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What do you look for in a laptop? You want portability, right? That is your main concern when comparing a laptop to a desktop computer. If you can carry it around with you, then you are good. But, your life is not all libraries and coffee shops. Sure, you get your work done there, but you are more than that. You are an adventurer, an explorer, a digital warrior.
You need a laptop that is rugged, reliable, durable, and nearly indestructible. When you drop it, it should hold up. It should take the occasional knock. It should even be able to withstand a little heat and cold. Water, too. In essence, it should be built to last.
We are here to help.
In This Article
- 4 Best Fully-Rugged and Semi-Rugged Laptops
- 5 Best Durable (Business-Grade) Laptops
- The Difference Between Fully-Rugged and Semi-Rugged Laptops
- What To Know Before Buying a Rugged Laptop
4 Best Fully-Rugged and Semi-Rugged Laptops
With so many options at your disposal, it can be hard to know what to choose. Well, worry, not. We have done the searching for you (our searches are not military-grade, but our laptops are). If you are looking for the best, then you cannot go wrong with these four laptops.
1. Dell Latitude 5430 Rugged Laptop
- 11th Gen Intel® processor
- sRGB anti-glare screen
- ExpressCharge™ capable battery
- Small screen size
- Small hard drive in the base model
Dell is known for its selection of affordable yet high-performance PCs, including those in its Alienware and rugged laptop ranges. The Latitude 5430 is one of its most durable high-spec rugged laptops, featuring an 11th gen CPU, 16 GB DDR4 RAM, and 512 GB SSD. The laptop’s exterior features a carry handle and balancing legs suitable for setting it sturdy and level on almost any terrain.
With a glove-capable touch screen, it’s easy to navigate necessary tasks quickly and conveniently while on the go. The screen is also powerfully bright at 1100 nits, making it perfect for outdoor daylight conditions. It’s IP-53 rated against dust, water, and dirt. Additionally, drop-tested and tested at temperatures of –20°F to 145°F to ensure it can withstand the toughest of conditions, just like its owner!
Security is also a top priority with the Latitude 5430, thanks to advanced fingerprint and smartcard readers. Other convenient features include up to 25 hours of battery life thanks to hot-swappable batteries. Plus, quick charging capabilities of up to 35% of battery per 20 minutes. Exactly the lengthier operation and shorter charge times required in outdoor and combat situations.
2. Dell Latitude 7330 Rugged Extreme Laptop
- 11th Gen Intel® processor
- Fully customizable at extra cost
- Customizable warranty and services
The Latitude 7330 forms part of Dell’s exemplary rugged laptop range. Its 11th gen Intel CPU, 8 GB RAM, and 256 GB SSD offer performance and speed. Designed to keep up in the toughest conditions, its IP-65 rated, tested from –20°F to 145°F, and drop-tested up to 6 feet. Its proprietary case-style chassis features a convenient carry handle and legs that balance it level and sturdy on any terrain.
The Dell Latitude 7330 may be more pricey than other similar-spec Dell rugged laptops, without considerable improvement in specs. However, the reason for this price discrepancy is due to it featuring a compact, speedy LPDDR4x 8 GB RAM module inside. Compared to traditional DDR4 sticks, it’s smaller, faster, and has lower energy consumption needs—all benefits appreciated when it comes to using and carrying a rugged laptop.
Its ultra-bright 1400 nits screen features a resistive, gloved-touch & 5G-capable touchpad designed to stay responsive in all types of outdoor conditions—be it rain or sunshine. With Wi-Fi 6E and 5G, users are ensured the best possible connectivity on the road. Thanks to FirstNet Ready capabilities, users are also ensured priority to nearby networks.
3. Panasonic Toughbook 40
- Upgradable with modular expansions
- Configurable to high end specs
The Panasonic Toughbook 40 certainly matches up to the rugged laptop competition. With an 11th gen Intel CPU, 16/32 GB RAM, and 512 GB/1/2 TB SSD, it has plenty going for it as far as specs and performance go. Its chassis is equally durable and usable, with a carry handle, utilitarian look, and ample IP66 rating against water and ingress. However, it features something else under the hood that makes it unique—modular areas and packs.
Related: Panasonic Toughbook G2 Review
Each expansion pack (xPAK) slots in and out of the relevant area, making upgrades and hardware changes or removal quick and convenient. The Toughbook 40 features eight different areas, including ones for a battery, memory, storage, keyboard, and four other additional expansion packs. Optional xPAKs include barcode & authentication readers, optical drives, and additional storage, I/O, and batteries.
Users can really customize their Toughbook 40 to fit their needs—and adapt it to each unique mission. Otherwise, the Toughbook 40 can either come with a 4G or 5G modem, both featuring FirstNet support, dual-SIM & eSIM slots, and CBRS Private LTE. Lastly, a 5MP infrared webcam with a privacy cover and Windows Hello facial recognition ramps up security.
4. GETAC S410
- Optional high-spec graphics card
- Removable solid-state hard drives
- Can hold up to 3 batteries
- Low base specs
If you want power, then the Getac S410 has it. The processing power is already fantastic, but the optional Nvidia GeForce GTX Discrete GPU can transform this laptop into a monster, adding in complex processing for 3D graphics, rendering, CAD applications, and more. And, that extra power is only going to enhance your day-to-day operations.
The exclusive LumiBond technology gives advanced touchscreen control with touch, pen, or glove, and the adaptability of the touchscreen makes it a perfect laptop for moving from the office to your commute, to the great outdoors. The optional radiant FHD display gives you the richest and most vibrant viewing experience, no matter where you are.
The second battery adds longevity to your workday, letting you power through tasks, and the 1TB of storage with optional second onboard SSD gives you all the room and power that you need. This also gives you faster boot times and seamless multi-tasking.
The laptop’s first capacitive fingerprint technology adds an extra layer of security, and there are additional multi-factor authentication protocols too. The rugged and impact-resistant exterior protects all of that, withstanding drops, piercing, and collisions.
A wonderful business laptop that has versatility and customization. An already powerful laptop that can be upgraded with more power.
5 Best Durable (Business-Grade) Laptops
Along with fully-rugged and semi-rugged laptops, there is another category of laptop which we want to talk about, the kind which you want to be durable but not necessarily the laptop which you will take skydiving or mountain climbing with you. They are business-grade or business-rugged laptops.
Business-grade laptops are not as rugged as a fully- or semi-rugged laptop but, in an office environment, they get the job done and are protected. They still have features like shock- and water- resistance, and have reinforced cases. They outdo consumer-grade laptops and are well-suited to students or business people who spend a lot of time on the road.
Of course, they are also well-suited to anyone who wants a rugged and dependable laptop.
We went into a lot of depth about what to expect with consumer- and business-grade laptops with our ‘How Long Do Laptops Last & How To Make Them Last Longer’ article, where Henrik shared his personal experience of a 5-year-old Lenovo ThinkPad T440p, and that article tells you a lot about what you need to know about business-grade laptops.
We keep an eye on the most reliable brands and laptops, and this always seems to change considerably year on year, so it is hard to consistently recommend one brand or model but the differences from year to year are getting smaller.
Here are the 5 business-rugged laptops which are topping our list. We have either used or owned each of the laptops on the list, so we can vouch for their durability and performance.
The Most Durable Laptop Made By Dell: XPS 15 9520
- Fully customizable
- High-end specs
- Variety of screen size options
- Lots of Dell bloatware
The Dell XPS 15 is a slimline laptop that is surprisingly durable, as well. Featuring a strong CNC machined aluminum chassis and carbon-fiber/woven glass fiber composite palm rest, it’s built to endure. It’s both scratch-resistant and less likely to warp, buckle, or crack—especially under pressure.
In terms of specs, this laptop exceeds expectations, with a 12th gen Intel CPU, Intel Iris GPU, Wi-Fi 6, 16 GB DDR5 RAM, and 512 GB SSD memory. As with many other Dell laptops, the XPS 15 is fully customizable, with various CPUs, OS systems, GPUs, RAM, hard drive, and screen size and type configurations. Buyers can even choose from the latest XPS or the older version, which is less customizable.
The new XPS 15’s larger 15.6” screen is perfect for more than just browsing, offering additional space to enjoy movies and media. Other key XPS 15 features include plenty of inputs, including Thunderbolt 4, USB Type-C 3.2, audio jack, and SD-card slots and ports.
The Most Durable Laptop Made By Lenovo: ThinkPad T14 Gen2
- Optional NVIDIA graphics
- Slightly configurable
- Great for business or pleasure
- Low base specs
As an all-around rugged computer, this laptop excels. Lenovo uses an aluminum cover for durability and on select models an antimicrobial finish. The ThinkPad T14 Gen2 has passed 12 military-grade durability tests and hundreds of quality tests so that it is ready to run in any environment, from office desks to extreme weather.
The laptop was made with business, engineering, and creative use in mind, so it is a powerful machine that can run at high processing speeds all day long. A quad-core Intel processor keeps it running strong, and the computer uses a 1-terabyte SSD and can hold to 48GB of memory.
You can also run graphically intensive programs thanks to the top-tier graphics card and display. The 14” screen can even be upgraded with a security panel, which filters the display to ensure it is only visible for someone working at the computer, appearing black to anyone peeking over your shoulder.
The Most Durable Laptop Made By HP: ZBook Power 15.6” G9 Mobile Workstation
- 3-year warranty & optional support
- Anti-glare screen
- Optional NVIDIA graphics
- Odd placement of power button
Laptops featuring non-plastic chassis’, particularly those made from durable aluminum such as the HP ZBook Power, tend to be more durable. The additional hardiness and scratch resistance provided ensure users don’t need to replace the laptop sooner because of exterior damage. The ZBook’s impressive specs include a 12th gen i7 Intel CPU, 32 GB RAM, 1 TB SSD, 15.6” display, and 720p HD webcam.
This hardy slimline laptop is also heavy on the security, being a G9 Wolf Pro Security Edition. With a fingerprint sensor and key HP Wolf Pro Security Edition features, it’s an excellent choice for SMBs looking to protect their sensitive data. These Wolf Pro Security technologies include next-gen antivirus, credential protection, threat containment, and cloud-based control.
However, the ZBook Power G9 also features HP Device Access Manager, Power On Authentication, Security Manager, Secure Erase, many other handy HP security features, and a smart card reader. Ports and slots available include a Thunderbolt 4 port and multiple USB Type-A ports.
The Most Durable Laptop Made By ASUS: Expertbook B9 (B9450)
- Wide-view anti-glare display
- 2 expansion slots
- Good battery life
- Mid-level specs
- Not very customizable
Out of all the most durable laptops, the ASUS Expertbook B9450 has to be one of the lightest choices. This ultralightweight, slimline laptop features a unique magnesium alloy chassis offering noticeable weight reduction compared to aluminum. Supposedly one of the world’s lightest 14” business laptops, it weighs in at just 880 grams while measuring a slim 14.9 mm with a 14” display.
The Expertbook B9450 is also built with structural reinforcement and meets the MIL-STD 810H US military standard. It’s been in-house tested to ensure maximum durability from drops, shock, and pressure. Key security features include extensive hardware and technology, including NFC, face & fingerprint login, a Kensington lock slot, and a webcam shield.
A 12th gen Intel CPU, Iris Xe, 4 TB SSD space, and 8 GB RAM come standard on this model. With up to 16 hours of battery life and fast-charging capabilities of up to 60% battery per 44 minutes, it won’t let buyers down on the road, either. Other key Expertbook B9450 features include Wi-Fi 6E, Dolby Atmos, AI Noise-Cancelling, and an AI camera.
The Most Durable Laptop Made By Apple: MacBook Pro (14-inch)
- 2 distinct specs choices
- 3 screen size options
- Lack of ports
Apple was the first laptop manufacturer to introduce the ultra-durable aluminum unibody laptop chassis, debuting on the 2008 MacBook Pro line. Besides being scratch-, drop-, and crack-resistant, this chassis offers a premium look and feel that has led to it remaining a MacBook staple ever since.
The latest MacBook Pro 14” is one of the hardiest laptops, with its case sometimes enduring long past it comes time to upgrade. Available in the classic silver and space grey tones, you can also select from smaller 13” and larger 16” MacBook models if 14” doesn’t suffice. Additionally, buyers can pick from various models featuring differing specs, such as 512 GB or 1 TB SSD storage, an 8/10-core CPU, or 14/16-core GPU.
Featuring Apple’s proprietary M1 Pro CPU & GPU chip, this laptop comes with other expected Apple tech and hardware. Namely, Thunderbolt 4 ports, a MagSafe 3 port, a Magic Touch ID keyboard, and a Force Touch trackpad. Do bear in mind that the chips on the 13”, 14”, and 16” MacBook Pro models vary. Only the 16” version is available with the M1 Max chip, the M2 on the 13”, and the M1 Pro on the 14” and 16”.
The Difference Between Fully-Rugged and Semi-Rugged Laptops
It does not matter if a laptop is fully-rugged or semi-rugged; it is still built to Military Specifications. So, what is the difference between the two?
Fully-rugged laptops are the ones that are designed to function in the toughest climates. They can take almost anything you throw at them and still function and perform. Are you sending an email from the desert? Checking the stock market in the arctic? Or, working in a monsoon? Full-rugged laptops have waterproofed and sealed components, keeping the moisture, sand, and dirt out.
Harsh conditions often mean glare from the sun. Fully-rugged laptops are designed to reduce glare and work in the temperatures which often come with that glare. These laptops can withstand the extreme heat and cold of the most extreme places in the world.
Fully-rugged laptops are great for laborers, those in the military, and everyone else who is working outdoors or in extreme conditions.
You may not know it, but the laptop which you use every day is quite possibly semi-rugged. These laptops are a small step up from the laptops we all know.
You will know that it is semi-rugged if it has a sturdier case (in some cases carbon-fiber reinforced-plastic), spill-proof keyboard, and a gel-mounted hard drive (which protects it from shocks and impacts). Like fully-rugged laptops, they can survive in extreme conditions, just not to the extent of their full-rugged cousins. They remain operational but may slow or freeze.
They are great for outdoor work but are not as suited for extreme conditions. You will find them used a lot with those who work in construction or utilities. The trade-off is that they are sleeker and thinner than fully-rugged laptops, often being more stylish and portable.
What To Know Before Buying a Rugged Laptop
Disclaimer: no laptop on our list is invincible – but they all come pretty close. Durability was a big factor in our choice, but we based our decisions on more than just that.
It goes without saying that a rugged laptop should last. This is not a laptop which only needs to be water-resistant and repel the coffee you just spilled; this is a laptop that needs to withstand the impact of falling on the hard ground as you are scrambling over rocks.
The laptops we chose all come with a tough outer shell which will hold up to impacts and falls. No matter what life throws at it, the laptop will hold up (however, we do not recommend throwing anything at your laptop).
Durability is our main consideration, but you also need a laptop that performs. You are taking your laptop with you for a reason. We only chose laptops which can do just that. If you are used to a desktop computer or a regular laptop, then you have certain expectations.
CPU: You will be hard-pressed to find many high-quality laptops these days without an Intel Core processor, and that is not a bad thing. It is hard to discount Intel when buying a new laptop, and the Core i3, Core i5, Core i7, and the Core i9 are among the best processors out there. They have a great ability to handle multitasking and multimedia.
The Core i3 processor is usually found in entry-level machines with the Core i7 or Core i9 in the high-end laptops. The Core i9 is the best in terms of performance though it can get hot if you are using it constantly.
RAM: The more RAM you have, the more applications you can have on the go at any one time. More RAM means more your data is more accessible; great for video and photo editing or 3D modelling. You will want at least 8GB if you don’t have a lot of need, but 16GB is recommended.
Storage: You really can’t beat a solid-state drive (SSD) when it comes to speed. They work silently, are robust, and lightweight. Most manufacturers are now opting to use SSD in their laptops for these exact reasons. With an SSD, you have quick access to your data and programs, and your system will boot with ease. Look for at least 250GB.
Battery Life: In a perfect world, the stated battery life would be exactly what you get, but that estimation is exactly that: an estimation. There are so many variables in play that it is hard to accurately guess the life of your battery. Try to find one with lots of Watt-hours (Wh) or milliamp-hours (MAh)
The laptops we choose have a speedy processor at their core, fast drives, a ton of RAM, and wonderful batteries.
If you are anything like me, you will be staring at your screen for hours at a time (and somewhere in that time, I do get some work done). You need a screen which is easy to look at and comfortable to use.
The first thing that you will want to consider is whether or not you want a touchscreen. This can make some of your daily tasks easier, however, they often come with an extra glossiness, needing extra protection and hardware, and that can make them harder to use for long periods. If you game, stream a lot of content, video or movie edit, then a touchscreen may not be for you.
The resolution is where it is at when you are choosing your screen (along with the size of the screen), and a 3840×2160 4K is one of the best that you can get. Look for a large screen with plenty of pixels.
If you do a lot of typing, a comfortable keyboard is a must. A lot of keyboards try to squish in all they can, like extra keys and number pads, and this can lead to less room for your fingers. I have always found that less is more. A simple keyboard gives me the room to type and is comfortable all day long.
I like space around the arrow keys, instead of being cluttered with numbers, and a snappy tactile response from the keys is great too.
When you see an IP rating on your laptop, such as ‘IP65,’ the IP stands for ‘ingress protection.’ This tells you a little about the waterproof or water-resistant rating of your laptop. It also tells you how good the laptop is at keeping out solids. You are looking at the two digits after the two letters, and the higher each one is, individually, the better rated the laptop is.
The first number deals with safety against solid objects. Let’s take a look:
2: You cannot stick your fingers into the device.
4: Nothing larger than 1mm in diameter can get in.
5: Some protection from dust and sand.
6: Complete protection from dust and sand.
The second digit denotes the protection from liquids:
1: Can resist some drips.
4: Resists splashing water.
5: Jets of water will not get in.
7: Can be immersed in less than one meter of water.
8: Can be submerged in up to 3 meters.
If you can find a laptop rated higher than 5, snap it up!
You want a laptop with extra features, and that usually means extra cost. When we look at products, we always recommend spending a little more to get quality. This will save you money in the long run. You want quality materials, quality construction, and quality performance. Spend a little more now and save yourself a lot of money on repairs and replacements.