Any mobile device can be labeled rugged. This means that some consumer-grade devices are really just disguised as “rugged,” and are not as durable, secure, or reliable in harsh environments as truly rugged mobile devices are.
But how do you know the difference?
Rugged Tablet and Laptop Claims
In a recently published white paper titled Not All Rugged is Created Equal: Everything You Need to Know about Rugged Tablet and Laptop Claims, Panasonic unpacks the reality of rugged mobile devices available in the marketplace. The company’s reasoning is that anyone buying a device that is labeled rugged should know how durable it is and in what way.
Panasonic explains why military Toughbooks/Toughpads are justifiably labeled rugged. The white paper also explains what potential buyers of rugged devices should be asking before they buy.
Ultimately the term rugged can be both subjective and variable. So consumers need to be aware of exactly what they are getting before they buy, to ensure quality and reliability. Some pointers:
- A mobile computer built specifically for “enterprise-grade” applications that will perform in a reliable way in the harshest environment will be considerably more rugged than a consumer-grade device simply labeled as “rugged.”
- Consumers need to know what military-standard testing of mobile devices means; specifically what MIL-STD-810G tests are and what this military standard means. Without this information they won’t know for sure if the device they are looking at will provide the best technology for their particular needs.
- With tight budgets, businesses tend to place a lot of emphasis on cost, which is seen as the investment they are making. But it is more important for consumers to evaluate their total cost of ownership (TCO) that factors in all costs over the full lifespan of the device – not just what the pay for the device initially.
What Makes Fire and EMS Toughbooks Rugged?
Even though a spec sheet might indicate that a laptop computer or tablet is “Mil-Spec” doesn’t mean it has been tested according to official MIL-STD-810G tests. Some products are designed to meet Mil-Specs, but are never tested. Others may be tested for altitude, but not for drops and spills, which is a common cause of failure.
As Panasonic points out in the white paper, the US Armed Service doesn’t conduct tests or offer any form of certification for mobile devices that claim to be rugged and maintain they meet Mil-Spec standards. Rather it is up to manufacturers to guarantee or assure that the device adheres to certain standards. Furthermore, companies are able to set their own parameters for testing mobile devices. Unless manufacturers can supply verifiable data on testing, it’s impossible to know how laptops and tablets will hold up in the harshest environments when conditions are really bad.
A major difference between Panasonic and most other manufacturers is that Panasonic builds many of the critical components used in its mobile computers. The company also controls just about every part of the manufacturing process, from design of products to testing of completed items. Rugged features on devices vary according to the model; some are fully rugged, while others are semi-rugged.
Features of rugged Panasonic Toughbooks/Toughpads include:
- A magnesium alloy case that protects the device if it is bumped, knocked or dropped
- A sealed liquid crystal display (LCD) touchscreen that gives added protection against dust and moisture
- Screen film that guards against wear and tear
- A raised bezel around the screen that protects it from impact and drops
- Hinges that are fully-sealed making them water- and dust-resistant
- Environmental seals that protect ports, connectors, PC card slots and the multimedia pocket from dust and moisture
- Fanless designs that incorporate heat pipes that keep out dust and water, and reduce the weight of the device, as well as enable its use in extreme temperatures
- A hard drive heater that allows devices to be used safely in extreme cold
- A quick-release hard drive that is shock-mounted, insulating the device from drop-shock and vibration
- Flexible connectors set between the system board and hard drive that further protect against the shock of drops and bumps
- A sealed touchpad and keyboard that prevents damage in bad weather or if there are accidental spills
A full list of features can be found on spec sheets for individual models.
Critical Tests to Evaluate Whether a Device Really is Rugged
Panasonic runs its fire and EMS Toughbooks and military devices through all the MIL-STD-810G tests. These were developed by the US Department of Defense specifically to validate levels of ruggedization in various devices. Each test has extremely strict parameters that simulate what will happen if the device is used in certain environmental conditions and under various stressors. They are the:
- Transit drop test
- Blowing rain test
- Vibration test
- Altitude test
- High temperature test
- Sand and dust resistance test
- Low temperature test
- Temperature shock test
- Humidity test
Mooringtech Inc for Rugged Panasonic Toughbooks/Toughpads
Mooringtech sells new and secondhand Panasonic Toughbooks and Toughpads. Based in Atlanta, Georgia, the company offers competitive pricing and top quality backup services. Call for advice and assistance, or order online.