Rugged Laptops for Rugged Lifestyles


One of the key advantages to being a freelance writer like me or a dot com mogul like John is that you don’t need to be at a specific office to get your work done. I love my laptop, because it means that I can be “on the job” at the local coffee shop or at the mall, if that’s what I want to do. You won’t catch me using my laptop in the rain, however, for fear of damaging all the precious electronics housed within.

Most consumer electronics are not designed for extreme conditions, but such is not the case with the rough and tumble products of Ruff PC. The rugged portable computers that serve as the subject of this review will continue to operate at their best through rain, sleet, or snow. Or a drop from your third-story window.

Woof! They’re Rrrrrrough!

Naturally, the biggest selling point of Ruff PC‘s product line is that their devices are built extra rugged and that they will continue to work, regardless of what sort of abuse you toss their way. While some people are more interested in the glossy chic appeal of an Apple MacBook, others want their computers to be tough, rough, and durable. I know that most police officers around these parts use Panasonic ToughBooks for this very reason.

But why would the average consumer be interested in such a rugged computer? Ruff PC, according to their “Why Rugged?” page, says that “damaged notebooks result in several intangible losses to corporations. These include missed deadlines, lost data, employee frustration and a subsequent drop in productivity.” Having your notebook fail because you dropped it in the toilet isn’t fun either.


How about stats? The International Data Corporation reports that “64% of notebook damage is caused by drops, 38% by spills, and 28% by crushing while LCDs and HDDs are reported to be the two components most often cited as suffering damage.” Ruff PC products are supposed to be resistant to all of these, handling everything from humidity to fire, grease to extreme temperatures (-20°C to 55°C).

Ruff PC Product Overview

Ruff PC products can be broken down into three main types: rugged PDAs, rugged tablet PCs, and rugged notebook computers. They are all resistant to drops, vibration, temperature extremes, and so forth and they take on the same color scheme: black and gray. If you’re looking for something shiny and glossy, you might as well look elsewhere. My single biggest complaint is that all the devices seem to be lacking in the RAM department. I’m assuming this can be upgraded by the end user.

In terms of handheld computers, you’ve got a choice between the RuffPad Recon and the RuffPad Nomad. Both PDAs have similar specs, including WiFi, Bluetooth, and Windows Mobile. The key differences are that the RuffPad Nomad gets a touchscreen display, a faster XScale processor, and more internal memory.


There are two rugged tablet PCs, both of which come in two variations. As far as I can tell, the RuffNote Scribe is a touchscreen-only tablet with military-spec ruggedness. Key features include a 10.4-inch display, Pentium-M processor, WiFi, and XP Pro. It is available with either a 40GB or 80GB hard drive.

Alternatively, you can choose the RuffNote Tablet, which has a more conventional laptop form factor. The 10.4-inch or 12.1-inch touchscreen can rotate for a true tablet PC experience. You get a duo core processor, 120GB hard drive, and up to 1GB of RAM.

Last but not least is the extensive line of RuffBook laptop computers. The RuffBook Spec is the tamest-looking of the bunch, almost looking like a regular notebook. As you work your way through the range — RuffBook Tech, RuffBook Junior, RuffBook Max, RuffBook Pro and RuffBook Ultra — they seem to get more rugged and more expensive. Display sizes range from 12.1″ to 15.1″, some of which are touchscreens.

Worth the Premium in Price?

Without having a few sample units to test, I can neither recommend nor disapprove of any Ruff PC product. You do pay a rather significant premium for the rough and tumble protection, however, as you can see from this price list. A well-equipped RuffBook Max retails for $5,495 and you only get an 80GB HDD, 1GB RAM, and Intel GMA 950 graphics. They ain’t cheap!

Get a Ruff PC RuffBook Tech for Free

What if you could get a Ruff PC for zero dollars and zero cents? The Thinking Blog is currently hosting a contest where they are giving away a RuffBook Tech water resistant laptop. You’ve just got to write a blog post adhering to their criteria, and every entry gets a free linkback on their blog. If we win it, we’ll be giving it away to a lucky John Chow dot Com reader.

Click here to win a Ruff PC

63 thoughts on “Rugged Laptops for Rugged Lifestyles”

  1. Wow, cool invention, I need something like this… :mrgreen:

    1. I seriously doubt you do.

      1. DeboHobo says:

        That is a great inovation of the laptop. The standard ones are so sensitive to every little thing.

        I hope you win so I can win if from y’all.

    2. For ? Just teasing, even if one doesn’t need to do extreme sports or use internet connection while it is raining a laptop that won’t break that easily is always a good thing, accidents may happen.

  2. Neil Duckett says:

    Great for the workshop environment where they get battered around and subject to filthy conditions, i.e CNC machines.

    1. Fat Man says:

      thats some tough stuff. reminds me of the hummer laptops.

      1. Zac Johnson says:

        Hummer Laptops… that would own. They should just build Hummers with them now, so it can let me know where the closest gas station is! 😆

  3. Laptop Deals says:

    Now thats a freebie! Great looking product too, the problem is… if I buy one I might throw it in the sandbox a couple of times to test it out… just because. 😯

  4. Gary Jones says:

    My 2 year old can rip apart a lap top in 30 seconds (Yes I have already gone through 4 keyboards and 2 power cords). If they want to send me one to test on him I will gladly do a video demo and recommendation if it makes it though the day.

    1. BareFly says:

      Make sure the laptop is pee resistant because your 2 year old might try to figure out if it is true what they are claiming :mrgreen:

      1. that could be part of a very interesting review..
        can it withstand a 2 years old 😛

  5. Leo says:

    I have always seen the Vancouver Police use the Panasonic Toughbooks, it will be interesting to see if Ruff PC can compete.

    1. Laptop Deals says:

      Stop getting into trouble with the law!
      (that way you wont see what the police are using anymore :mrgreen: )

  6. Dandruff says:

    Quite a rough product to be used even more roughly.
    Great for kids who anyways can’t use anything without breaking it.

  7. Pam Hoffman says:

    Did anyone try to pee on it? The one picture kind of looked like they might have…

    It would be interesting to know if it can survive THAT (that and 2-year olds ;).

    Pam Hoffman

  8. Stephen says:

    Jack Bauer doesn’t use one! No good 😛

    1. Thanks for the plug Michael! 🙂

      1. Why did this show up as a reply to Stephen 😕

    2. Zac Johnson says:

      I just started watching “24” early this week. Rented the series DVD… this is the best show ever! I’m addicted, my GF and I are watching 3-4 episodes every night.

  9. Joe says:

    Cool review, except for these numbers are wrong.

    “64% of notebook damage is caused by drops, 38% by spills, and 28% by crushing”

    It was just released that 99.6% of all notebook damage is caused by people throwing them out of windows in frustration. In my household, it is 100%.

    (Sorry, cool post)

    1. John Oates says:

      Anybody else worry about the fact that the International Data Corporation managed to account for 130% of laptop damage? Unless they are saying that a substantial proportion of incidents involve two or even three types of damage (you’d have to be pretty clumsy to drop, drench and crush your laptop all at once – maybe you could drop it in a very large smoothie maker or something).

  10. Prince John says:

    If I can believe the pictures, they are not only RUF, but also TUF. The perfect companion for rock climbing, biking, hiking and a gift to your pre-teen girl who loves to throw everything that comes to her hand handy.

    The price is not really too much, if the images are true.

  11. Maher Saleh says:

    Hi John!

    Great review man i probably need one of those 😎 but after the price goes down

  12. Hahaha I could do with a laptop like that for out in the field… Pity it’s not a Mac though..

  13. Rod says:

    Perfect, when I am mountain bikin this will do the trick. 😆

  14. Contest Beat says:

    Not something I would buy unless I was doing field work or something

  15. That looks awesome – Bit expensive though

  16. Jason says:

    Oh yeah – I need one on a swivel mount by the throne! 😯

  17. Are those real pictures? Don’t know why or how a bloggers would ever come across a heap of mud falling onto your laptop but damn it’s good to know if it ever happened you won’t have anything to worry about.

    Not sure I would be willing to dish out the $5000 plus for the added safety though.

  18. Wow. Drop your laptop in the muddy river and it will be okay. At a cost of $5,500 you could buy about 5 Dells for that price.

    1. Etienne Teo says:

      5 dell and drop them in the mud.

  19. Is somebody crazy enough to use their laptop in rain or snow? I hope not. However, we do ruin our laptops by spilling drinks like coffee, pop etc., so these laptops are definitely a plus.

  20. hts says:

    It would break my heart apart to see someone put a laptop in mud or let rain drop on it – no matter how rugged. I mean, I have some kind of strange affection and care for electronic devices – of all sorts. It would be terrible to see such a thing 😛

  21. Who even thought of this idea? I mean come’on why would anyone want to rub mud all over a laptop?

  22. That’s a lot of money for a rugged laptop.

  23. I’ve entered this contest. Thanks for the info.

    I don’t really need one though, but I’ll take anything that’s free. :mrgreen:

  24. Seriously…do most laptop users need this? I have been using my Toshiba, which has been dropped, been stood on, and has been bounced up and down the sidewalks in my roll on bag all over the world, and still runs great!

  25. mcangeli says:

    I’m waiting for my first TTZ media payment to get one… 😀 ok, maybe my 5,000th payment will get me one…

    1. :mrgreen:
      I am pretty sure that John could get one of these every single month. Just from his TTZ media payment.

  26. Weblog Money says:

    Wow that’s one tough looking laptop, I still don’t know if i’d blow $5K on a laptop so I can drop it all I want 🙂 I’ll settle for a nice MacBook or Alienware

  27. Web Cosmo says:

    Oner person in my office threw a piece of chocolate at somebody. Unfortunately it didn’t get to the right place, slammed the LCD computer screen. That mark still there, wont go way. Is this computer chocolate resistant? Sounds very pricey. But the abuse you can do, as per the pictures, price makes sense.

  28. hts says:

    “chocolate resistant” =] … good one. Well, it says it is resistant to shocks – more powerful that a chocolate slam, so yeah, your laptop would be safe with that person around. Anyway, IMO it’s quite a waste of money for the average person. These laptops might be useful for people working in harsh / dangerous environments (like engineers, for example), but not for someone who buys a laptop for the sake of mobility – same computer at office and at home, for example. anyway, you get the point 😛

  29. HP is shipping a rugged laptop for almost 2 years now. 🙂

  30. Hi-tech-IT says:

    Seem good for military, id have no use for one though. 😯

  31. paradise5000 says:

    John, I most definately get my husband a Ruff-PC, all we need know is a Ruff Cell phone! 😉

  32. Am I the only guy here that only spends $600 max on their laptops? I’m guessing that I’m abnormally cheap. I got a laptop last week for in the $390 range from BB, must have been a hidden one from black friday, I would have bought 5 if I could. THEN I would have purchased the 5k model they have shown here.

  33. I don’t know if someone will do that to his laptop. He must be crazy to do that

  34. Mike Huang says:

    HAHA! I’ve seen these before! They’re much heavier than you guys think 🙂


  35. Ash Haque says:

    Meh not extreme enough, up here in Canada we need at least a -35°C rating.

  36. Thsi laptop looks pretty cool, low this design colors and shape.

  37. Expensive. But I guess it’d be great if you were a camper who likes to Twitter 😛
    ~ Dave

  38. KiwiPulse says:

    I guess all the luck is in your side John! Is this laptop can be washed in my dishwasher? 😀

  39. Santosh says:

    I Voted! I voted!!!
    Oh yeh I will surely try to wash it in a dish washer!! Hope the winner once tried every crazy things with the laptop.. take suggestions from the readers and make a video of his evil doing to his laptop 😈

  40. ismabera says:

    him John
    I voted for you. How I will get this PC? How you know that I voted?

  41. vidya says:

    I need and wish I get that Ruff PC for zero dollars and zero cents! I have voted for you (john chow dot com) in ‘The Thinking Blog’ contest, Hoping to get a RuffBook Tech water resistant laptop. Good luck!

  42. I have voted for thee John Chow, not for the free notebook, but yours actually is the best review.

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