Rugged Laptops for Military MembersUpdated: October 27, 2023
Military deployments often involve hardship. That can be in the form of the nature of the mission and the nature of the conditions on the ground in terms of heat, cold, dust, sand, moisture, and other environmental challenges.
Those deploying often turn to rugged laptops, rightfully thinking that gear not specifically built for or known as being able to withstand the rigors of military deployment will not be reliable or last long in an extreme environment.
What do you need to know about “built tough” laptops before you buy?
Understanding some basic concepts about these laptop computers can help you make a more informed decision about what model to buy and why. Plus you will also have a good idea about the life expectancy of your mobile computing devices on and off deployment.
The Basic Enemies Of All Laptops
The natural enemies of hard drives, optical devices, RAM, motherboards, and display glass are numerous and include:
- Magnetic fields
- Salt water
- Drops, falls, impacts to the machine
- Extreme cold
What Rugged Laptop Models You Should Consider Buying
There are too many new makes and models of tablets and laptop computers to suggest any single one. The Panasonic Toughbook is a model some have gravitated toward in years past, and ditto for the Lenovo products or the rugged version of a Dell Latitude.
There is so much difference of opinion over which brands are best that the most helpful advice in this area is to start looking for rugged notebooks or laptops made by a company you already know and trust.
What To Know About Rugged Laptops Before You Buy
A rugged laptop is extra sturdy but it is not bulletproof. They are tougher than standard laptops to resist falls, impacts , moisture, dust, and sand, ut they are not hermetically sealed, and still susceptible the elements.
This means that you should not realistically expect a rugged laptop to survive the deployment. You should not assume that your equipment will continue to function long after your return from duty. Anticipate the wear and tear you will put your computer simply by being deployed in addition to climate conditions and other factors.
To prolong it’s working life, assume you may need to aggressively clean and maintain your computer depending on the severity of the conditions where you deploy.
Rugged laptops cost a lot more than their civilian counterparts. Also due to virtual armor plating, rugged laptops can way twice as much (10 lbs. or more) than normal laptops.
Pros of Buying a Rugged Laptop
Accident-prone users will appreciate the “fall rating” of these machines–some are rated to withstand impact from falls as high as two feet.
Some two-in-one laptops don’t get as high ratings for durability as their “fixed” counterparts, but there are versions that can withstand difficult conditions. Rugged laptops often include rubberized bodies to resist moisture, spill-resistant keyboards, and more durable display glass, among other upgrades.
Some of these models are designed to be modular and user-friendly in the custom mods department. That is one of the biggest advantages of certain models.
Not all toughbooks are made the same–some feature many options for ports for RFID gear, blu-ray players, etc. Know your uses for it in the field. If you don’t need hardcore processing power for the most resource-intensive video games, you may find your options much wider.
If you need a laptop to edit videos and share images, your chief concerns will be performance-related. If you’re more about writing, researching, or doing other less media intensive work, you may find it helpful to sacrifice a bit of performance in favor of other features important to you.
Those who need these machines for gaming purposes do well to ask a lot of questions pre-deployment about the nature of internet connectivity at the gaining location–a high-powered laptop does you no good if the connectivity at your deployment won’t support your intended purpose for the laptop.
Cons of Buying a Rugged Laptop
The most obvious cons associated with purchasing a Toughbook, Thinkpad, or Probook is price. Some rugged laptop gear is advertised starting at $400, with bigger and more full feature models going as high as $3600.
It may be wise to consider buying a bare bones model and customize it with the exact features you want. But price is going to be a big issue for rugged protection and servicemembers should anticipate this.
Another challenge with a rugged laptop is that you will probably need to do some preventative or minor maintenance of your own at some point. Do not assume that you won’t need replacement parts during your deployment. A space laptop battery (or two) plus a space, an unopened external drive for emergency backups will help a great deal, and a sealed unopened internal drive replacement is also a good idea. Also, consider that replacement parts for rugged laptops are generally a lot more expensive that their counterparts.
Tips For Buying a Rugged Laptop
Always ask for a military discount!
Make a list of the specs you’re using with your existing laptop. Decide how much you want to upgrade with your new rugged computer, keeping in mind that it may not survive the deployment depending on conditions.
Always use a reputable dealer. Avoid fly-by-night websites, sites that have few reviews or have many negative reviews.
When talking to a rep or a dealer, specifically explain you specifically need a rugged laptop for military field work. OPSEC is incredibly important. Never reveal to a customer service rep that you are buying a laptop to take on a deployment with you or discuss the actual nature of your pending TDY or overseas duty. Just explain to the rep that you have a requirement to operate a computer in whatever conditions you expect to live in after your arrival in the host country.