6 Things to Look for in a Tough Notebook

How to choose a good notebook or laptop

Whether you’re a contractor, a member of military personnel, or just a leisurely geocacher, you know that working in the great outdoors requires more than the average laptop and mobile device can handle. The world is a harsh place, filled with environments that challenge people with extreme weather fluctuations, temperatures below freezing and beyond sweltering, and areas where every gust blows a wall of sand in your general direction. You need a tough notebook – built to last, and work in any condition. But what conditions should you set for your purchase?

1. You Shouldn’t Have to Worry About Temperature

The first thing anyone working in harsh environments has to look for is a resistance to temperature – on both ends of the spectrum. Intensive data collection, research and computer simulation can be quite demanding to even the most modern hardware. Keeping your hard drive and processing power warm in freezing conditions, and cool enough to function in desert environments requires rigorous testing, the right combination of material and design, and only the latest in cooling and heating technology.

Short of baking your laptop alongside a tray of squash and garlic, no environment pleasant enough for you to somewhat survive in minimal clothing should be too hot for a well-built tough notebook.

2. Resistance to Force? Check

Your average laptop would never survive a meter-long drop onto any hard surface – be it a block of wet granite or a compact bed of sand and rock. Shock resistance is a basic insurance in any tough notebook. If you’re exploring caves, rock climbing, or trekking through treacherous terrain, you’ll want an extra layer of protection on the most vital and delicate parts of your notebook – the display, and the data.

What you don’t want is to have your notebook, the center of your data monitoring needs, slip off a boulder and crash onto its side in pieces.

These same qualities makes tough notebooks invaluable to first responders and police officers, as well, as in high speeds and tense situations, it isn’t uncommon for things to get knocked around.

3. Sand, Vapor and Dust Shouldn’t Hold You Back

Laptops and notebooks are infamous for getting clogged and backed up by the dangers of a slightly dusty environment. Relying mostly on vents to keep cool, the modern-day mobile computer is something you don’t want within range of a sand bar, or desert environment.

The same cannot be said for a tough notebook. Whether you’re in the military or on a scientific expedition, sand and dust need to be irrelevant to the level of protection you can afford your data. Monitoring depth and streaming video during an archaeological dig requires a rugged exterior, not just for temperature and shock, but to keep out the intrusive.

Sand and dust aren’t your only concerns. Working in hazardous environments and industries like oil and mining means requiring a notebook that’s certified vapor-proof, as well.

5. No Spill or Splash Should Make a Difference

While diving with any notebook will render it dead without external precautions, a tough notebook will be resistant to extreme weather, heavy downpour, and the occasional coffee spill. Water is a natural enemy to all things electronic, but the typhoon season shouldn’t keep you from doing your job on the ground.

Look for proper certification and proof of weather resistance, taking note of the grading systems put in place to test for resistance to water. According to computer blog BobJohnson.com, a high-end example on par with a Panasonic tough notebook would built to last in extreme environments, with an ingress protection score of 65 – that’s a perfect 6 in dust protection, and a 5 out of 8 in liquid protection. Not enough for a swim, but enough to almost consider cleaning your notebook with a garden hose.

6. Superb Battery Life

What’s the use of a powerful, protected notebook when you still have to keep your eye out for an electrical outlet in the middle of the Saharan desert? Tough notebooks are expected to withstand the test of time just as much as the test of the elements. Today’s high-end models boast anywhere between 10 and 18 hours of daily use, depending on the number of batteries built in.

Battery life isn’t everything, though. There’s also longevity – an important factor, considering that online statistics portal Statista.com puts the average lifespan of a notebook at 29 months. Thankfully, rugged models fare quite a bit better, upping the average to 42 months – three and a half years. Keep an eye out for warranty policies before you make your choice.

No Compromising Performance

Notebooks designed to function well in hazardous environments are known to be clunky and heavy, with PCWorld noting that even slimmer versions weigh in at nearly two kilograms. A focus on durability shouldn’t detract from performance – the UK magazine The Register reviews one model boasting an i7 core and 4GB of RAM – a respectable amount of processing power even among normal computers.

Tougher notebooks come with tougher price tags – but when your work or hobby depends on it, going cheap isn’t an option.


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