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Last Updated: August 2021
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.
1. 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 Dell Latitude 5420 Rugged Laptop is powerful and robust. 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.
2. 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 of the Dell Latitude 7424 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.
3. Panasonic TOUGHBOOK 55
This TOUGHBOOK 55 from Panasonic is manufactured with magnesium alloy for ultimate durability, and at 14” is a conveniently portable size and shape. The laptop runs on an Intel quad-core processor. To better customize your computer, the laptop has a modular design to easily swap out memory, storage, and more, helping you physically back up important files.
For ease of use, the screen is touch-enabled. The display is backlit with direct sunlight in mind for clear readability in all conditions, and with 12 day/night display modes, you can tailor the display to any light level.
The laptop is well-suited for outdoor use because aside from its ruggedness, its features make it a pleasure to use even in the field. Its battery lasts for up to 19 hours, more than enough to cover a few workdays without a recharge. Four directional microphones and an infrared webcam let you attend virtual meetings even without background noise or light ruining your video call.
4. GETAC S410
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
For raw power in a slim, portable package that excels at graphic design and video production uses, look to this laptop from Dell. A 2-terabyte SSD and 64GB of memory ensure the XPS 15 runs quickly and smoothly. There is even a hidden exhaust port in the hinge connected to twin cooling fans to keep the laptop from getting too hot.
The display on this laptop stands out against the competition. Its high dynamic range creates vivid colors and displays photographs and videos beautifully. The screen has a very small bezel to maximize space and get the largest screen possible, reaching 15.6”.
The screen also intelligently disperses blue light, which is known to strain the eyes and disrupt sleep. This laptop scatters blue light to diffuse its impact while still delivering on color quality. Additionally, the screen’s backlighting keeps it clear while working outdoors, assisted by an anti-glare coating.
The Most Durable Laptop Made By Lenovo: ThinkPad T14 Gen2
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 Fury G7 Mobile Workstation
This is a tough laptop designed to take on intense jobs. As an illustrative example, HP stuffed 10 terabytes of storage into this computer. It is billed as an ideal workstation for data scientists, product designers, and engineers.
A set of cooling fans along with a liquid cooling system make sure the ZBOOK Fury G7 never overheats, letting you work at full capacity confident that this hardy laptop can keep running smoothly. The exterior has been tested with over 1000 cleaning products to ensure you can clean it without damaging any of the components. After a light spill, it is a breeze to tidy up.
The laptop is loaded with 128GB of RAM and has tool-free access to its interior. That makes it simple to swap out new parts and upgrade the computer without having to disassemble the entire casing. The 15” model weighs under 5.5 pounds, and the 17” model weighs under 7 pounds, making this an ideal laptop for easy transport.
The Most Durable Laptop Made By Asus: ZenBook Pro 15 OLED
This laptop seamlessly blends raw power with practicality, a hallmark of the ASUS brand. With a 1-terabyte SSD and with 16GB RAM, the laptop’s specs are powerful enough to run anything you would require for work or play. The metal case is sturdy enough to withstand military-grade testing for durability and reliability, which the ZenBook Pro 15 passed with flying colors.
The screen boasts a million-to-one contrast ratio for super clear visuals. The display has an exceptionally wide color range to produce rich and intense graphics. Paired with the computer’s powerful Intel processor and NVIDIA graphics card, the laptop can effortlessly compete with desktop computers for graphics performance.
On the keyboard is a touchpad, part mousepad, and part touchscreen. The touchpad comes with a suite of apps that are designed for touchscreen use in particularly, helping your workflow with features like handwriting recognition, a toggleable number pad, and the ability to sync with your phone for calls through the laptop.
The Most Durable Laptop Made By Apple: MacBook Pro 16-inch
Apple has long been known as a brand that makes high-quality computers that rarely break down, and this latest MacBook Pro 16-inch is no exception. An 8-terabyte storage, 64GB of memory, and an 8-core processor make this laptop one of the most technically advanced on the market.
The laptop is designed to be a full workstation in its own right, using its impressive hardware to rival desktop computers in speed and performance. At 16”, it is even approaching the display size of a desktop monitor. With a high-brightness backlit screen, you can set up wherever your work takes you and hop onto your computer.
There are a few quality-of-life features that help improve the overall quality of the computer. These include six speakers, high-quality microphones, a touch bar on the keyboard, and integration with Apple’s many products and software. If you want a trusted brand-name computer that packs a lot of punch, this laptop is just for you.
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.