How much of a beating can a so-called rugged laptop actually take? We put four models through the paces. We subjected them to spills and tosses; we even drove over two of them with a 700-pound ATV. Here are the results.
DELL LATITUDE E6400 XFR
The shell of this fully rugged 8.5-pound laptop is made from PR-481, a composite used in military equipment. It still worked after we drove the ATV over it and doused it with muddy water, but the touchpad did get a bit sticky. One drawback: The battery lasted just five hours.
PANASONIC TOUGHBOOK 31
This new 8.2-pound magnesium alloy laptop barely winced during our ATV rollover test and survived being thrown into a pile of mud and ice. The Toughbook's 13.1-inch screen is an inch smaller than the Latitude's, but the battery lasted twice as long, about 10 hours.
HP ELITEBOOK 8440P
A less durable business rugged laptop, the 4.7-pound EliteBook has a magnesium alloy chassis and a 14-inch screen. When we threw it in the air, a light came on indicating that the hard disk had locked to prevent data loss. We used two upgraded batteries at once for 20 hours of juice.
LENOVO THINKPAD T410
The ThinkPad, also business rugged, survived our spill test, but it needed 15 minutes to dry out. The 5-pound laptop has a 14.1-inch screen and an interior "roll cage." Like the EliteBook, its hard drive locked when we threw it in the air. But its upgraded battery lasted just six hours.