Dell's Rugged and Extremely Rugged Products
A rugged military-grade product might not be what first comes to mind when you think of Dell, but over the past years, the company has shifted more resources towards building rugged notebooks to compete with the likes of the infamous Panasonic Toughbook. Rugged laptops and tablets have many uses ranging from the obvious military usage scenarios to the less obvious ones such as right through into the kitchen. Dell was kind enough to invite me to Texas where they gave me a firsthand account of their progress with their "Rugged" line of products. I also toured their labs and one of their Global Command Centers. Dell is not only a hardware company but they are also heavily invested in services. Dell's support system for their customers is one of the major benefits of Dell products, and all of their Rugged products will utilize Dell's in-house Global Command Centers, instead of an outsourced partner.
Dell's four main products they showcased include the Latitude 14 Rugged, Latitude 14 Rugged Extreme, Latitude 12 Rugged Extreme, and their Latitude 12 Rugged Tablet. All of these products offer MIL-STD-810G certification, which they get from an independent lab. Over the years, their "Rugged" series of products has shifted from rebadged consumer counterparts, to fully redesigned products that might only use a part of the consumer version's PCB.
Since the target audience for these new products isn't your average consumer, but rather a corporation or governmental body that only upgrades once in a while, Dell is looking to hit very important upgrade cycles when it comes to hardware performance. It's the reason that the new products will mostly be based on Intel's Skylake microarchitecture, as it should serve customers well into the future.
Their Extreme Rugged (Fully Rugged) products offer IP-65 ingress protection, should survive a 6-foot drop, are EMI shielded for use around explosives and hazardous locations, and provide "comprehensive" MIL-STD-810G certification. Their Rugged (also called Semi-Rugged) series offers IP-5X or greater ingress protection and will survive a 3-foot drop. From their experience building rugged products, Dell has realized that to provide a better product, they must build their products to exceed the requirements of certifications such as MIL-STD-810G. Dell even says that after the 6-foot drop test, their Rugged Extreme notebook might still be IP certified, which is something not widely promised by other brands.
I will be reviewing a few of Dell's Rugged products, but I thought you might appreciate a little overview of what they have to offer. Dell has taken what looks to be a physically weak concept of the convertible tablet/notebook and produced the fully-rugged Latitude 12 Rugged Extreme. While some might question the frame and rotating display, the product should stand up to a beating just like the Latitude 14 Rugged Extreme. You might have noticed the RGB keyboards, but they aren't there only for show. Dell mentioned that in different lighting conditions, different colors could be useful, such as red at night.
Dell's Latitude 12 Rugged tablet is attached to a keyboard dock in the picture. A rugged tablet has many uses out in the field, particularly when there is no need for a keyboard, such as an interactive map. We used these tablets attached to jet skis to display a map of Lake Travis, and we proceeded to race around the island as our position was tracked in real-time and displayed on the tablet.
The Latitude 14 Rugged and Latitude 14 Rugged Extreme are what we traditionally think of as a rugged computer. Both carry Dell's 14-inch daylight-readable display and are equipped with the latest in high-performance hardware. Dell is using solid state storage instead of spinning disks, which makes a lot of sense considering the nature of the device. Both are the latest Dell has to offer in terms of durability, and we actually tossed the one on the right off a boat onto a rocky island multiple times. The notebook survived with some external scratches, and there it sits the day after.
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