Rugged Laptops for Rugged Lifestyles

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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.

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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.

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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