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Portables Hardware

Dell Rugged Laptops Not Quite Tough Enough 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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Dell Rugged Laptops Not Quite Tough Enough

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  • Re:Interesting... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Tuesday November 03, 2009 @11:55AM (#29964194) Journal
    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.
  • by moosehooey ( 953907 ) on Tuesday November 03, 2009 @12:00PM (#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.

  • by Technonotice_Dom ( 686940 ) on Tuesday November 03, 2009 @12:16PM (#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.

  • Why the Toughbooks (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 03, 2009 @12:23PM (#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.

  • by sjbe ( 173966 ) on Tuesday November 03, 2009 @12:39PM (#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.

  • by UncHellMatt ( 790153 ) on Tuesday November 03, 2009 @12:58PM (#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.
  • by MaerD ( 954222 ) on Tuesday November 03, 2009 @01:46PM (#29965762)
    This reminds me of a trip I took once with a federal sales person who used to work with IBM. Around 2000-2001 he was working with some section of the Marines and trying to sell them some thinkpads. They were non-rugged, but had to hold up to certain standards just in case they ever were in use on/around a war zone.

    After telling them about the tests they did, etc, one of the officers asks if he can try something with the demo model they brought, to see if he could break it. The sales guy tells him to go ahead, if it breaks, no problem, we're trying to sell you what you need, figuring the guy is just going to drop it.
    Instead, the officer walks over to the laptop, pulls out a knife and rams it through the screen and pulls it out. Other than a hole where he shoved it it, the laptop kept going, no problem.
  • Re:Interesting... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Reziac ( 43301 ) * on Tuesday November 03, 2009 @02:13PM (#29966082) Homepage Journal

    Or someone like myself, who wants to buy exactly ONE laptop that will last forever, and which I do not wish to have to protect like a newborn infant.

  • by hairyfeet ( 841228 ) <bassbeast1968@gm ... minus herbivore> on Tuesday November 03, 2009 @02:23PM (#29966228) Journal

    I would add that those that say you don't need a Toughbook for "just being mounted in the police car" has never actually been in a ride along. I have a HS buddy that was a county cop for several years and the amount of abuse and beating you get in those cars chasing a bad guy is just unreal.

    Lets not forget that trying to evade the law many bad guys will try to make their own roads, cut through ditches, medians, etc and the amount of beating and bouncing around you get in a police car during a chase is just nuts. I doubt a standard Dell would survive very long with the amount of beating you get in a police car.

  • Re:Interesting... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Alastor187 ( 593341 ) on Tuesday November 03, 2009 @02:35PM (#29966376)

    I don't think they even showed the whole test, or they did it wrong. The MIL-STD-810 drop test is actually 26 total drops. Once on each face, edge, and corner.

    They didn't show if they actually measure 4' or just eye-balled it. Also, they were dropping onto some kind of surface, but not directly on the ground. That can have a large influence on the amount of energy transferred to the laptop during the test. Where I work when we do a drop test we do it on a bare concrete floor, and there is fixture to ensure the exact height is used.

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