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Update: This article was revised and updated in October 2020.
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.
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.
Dell Latitude 5420 Rugged
With an 8th gen Intel Quad-Core processor, 14” anti-glare screen, 2TB of super-fast storage, and AMD Radeon graphics card, this robust laptop is powerful and rugged. It is thinner and lighter than previous models, weighing in at only 4.9 lbs.
This rugged notebook features an automotive-grade magnesium alloy chassis for the very best in impact protection. If anything does happen to the laptop, you have protection in the form of Pro Support Plus, a 3-year warranty service, and 24/7 access to certified Dell technicians.
The dual swappable batteries keep you going for longer. By swapping the batteries out, you can have continuous power, a real benefit when you are away from the office, commuting, or exploring the great outdoors. The QuadCool temperature management regulates the internal temperature of the laptop when you are in hotter climates, and stops overheating when the electronics are being pushed to their limit.
The 14” display is crisp and bright, offering less glare in direct sunlight, letting you work outdoors without any distractions. The screen is also pen, glove, and touch-capable. And, with Dell Data Protection, you have advanced encryption, authentication, and leading-edge malware protection.
This durable and rugged laptop is bursting with security features, both inside and out. A perfect laptop for the great outdoors.
Latitude 7424 Rugged Extreme Laptop
You have the option to spec out this laptop with a 7th or 8th Intel Core processor (from i3 to i7). It comes installed with Windows 10 or Ubuntu Linux, supports up to 32 GB of RAM, and you have the ultra-fast M.2 SSD disks available (up to 2 TB).
The tough exterior has been drop-tested from 6 feet for impact resistance and certified IP-65, protecting it from moisture and dirt. The QuadCool technology also keeps the laptop cool when you are pushing it hard, or have it out in extreme temperatures.
The flexible storage gives you up to 3 removable drives, all with solid-state storage for quick access, and almost 4TB of internal storage. You also have the Dell swappable batteries, so you can work for longer. And, with USB 3.0 connections, you can get the speed you need when you are attaching other devices or memory managers.
This is definitely a laptop that you will take outdoors, and the 14” multi-touch screen makes that easier. You don’t even have to take off your gloves to use it. The screen is crystal clear and never blurry and features anti-glare technology so that you can work in direct sunlight.
An optional fingerprint reader enhances security and the leading-edge malware protection keeps your information safe. With self-encrypting drives and Dell Data Protection, this laptop is as secure in your office as it is out in the wilderness.
Panasonic Toughbook CF-31
The Toughbook is great, and the durability of the product is why you see so many refurbished models. With some updates, the Toughbook always comes back better and stronger.
To illustrate just how tough it is, let’s take a look at what it can stand up to. First is temperature, it will work from -20°F to 140°F, and you can take it to altitudes of up to 15,000 feet. It can withstand 310 pounds of pressure on the lid, is completely dustproof and highly water-resistant, has a 6-foot drop rating, 3-foot when turned on and open, and it performs as well as any high-end laptop.
The full magnesium alloy case brings much of the durability and is perfect for when you are on the move. There is also a handy carry handle, locking port covers, and a shock-mounted hard drive with quick release. Convenience alongside the ruggedness.
The 13.1” screen is viewable in the sunlight, and the LED touchscreen is high resolution, with anti-glare and anti-reflective treatments. The front-facing speaker gives high-definition audio, with volume and mute controls on the keyboard. There is also an integrated stylus for more precision with the touchscreen.
There are tons of ports for all of your devices, top-of-the-line technology, amazing performance, and enhanced resolution. This is a great laptop for the toughest job sites and the most epic expeditions.
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 Apple: MacBook Pro 16”
With a ninth-generation 8-core Intel i9 processor, 16-inch retina display, touch bar, and touch ID, up to 8TB of SSD storage, ultra-fast AMD Radeon graphics card, and a six-speaker system, this laptop from Apple is built for anything and everything.
The 16” Retina display gives you a crisp and clear viewing experience, with true to life video and immersive colors. The screen is perfect for all types of graphics manipulation and will bring your presentations to life.
The Intel Core i9 processor is as fast as they come, and you can multitask with ease. With up to 8 cores and 16 threads, you have more performance for longer. The advanced thermal architecture takes cooling to the next level, maintaining the integrity of your components when the processor is being pushed to its limit.
The AMD Radeon Pro graphics card offers better graphics than ever before. This may be a wonderful business laptop, but it can also handle extreme gaming too. It brings desktop-class graphics to a laptop.
Finish that off with a responsive and ergonomic keyboard and a touch ID touch bar, and you have all the convenience needed to save time when working and bring additional functionality to a laptop.
If you want power and durability, this Macbook brings it to you.
The Most Durable Laptop Made By Dell: XPS 13 9300
Constructed from machined aluminum, this Dell laptop has structural integrity and durability. There is a carbon fiber palm rest, and the stunning 4-sided infinity edge pushes the screen to its limit. That screen also comes with anti-reflective technology, perfect for when you are working outdoors. The laptop is precision cut from a block of aluminum in two pieces to ensure excellent quality.
Inside, you will find a 10th generation Intel Core i7 processor, Intel Iris Plus graphics card, 512GB SSD hard drive, 16GB on-board, and optimum wifi connection.
The Corning Gorilla Glass 6 is as tough as they come, protecting your screen, and you will find lots of durability, elegance, and some flex too. Beneath that, dual fans spread the heat over a larger area, and dual heat pipes exhaust the hot air through the hinge.
With a non-touch power button for quick start-up, you can be working quickly, and the powerful processor ensures that you can multitask with no delays. You also have a 2.25mm high-quality HD webcam for those conference calls or client meetings.
With adaptive power management and a slim design, this laptop fits seamlessly into your life while bringing performance and longevity. A durable and powerful laptop.
The Most Durable Laptop Made By HP: ZBook 15 G7
This super-light laptop still comes with a 15” screen and a ton of power inside. The 10th generation i7 Quad-Core processor has 1.80GHz of speed, with 4.90GHz of turbo speed, perfect for complex or multithread tasks and apps. You also have up to 32GB of RAM for quick rendering, editing, and running simulations or virtual machines. Add in an Nvidia GeForce graphics card, and this laptop can handle almost anything.
The 83% screen to body ration, thinner edges, and thinner upper bezel means more screen in a compact body. Being 22% more compact than the previous model, this durable laptop weighs in at just over 4 pounds. It is also thinner than the models that have come before, measuring just under 18mm.
The excellent vapor chamber evaporates and vaporizes liquid, transferring hear from the GPU and CPU into the chamber for more efficient cooling. The razor-thin liquid-crystal fans give one of the best performing cooling systems to date. You also have Bios innovation that ensures more efficient power distribution. The combination means that your laptop is never going to overheat, even under the most strenuous conditions.
The audio is by Bang and Olufsen, the Modern Standby means that you can open the laptop and get to work straight away, and the laptop has enough power to be used as a work laptop and a gaming laptop.
Lots of power, innovative cooling, and above-par audio and graphics.
The Most Durable Laptop Made By Lenovo: ThinkPad T14s
Lenovo has been manufacturing laptops for years, and a lot of experience has gone into this durable design. The Intel 10th generation processor provides the base for this machine, the battery life is amazing, there are lightning-fast USB 3.0 thunderbolt ports, and lots of productivity-rich features.
The ThinkPad is tested against 12 military-grade requirements and there are more than 200 quality checks. It can hold up to extreme temperatures, is dust-proof, resists spills, handles drops and impacts, and can deal with almost anything else that is thrown at it.
The 15” display is generous, and the battery can last for up to 27 hours on a single charge, making a perfect commuter laptop along with being amazing for everything else. With the battery power and advanced technology, you also get lightning-fast bootup times and powerful performance. The docking stations let you connect monitors, speakers, and more a quick snap and no sacrifice to weight or slimness of the laptop.
With a refined trackpad, that is intuitive and ergonomic, and the classic Lenovo TrackPoint and responsive keyboard, this is a functional and comfortable laptop that you will use all day.
The Most Durable Laptop Made By Asus: ZenBook 14
A powerful and fast AMD Octa-Core Ryzen 4700U processor blows almost everything else out of the water. It has a base clock of 2.0GHz, but that can be boosted up to 4.1GHz, giving more speed than most other business laptops out there.
The compact laptop looks elegant and sleek, and the slim bezels help to maintain structural integrity while bringing thinness to the machine. The ErgoLift hinge is smooth, the military-grade casing is strong and durable, and the intelligent design makes this a joy to use. The ErgoLift hinge automatically tilts the keyboard into a comfortable typing position.
The design of the laptop also means that you get optimum audio and visual performance with improved cooling. You can push this laptop to its limits without any sacrifice.
And, you know that this laptop is going to last with the number of tests that it is subjected to before being released. There are temperature, humidity, drop, altitude, vibration, hinge, shock, port, twist, touch, keyboard, and more tests performed on this laptop.
A rugged laptop that is the fastest of the fast.
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.