Laptops are designed for portability, but not to take a beating. If you’re doing geological field research, working on construction sites, or have another job that involves the elements, you need a “rugged” laptop.
Rugged computers are designed to withstand punishments that would destroy other machines. They’re built to withstand extreme temperatures, include spill-resistant keyboards, and have extra safety features that keep them running long after another computer might break.
Best rugged laptops for harsh environments
These are the best rugged laptops and semi-rugged laptops on the market.
The Panasonic Toughbook G2 is one of the most popular rugged laptops. Not only is it a two-in-one touchscreen computer/tablet, but it also has a magnesium alloy chassis that protects the internal components, as well as bumpers on the outside to protect it from drops.
With a battery life of 18.5 hours, the Toughbook G2 will keep working as long as you do. It supports up to 1TB solid state drive and an optional i7 CPU. Every Toughbook comes preloaded with robust security features and antivirus software. In addition, it also includes:
- Windows 10 64 bit
- 512GB SSD
- 16GB RAM
- Front and rear cameras
- Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and 4G LTE Connectivity
The Dell Latitude Extreme 7424 is one of the strongest laptops out there. It can withstand shocks up to six feet and has an IP65 weather resistance rating, meaning it’s safe from all but full, prolonged submersion in water. Plus, QuadCool’s thermal management means it can operate in even the hottest environments.
The base model of the Dell Latitude includes an 8th Gen Intel Core i5 processor (but you can choose to upgrade to an Intel Core i7), integrated graphics, and up to 8GB of RAM. The Dell Latitude also includes:
- Hot-swappable batteries for continuous use
- Up to 4 TB of storage
- 1000 nits anti-glare screen for use in direct sunlight
- Glove and pen touch compatibility
- Backlit keyboard
- Optional fingerprint reader
The Lenovo ThinkPad 13 has the same design that fans of the lineup have come to know and love, but it’s certified to MIL-STD-810G standards. The laptops are designed to withstand mechanical shock and vibration caused by moving ships. They also have a humidity of 98% in temperatures as low as 140 degrees and as low as -13 degrees.
In addition, the laptops have been tested to withstand a week of solar radiation and for use at 15,000 feet. They have even been tested for use around common types of fungi. Should something go wrong, the ThinkPad 13 offers a worldwide warranty that is valid in more than 160 countries. It’s a sturdy machine that remains light at just 3.17 pounds with up to 11 hours of battery life, as well as:
- 13.3-inch screen
- Up to 512GB SSD
- Up to 32GB RAM
- A 720p camera
- Multiple ports
- Intel HD graphics
The Toughbook 55 is considered a semi-rugged laptop rather than a rugged laptop. This means it’s a durable laptop, but less expensive than the full-fledged “rugged extreme” options. The Toughbook 55 offers up to 38 hours of battery life thanks to an optional second battery and an easy-to-carry handle. It has been tested to military standards and has an IP53 magnesium alloy frame.
What sets the Toughbook 55 apart is that it includes six user-upgradable expansion areas for memory, storage, keyboard, and three xPAK areas. This allows for much more customization on a case-by-case basis than with other laptops of this type. On top of all this it features:
- 14-inch screen size
- Optional quad-core processor
- Three year warranty
- Numerous ports, including Ethernet
The Asus Chromebook isn’t strictly a rugged laptop like others on this list, but there are two things others don’t: affordability and portability. Most rugged tablets and laptops, especially those with military protection, are generally heavy and priceless† The Asus Chromebook costs just $350, but comes with rubber bumpers and a spill-resistant keyboard.
The Asus Chromebook has a battery life of 12 hours and a full HD touchscreen. A built-in webcam makes it perfect for video conferencing. Unfortunately, it only has an integrated GPU, but it is sufficient for lightweight work on the go. It also has:
- Two USB-C ports
- Two USB-A ports
- MicroSD card reader
- 1 year free Google cloud storage
If you’re a gamer on the go and need a gaming laptop that can withstand more abuse than the average laptop, the ASUS Tuf Gaming A15 laptop is your best option. It includes Microsoft Windows 10, an AMD Ryzen 7 processor, and an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660 Ti. The machine has the specs needed to play almost any game without losing frames.
Plus, a set of dual fans keeps the temperature down, while the battery powers up to 8.7 hours of web browsing or 12.3 hours of video playback. When you go gaming, you have to look for a power outlet. In addition, the ASUS Tuf includes:
- 15.6-inch IPS display
- 512GB SSD
- Military-grade durability
- RJ45 Ethernet and HDMI 2.0b ports
What about Apple?
There aren’t exactly “rugged” laptops for Apple users, but you can check Amazon for several rugged cases that will protect your Macbook from drops and spills if you’d rather stay in the macOS ecosystem.
Rugged laptops gravitate towards SSDs rather than hard drives because of the vibrations they suffer from. You won’t find most of these laptops on Amazon; they must be ordered directly from the manufacturer, as they are usually considered specialty machines. Their functionality makes them suitable for almost any application, whether you’re looking for a business laptop or a water-resistant workhorse for your truck.