-lasers edition isn't.

Re:Does anyone use these? (3, Funny)

semargofni (1476489) | more than 4 years ago | (#29964572)

Coffee crumbs?

Re:Does anyone use these? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29964972)

(coffee) and (donut crumbs)
vs
(coffee and donut)(crumbs)

Re:Does anyone use these? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29965244)

That's how you can tell it's good coffee.

Yeah, they're useful (1)

sjbe (173966) | more than 4 years ago | (#29964476)

This is pure ignorance on my part...I can appreciate there is very likely a need, or they wouldn't make them, but I really don't know what that need is; especially, under what circumstances would it be possible to get my laptop run over by a truck as part of a normal day?

Not so much run over by a car but and decent sized IT dept will probably tell you that people abuse the hell out of laptops. Most of them quickly accumulate a veritable junkyard of spare parts from laptops that have been killed through various acts of neglect, malfeasance and random accidents. I've personally seen laptops get destroyed in countless ways. It's a fairly safe bet that a field service technician or traveling consultant is probably going to beat his laptop up pretty quickly. I've had a few clients myself where I wished I had something a little more rugged. We had one guy who killed 3 laptops in the space of a month through various acts of stupidity.

I don't know that I'd get a toughened notebook for someone irresponsible. Sometimes firing the guilty party is sometimes cheaper. But I've seen plenty of cases where a toughened laptop is a good idea.

Re:Does anyone use these? (2, Interesting)

Technonotice_Dom (686940) | more than 4 years ago | (#29964490)

While they're not your every day laptop, there are some people out there who have a use for them. Once, while working in a computer repair shop back in 2002, a customer came in with a very battered old Toughbook. As it turned out, it really had been through a warzone, as he'd been a journalist in Afghanistan during the invasion and it'd been his companion for the last year or two.

Despite its appearance, the hardware was working perfectly - more than can be said for the Windows install on it.

Re:Does anyone use these? (1)

3TimeLoser (853209) | more than 4 years ago | (#29964518)

Besides the hardening, they have bright displays that are viewable in bright sunlight and backlit keyboards. Both are very useful features for those not working an indoor 8 to 5 shift.

Re:Does anyone use these? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29964548)

Used a lot in the UK.

Heating engineers etc. use them to fill out their job sheets. Maybe not the one man band ones but the big nationwide ones.

Some of the Police forces are using them and want them as the environment is not exactly friendly to normal electronics. And of course when it all goes bad and kicks off it's something nice and heavy to throw at the thug trying to kill you.

Re: They're still making them (1)

colinnwn (677715) | more than 4 years ago | (#29964576)

For policemen or many industrial companies, where if your computer went down it shouldn't delay service by much, or the service would be cheap to reschedule, using a regular laptop makes sense.

But for other uses, like firemen or refinery maintenance technicians, who need to refer to building schematics and hazardous material contents before they decide how to attack a fire, or need to see maintenance documents to repair a piece of equipment keeping the refinery down at a cost over $100,000/hour, only a Toughbook or similar would do.

Why the Toughbooks (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29964600)

I worked for the county sheriff's office for several years as an IT / network guy and can tell you that the more durable laptops are DEFINITELY useful in the police context. No matter how often you tell them to be careful or even discipline them, cops will be cops, and most of them are pretty rough around the edges. They toss their notebooks around, drop them, spill coffee on them, you name it. We had one notebook in for updates and servicing that looked like it had fallen into a threshing machine. My coworker asked the officer what the HELL he'd done to it, and he defensively said that HE hadn't done anything to it. It was his K9 partner who had decided to use it as a chew toy, not his problem. At least it stall ran. Oh, and we did have one stop a bullet, although nobody was actually in the car at the time.

Re:Why the Toughbooks (1)

Spazztastic (814296) | more than 4 years ago | (#29965618)

No matter how often you tell them to be careful or even discipline them, cops will be cops

I think the better way to put it is that "End users will be end users." It doesn't matter what your profession is. You could be the CEO, a janitor, or a Ph.D and still make the same mistakes as everybody else.

Re:Does anyone use these? (1)

guruevi (827432) | more than 4 years ago | (#29964618)

Sure, the Compaq might have been alive but Compaq didn't warranty that it would. It could have died the first time it fell to the ground (as have many Dell and HP laptops I have seen). The Toughbook-series is made so that you COULD drop it and it will still go on and the manufacturer will either replace it or repair it if damage occurs to it. As in a fire truck or police car, the machine is usually protected by the car but it should withstand the door being left open in a winter storm, somebody using it that is dripping wet (due to rain or while extinguishing a fire) or if it stands a long time in the sun or near a burning building or if the car experiences repeated bumps. As for a car analogy: a standard Chevy Impala would withstand most of what cops put it through while being three times cheaper than their remodeled counterparts however, it's those once-in-a-while chases at 100mph and PIT maneuvers that the car has to survive although most cop cars (especially those in the non-urban areas) will never need to do that.

Re:Does anyone use these? (4, Insightful)

fwice (841569) | more than 4 years ago | (#29964826)

At my job, we use these toughbooks in extreme conditions -- think arctic/antarctic desert and Middle Eastern deserts. Especially in the latter, the toughbook excels because all of the ports are blocked against FOD [foreign objects and debris] -- namely, if there's a sandstorm that kicks up, the sand can't enter the unit in any way.

In addition, try using a regular laptop while riding on a humvee through rocky terrain. No way that disk lasts, whereas the toughbook disks are made to absorb the shock and vibration.

Re:Does anyone use these? (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 4 years ago | (#29964850)

Well, the firefighter might be using the thing with dirty, greasy hands. Just hose it off when it gets too dirty. It could also get smacked around a bit when someone wearing heavy gear is a bit clumsy getting into the truck.

The cop probably doesn't actually need one, but then I've never actually seen a police car with a toughbook in it, so maybe the ones you saw are just there because the emergency services provider ordered a bunch for everyone.

Re:Does anyone use these? (1)

Linker3000 (626634) | more than 4 years ago | (#29964908)

I was chatting to a British Telecom (BT) engineer a few years back and I believe they have Toughbooks.

He told me he used his closed laptop as a 'level' under his ladder when working up a pole on a sloping steets!

Re:Does anyone use these? (1)

jtorkbob (885054) | more than 4 years ago | (#29965020)

Think about how police officers work. They are in and out of their vehicles in all kinds of weather. They might be doing a traffic stop or such and return to the vehicle wet from rain, and need to use the laptop. Think of fire fighters, who routinely get wet and dirty while responding to routine accidents and small fires. The insides of emergency vehicles need constant cleaning; if they didn't use a ruggedized computer the inside of the laptops would too.

Re:Does anyone use these? (1)

popeye44 (929152) | more than 4 years ago | (#29965070)

I can say from experience that nothing I've used yet lasts like a Toughbook. Of course we use them in some pretty harsh environments. These are what we use to configure multiple devices on the side of the road. From sprinkler systems to signal lighting. Our Surveys group uses them for field surveying. I've got machines that have been used so badly they barely hold together yet still boot up and run.

We've yet to break a Toughbook. We generally replaced due to our normal replacement schedule or we've worn one out which is saying A LOT!

Unfortunately for us Dell is now our only approved rugged notebook vendor. I guess I'll know how they hold up soon enough.

Re:Does anyone use these? (1)

Ephemeriis (315124) | more than 4 years ago | (#29965154)

I've seen Panasonic Toughbooks in police cars, fire trucks, and in the vehicles of industrial companies, but I guess I don't get why; the laptops are well protected in the car or truck, and it's not like a cop is going to use it as a shield in a shoot out, or a fireman is going to be typing something inside a burning building.

It is possible that they really don't need the Toughbooks and were just oversold. It wouldn't be the first time that has happened.

It is also possible that those are the semi-rugged Toughbooks. They're more durable than your average laptop, but they aren't really built to take the abuse that a fully-rugged Toughbook is.

It is most likely that they actually need some form of ruggedization in those laptops. A Toughbook isn't just built to take physical abuse like bullets and being dropped down stairs... They also handle shocks very well, like you might get in a vehicle if you hit something or had to stop suddenly. They handle temperature extremes very well, which you might see in a vehicle on a cold winter morning, or after sitting in the sun all day long. They handle dust and humidity well, which you might see at the scene of a fire.

This is pure ignorance on my part...I can appreciate there is very likely a need, or they wouldn't make them, but I really don't know what that need is; especially, under what circumstances would it be possible to get my laptop run over by a truck as part of a normal day?

Construction is a big one.

We do work for a couple different building contractors and they love their Toughbooks. They're definitely worth the money. I've seen those things get dropped in muddy puddles and snowbanks a dozen times. I've seen fairly heavy chunks of masonry fall on them. And even under the best of circumstances they're operating in fairly dirty, dusty, and wet environments.

When a plumber came over to fix some pipes, he brought with him a battered Compaq laptop that was missing several keys, looked like it'd gone through hell, but was still working and wasn't "ruggedized" in any way I could tell.

Older laptops are halfway-rugged anyway... The old processors used to run cooler, the GPU was simple and basic, the HDDs weren't all that dense... There was more margin for error in just about everything. With the current emphasis on thin, light-weight laptops that perform as well as a desktop, there's very little margin for error.

Having said that, however, I doubt if that plumber's laptop would work very well at 30 below zero... Or 100+... Or in truly dirty, wet environments...

Re:Does anyone use these? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29965284)

I used to work in the IT department of small town Sheriffs Office, this county was so small that we had no official fire dept and just used a volunteer force, I assisted in servicing the computers for Animal Control, Deputies, Vol. Fire Dept, EMS and Emergency Management. They all used tough books and with good reason, it may seem odd with the laptops "mounted" in the vehicles but you have to remember that any of these emergency service outfits could be speeding down bumpy roads making various pursuit maneuvers are subject to shocks and bumps of all sorts.

This doesn't even touch on the fact that most of the toughbooks can be removed from the vehicle for various reasons and end up being dropped, kicked and in one case I cam remember flying off the top of a squad car.

Re:Does anyone use these? (1)

interploy (1387145) | more than 4 years ago | (#29965380)

...under what circumstances would it be possible to get my laptop run over by a truck as part of a normal day?

Construction. I used to work for a roofing company and the owner bought one of those tablet laptops to use when he went to do estimates and to keep his notes for big projects. He bought the thing new, but after a few months the cd drive wouldn't close, it was missing keys and both the case were scratched to hell. It wouldn't have surprised me at all if it'd gotten run over one day, or dropped off the side of a building. A toughbook would have been a much better choice. I agree it doesn't make sense to get one unless you're really clumsy or need to bring your laptop into hazardous conditions, but there's definitely a need. I bet that plumber would have loved to get his hands on one too.

Re:Does anyone use these? (1)

interploy (1387145) | more than 4 years ago | (#29965396)

I mean to say, "...both the case and screen were scratched to hell."

Did the submitter even RTFA? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29964182)

Er, what? This Slashdot summary does not jive with the article at all. The laptop was perfectly functional after all of their tests. The only problems they had were a minor cosmetic issue of the adhesive coming off around the trackpad (which they just called "fit and finish") and that some of the doors might pop open during drops since they weren't double locked. Their conclusion was that it was indeed quite rugged.

Re:Did the submitter even RTFA? (1)

kLaNk (82409) | more than 4 years ago | (#29964270)

Er, what? This Slashdot summary does not jive with the article at all. The laptop was perfectly functional after all of their tests.

I had the exact same thought.

I believe a quote from the video was even something to the extent of "this is a good option to the Toughbook for people who needed the extra processing power".

Re:Did the submitter even RTFA? (4, Informative)

Shag (3737) | more than 4 years ago | (#29964378)

Did *you* RTFA? They stated quite clearly that the Dell had issues with water ingress, including water getting into a battery compartment that isn't isolated from the mainboard.

Yes, it worked again after they let it dry out for a day... but that's bad.

I volunteer somewhere that bought one of these Dells, and honestly I have no idea why they needed a ruggedized laptop.

Re:Did the submitter even RTFA? (1)

fataugie (89032) | more than 4 years ago | (#29964714)

Except the summary talks about running it over with a car and eludes to it being destroyed.
The fact that water is a problem was never stated.

Re:Did the submitter even RTFA? (1)

Blapto (839626) | more than 4 years ago | (#29964846)

The summary says they ran over a competitor's model with a car, not the Dell.

What about Thinkpads? (1)

mcvos (645701) | more than 4 years ago | (#29964184)

Did they compare the Dells to regular Thinkpads? They're not officially ruggedized, but they can take an awful lot of punishment.

Incidentally, I just had a book shelf collapse under its load of books (apparently I wasn't supposed to stack them that high) and fall on my open Macbook. Huge dent next to the keyboard, but everything works fine.

Re:What about Thinkpads? (1)

Anonymusing (1450747) | more than 4 years ago | (#29964514)

FWIW, somebody picked up my MacBook to see how heavy it was, and managed to drop it off the desk. Roughly 3 feet. Still works fine, though there is a hefty dent in corner of the metal body that impacted the floor.

I probably just got lucky on this, though; I don't think the MacBook is any more rugged than a regular laptop.

Re:What about Thinkpads? (5, Funny)

sjbe (173966) | more than 4 years ago | (#29964710)

FWIW, somebody picked up my MacBook to see how heavy it was, and managed to drop it off the desk.

How long did it take you to remove your hands from their throat?

Re:What about Thinkpads? (1)

Anonymusing (1450747) | more than 4 years ago | (#29964956)

How long did it take you to remove your hands from their throat?

I wish. I wasn't even there -- I was out to lunch, and only got the story from colleagues who witnessed it after I came back and wondered who the hell put a dent in my laptop. And the culprit was a leading member of our company's Board of Directors who happened to be walking past my desk at the time.

Well built but not exceptional (1)

sjbe (173966) | more than 4 years ago | (#29964606)

Did they compare the Dells to regular Thinkpads? They're not officially ruggedized, but they can take an awful lot of punishment

Depends on your definition of "awful lot". My brother-in-law's previous company has used thinkpads as their primary laptops for years and the consultants there managed to kill plenty of them. A shocking number actually. I agree that Thinkpads have historically been well constructed - I've had several myself. But they aren't *that* tough. Certainly not much tougher than most other non-ruggedized machines.

Re:Well built but not exceptional (1)

realityimpaired (1668397) | more than 4 years ago | (#29965582)

Depends on your definition of "awful lot". My brother-in-law's previous company has used thinkpads as their primary laptops for years and the consultants there managed to kill plenty of them. A shocking number actually. I agree that Thinkpads have historically been well constructed - I've had several myself. But they aren't *that* tough. Certainly not much tougher than most other non-ruggedized machines.

Indeed... My dad's got my old Compaq laptop now, but that thing is 6 years old, and it has endured an awful lot of abuse, including being dropped, kicked around, abuse from an angry cat, left in a car overnight in -47'C weather, sat on, in addition to the usual array of bumps and spills. That thing still works. There's a couple of bad sectors on the hard drive (40GB, but still has 99.9% useable), there's a few burnt out pixels in the LCD, and it's anemic with its 128MB Radeon 200M video card and 1GB of RAM, but it still works perfectly well for his uses. My own laptop is a 2 year old Dell Inspiron that has endured a similar amount of abuse, and is still working just fine.

The ruggedization isn't really so much that it can take the abuse while not operating (though there is a clause in the certification that covers drop height while not operating, it's discussed in TFA so I won't talk about it here), it's that the system can take the abuse while it *is* operating. That Compaq may have survived being left out in a car, and temperatures that were probably in the -40'C range (I'm assuming that the car was somewhat sheltered), but it wouldn't have started up in that weather, or been able to keep operating. And that's to say nothing of the types of bumps/spills that'll happen in every day use in a warzone, let alone environmental hazards.

Verdict: Faster than Toughbook, but less rugged (0)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 4 years ago | (#29964210)

Dell seems to be taking a very different tack than Panasonic in this segment. Dell's target market seems to be military applications, which can be the only explanation for the high performance CPU and video card. Panasonic is targeting more mundane in-car law enforcement terminals, hospital information systems, and things like power meter readers.

It's no surprise that the military customers would require a lower ruggedness spec than civilian users. They have no real budget limit, the computers are typically damaged beyond repair if damaged at all, and the PCs are typically immobile. However, they need to run fast and well when running, so the good CPU and graphics chip are musts.

Civilian usage, OTOH, requires a device that is durable and lasts for years and can be used in any environment. They don't need great processing power, they just need something that can run their dedicated apps well enough. This is where Panasonic's focus on hardware quality really shines.

Re:Verdict: Faster than Toughbook, but less rugged (4, Insightful)

R2.0 (532027) | more than 4 years ago | (#29964404)

I'm at a loss as to why your post was modded insightful.

- "It's no surprise that the military customers would require a lower ruggedness spec than civilian users. "
- "Civilian usage, OTOH, requires a device that is durable and lasts for years and can be used in any environment. They don't need great processing power, they just need something that can run their dedicated apps well enough."

I'm guessing your perception of military laptop usage to be something out of "Hackers?"

Re:Verdict: Faster than Toughbook, but less rugged (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#29964696)

I think he was talking about it not being worth ruggedizing against hand grenades and rockets.

I'm not sure I agree, but I think that was probably the line of reasoning there.

Re:Verdict: Faster than Toughbook, but less rugged (3, Insightful)

QuantumRiff (120817) | more than 4 years ago | (#29965050)

A Vet turned History teacher had a saying on his door...

A computer with a bullet hole in it is a paperweight.

A map with a bullet hole in it is still a map.

Re:Verdict: Faster than Toughbook, but less rugged (1)

HBI (604924) | more than 4 years ago | (#29965080)

Apparently so. We have a lot of toughbooks and the Dell version thereof (XFRD6300, actually). The Dells are pieces of shit. The Panasonics are less POS but slower and harder to work with - poor ergonomic design. None of them are fixed in place, though. They move a lot and get broken keyboards, water damage, and scoring of the screen via sand. Not to mention dead optical drives from the 'moondust' common in the Middle East (I saw more in Kuwait than in Iraq, honestly).

Re:Verdict: Faster than Toughbook, but less rugged (1)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 4 years ago | (#29965346)

The Dells are pieces of shit. The Panasonics are less POS

Going forward, which of these will be procured in greater numbers?

Re:Verdict: Faster than Toughbook, but less rugged (2, Informative)

Volante3192 (953645) | more than 4 years ago | (#29964662)

It's no surprise that the military customers would require a lower ruggedness spec than civilian users.

And then there's this story that utterly contradicts you: http://www.toughbookuniverse.com/?p=16 [toughbookuniverse.com]

Re:Verdict: Faster than Toughbook, but less rugged (-1, Flamebait)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 4 years ago | (#29964802)

And then there is this story [military.com] which utterly contradicts whatever point it was you were trying to make.

Laptops aren't meant to be armor. The military (or whoever it is in charge of making these decisions) is mostly uninterested in providing adequate armor to the troops. Your little anecdote is a great advertisement for Panasonic, but not really a ringing endorsement of the military.

What about dust and sand? (1)

mcfatboy93 (1363705) | more than 4 years ago | (#29964304)

I couldn't help but notice that in the video the guy pulled up the dot mouse thing, in the keyboard and there was a gap when he pushed down on the mouse pad. if they are going to market these as rugged laptops they should try to seal them a bit better.

Re:What about dust and sand? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29964960)

that's just the outer shell. my guess is that (as said in the article) is a cosmetic issue, and did not compromise integrity of the water & dust resistance. while dust will pile up that way, it will not get on the motherboard etc which is in a seperate compartment.

Laptops should be able to defend themselves (5, Funny)

BetterThanCaesar (625636) | more than 4 years ago | (#29964328)

Laptops are weak. They should be able to defend themselves against dangers such as smashing into the ground, like this experimental Lenovo model [youtube.com] .

Re:Laptops should be able to defend themselves (1)

smooth wombat (796938) | more than 4 years ago | (#29964438)

They should be able to defend themselves against dangers such as smashing into the ground

As well as loganberries, grapes, cherries (both red and black), passion fruit, oranges, apples, grapefruit (whole and segmented), pomegranates, greengages, lemons, plums, mangoes in syrup, bananas and of course, a raspberry.

Re:Laptops should be able to defend themselves (1)

daveime (1253762) | more than 4 years ago | (#29964740)

Pointed Stick ?

well... (-1, Offtopic)

StripedCow (776465) | more than 4 years ago | (#29964340)

to make it really rugged, they should have installed linux on it...

Notsotoughbooks (4, Informative)

juanhf (167330) | more than 4 years ago | (#29964390)

We used to believe that the ToughBooks were the end all be all of ruggedized computers; that is until the day someone actually managed to break one!

If you read the warranty statement from Panasonic you will see the following under Section 3 - Limited Warranty Exclusions [panasonic.com]

"Failures which result from alteration, accident, misuse, introduction of liquid or other foreign matter into the unit, abuse, neglect, installation, maladjustment of consumer controls, improper maintenance or modification, use not in accordance with product use instructions"

That means that if your coffee somehow spills on the laptop and fries the motherboard Panasonic will not repair it under warranty!

On the other hand if you purchase a Dell or an HP ruggedized notebook with the accidental damage protection the notebook will be repaired with no questions asked.

Considering the cost of the Panasonic ToughBooks, I would take a Dell XFR + CompleteCare any day!

Besides, regardless of what notebook you own, if you roll over it with your vehicle (by accident) and it happens to break, would you not rather be covered?

Re:Notsotoughbooks (2, Informative)

Kagato (116051) | more than 4 years ago | (#29964668)

Panasonic, just like Dell and HP, has an accidental damage plan.

Consider this. What's worth more the laptop or the data on the laptop? You're in a rugged location, you're off the grid and can't back up your data until you get back to civilization, which laptop would you want? I'm going to opt for the one that doesn't let moisture seep inside.

Re:Notsotoughbooks (4, Informative)

darkmayo (251580) | more than 4 years ago | (#29964768)

You are comparing a base limited warranty with an ADP warranty, apples an oranges.

Panasonic has ADP warranty as well which like the rest of the brands has to be purchased, I am not aware of any company that has accidental damage protection as there baseline warranty for a laptop.

Re:Notsotoughbooks (2, Insightful)

daveime (1253762) | more than 4 years ago | (#29964814)

I'm at a loss to understand why anyone would

1. Leave a valuable possession on the ground
2. Promptly forget about it
3. And then drive over it with their car
4. ?
5. Profit !

If that is their attitude to their posessions and life in general, seems like they'd be better just getting an insurance policy for being a "accident-prone forgetful dumbass".

Re:Notsotoughbooks (1)

Marcika (1003625) | more than 4 years ago | (#29965398)

I'm at a loss to understand why anyone would

1. Leave a valuable possession on the ground
2. Promptly forget about it
3. And then drive over it with their car

Clue #1: They might get used by the military (where I've frequently seen things like this happen)
Clue #2: They might get used by the military (where 1. and 3. might not be the same person)

Re:Notsotoughbooks (1)

Bender0x7D1 (536254) | more than 4 years ago | (#29965442)

You are assuming a relatively calm environment.

How about if you are attempting emergency repairs during a tropical storm? Or a construction site in general? PEOPLE get hit/run over in those situations, so it's not unlikely that a laptop could encounter that situation.

Also, how about if you leave the laptop on the end gate of a 5-ton truck? The driver hops in to move the truck and never even notices the laptop, or that the end gate is down. Even if THEY don't run it over, someone else might.

Now, to be fair - I don't think any of those scenarios are LIKELY - just possible. Besides, one of the reasons you buy a Toughbook is you bring it to places where Bad Things are far more likely to happen to it than if it were in a cubical.

Re:Notsotoughbooks (1)

realityimpaired (1668397) | more than 4 years ago | (#29965696)

When I was at Dell, we did have a customer whose laptop was run over by a snowplow... fortunately for him, he'd bought the accidental damage protection. Unfortunately for him, the laptop was a writeoff, and he needed to redeem the warranty for a new laptop.....

What had happened in his case was that he'd slipped on an icy sidewalk while carrying the lappy in his arms. Murphy was out in force, as the laptop slipped out and landed in the street just as the plow came by.

I'm just saying, maybe the driving over a laptop with a car wouldn't exactly be deliberate... in the testing referred to by TFS, it was, but there are circumstances where that kind of thing could happen without being intentional.

Re:Notsotoughbooks (1)

Spazztastic (814296) | more than 4 years ago | (#29965724)

I'm at a loss to understand why anyone would

1. Leave a valuable possession on the ground
2. Promptly forget about it
3. And then drive over it with their car
4. ?
5. Profit !

If that is their attitude to their posessions and life in general, seems like they'd be better just getting an insurance policy for being a "accident-prone forgetful dumbass".

You clearly don't drink that much, do you?

Re:Notsotoughbooks (1)

R2.0 (532027) | more than 4 years ago | (#29964818)

That's similar to the argument that Craftsman tools are as good as other professional lines because of the lifetime warrantee. Yeah, you won't lose money replacing the tool, but you WILL lose money on the time it takes to replace a broken tool, or having to do without.

Alternately, the original Chrysler 5/50 warranty - it may have been the "best warranty in the business", but they were still total pieces of crap. And the knowledge that the fix may be free isn't very comforting at 2:00 AM on the side of teh road.

The point of ruggedized (3, Interesting)

sjbe (173966) | more than 4 years ago | (#29964836)

Considering the cost of the Panasonic ToughBooks, I would take a Dell XFR + CompleteCare any day!

You are missing the point. If you happen to work in any sort of extreme environment (very hot, very cold, very dusty, etc) your Dell is going to die pretty quickly if it even works at all. Furthermore there are jobs where equipment failure has serious consequences. The point is that it doesn't die in the first place, not that you can replace it. Take a standard laptop on a polar expedition or into the middle of a desert and getting your laptop serviced isn't exactly going to be an option you can exercise. And thanks to our good friend Murphy odds are it will break at the least convenient time possible.

Ruggedized laptops aren't for office workers. They are for people who work very far from climate controlled offices.

Re:Notsotoughbooks (1)

Ephemeriis (315124) | more than 4 years ago | (#29965372)

First of all, Panasonic has an accidental damage replacement plan. You just have to buy it. Pretty much all the manufacturers have such a plan if you're willing to pay for it. So your point is pretty much moot.

Second, a Toughbook isn't really purchased because it will stand up to occasional catastrophic damage. It is purchased because it will stand up to the everyday wear and tear that would eat other laptops alive.

Toughbooks are designed to work in extreme heat and cold, in dirty, dusty, wet environments. They work in places that other laptops would simply choke and die.

Sure, you could buy a Dell with an accidental damage plan... And then it would die after a week of use. Of you could buy a Toughbook with an accidental damage plan... And have it keep working for a couple years until someone accidentally destroys it.

Re:Notsotoughbooks (1)

koiransuklaa (1502579) | more than 4 years ago | (#29965422)

A Dell with additional warranty is better covered than a Panasonic without additional warranty. Was I supposed to be surprised?

"Protection Plus" is the comparable additional Panasonic warranty that you should have bought in the first place.

Gives new meaning to (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29964726)

Dude, where's my car?

Dude, you're NOT getting a (working) Dell!

at least the dell has better video then intel GMA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29964842)

at least the dell has better video then intel GMA why can most systems like this have that? there are people who do cad work who may need a system like this.

General Dynamics (2, Informative)

GrBear (63712) | more than 4 years ago | (#29964982)

I dunno man, I'd rather buy a notebook [gd-itronix.com] from a company [gdls.com] that knows how to make things rugged [gdls.com] , verses a company that makes VCR's and questionable quality audio products.

Toughbooks live up to the name. (5, Interesting)

UncHellMatt (790153) | more than 4 years ago | (#29965084)

I work for a small police department, and did considerable research before choosing the Toughbook. They're certainly not made for speed, and they're heavy and ugly. But they're not made for that, they're made to take the abuse that is almost inevitable in the hands of people who are, shall we say, not exactly delicate flowers.

Before actually mounting these computers in our cruisers, I dropped the Toughbook while holding it above my head (I'm about 5'10"), I punched the back of the screen (only succeeded in giving myself a bloody knuckle), poured hot coffee on the keys, and generally did things you would REALLY not want to do to your laptop. They took it with just little scratches here and there, but no issue other than cosmetic.

One thing I did find is was that, of course, the screen is tough but it's still a laptop screen. The clamps used to mount the laptops on a swing arm in the cars goes slightly over the sides of the Toughbook. If the screen is slammed hard, that can actually cause a crack. Fortunately I'd paid the extra dosh for a better warranty covering such things, and was able to remind the officers that they need to be aware of that issue.

Dells offerings are really GOOD laptops, and not bad if you need rugged, but not insanely durable. I finally settled on the Toughbook not just because of the abuse I put them through, or just from asking other local PDs what they used. One of my users, a recent hire only a year or so out of the Army Rangers, told me that the Toughbook are what they jumped out of aircraft with. The abuse a grizzled old geek like myself can throw at a computer is pretty much NOTHING like what an Army Ranger could do.

So far, the TBs have been worth every penny we spent.

Toughbooks are resistant to all, but one... (1)

TheHawke (237817) | more than 4 years ago | (#29965278)

The five-finger discounter. One operation bought two of the $3,000 beasts and one walked. They got another and it walked too! The last one they got I got them a cable lock and LoJack service. I slapped LoJack stickers all over both of them. That put the kibosh on the thefts.

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