Best Rugged Laptop Windows Central 2020
Rugged laptops aren't something that crosses the path of the average consumer very often, but for those who require something that can take some real punishment, whether for work or for leisure, they're invaluable. Fortunately there are some really good choices for those who need them, but the Dell Latitude 5424 Rugged is the best of the bunch.
- Best Overall: Dell Latitude 5424 Rugged
- Best for Students: Lenovo Thinkpad Yoga 11e
- Best for Business: Panasonic TOUGHBOOK CF-54
- Best Budget: HP ProBook x360 11.6" G1 EE Notebook
Best Overall - Dell Latitude 5424 Rugged
If you're buying a rugged laptop it's usually because you need it for work and whatever it is you do for a living involves some pretty unfriendly conditions for typical laptops. Dell's enterprise-targeted Latitude lineup has just the ticket in the 5424 Rugged, a laptop that's been beefed up and has just about everything except the kitchen sink.
The cheapest model still comes with a 7th Gen Intel Core i3, but for not a lot more you can (and should) bump that to an 8th Gen Core i5, up to 32GB of 2666 MHz DDR4 RAM, a fingerprint reader, a ridiculous range of storage options, ports galore, and an outdoor readable display that not only has a 1000 nits brightness, but has optional embedded touch which supports touch, pen, and even gloved fingers. Oh, and if that's not enough, you can get AMD dedicated graphics, too.
But what makes it rugged? Well, besides being as thick as it is with reinforced corners to protect against drops, the entire chassis is built from automotive-grade magnesium alloy, which not only helps keep the weight down a bit, but makes it ridiculously tough. There are also a heap of enterprise specific features, including FirstNet, which allows first responders and public safety organizations to get priority access to the fast, reliable, and high-capacity LTE network core.
- Tough magnesium alloy chassis
- Crazy amount of spec options
- Touch display supports gloves
- Ports, ports and more ports
- Attractive starting price
- Weak processor in base model
- Adding more storage is expensive
One crazy tough machine
For the rugged laptop buyer this thing has everything, including a tough display that supports gloves, dedicated graphics and automotive-grade construction.
Best for Students - Lenovo Thinkpad Yoga 11e
This rugged convertible passes 12 military-grade tests along with 200 durability tests. It has reinforced hinges that allow the laptop to rotate 360 degrees and has rubber bumpers to protect the corners of the device. The keyboard is water-resistant, and the keys are even mechanically anchored to stay secured to the device. The display is Corning Gorilla Glass to prevent scratches.
It runs on an Intel Quad-Core N4100 processor, which can handle many day-to-day tasks for students. It only has a 42 WHr battery, but Lenovo states that it can last all day on a single charge. It also has a Kensington lock slot to keep it secure when a student uses it in a public place.
You're probably not going to want to hit the great outdoors with this laptop, but students are pretty hard on their gear and knocks and drops are commonplace. Getting a laptop that can stand up to it that's also affordable is a smart choice.
- Has passed 200 durability tests
- Has rubberized corners
- Is relatively affordable
- Weak processor
- Fairly small battery
Best for Students
Flexible and durable
This convertible laptop features rubberized corners, reinforced hinges, and a water-resistant keyboard.
Best for Business - Panasonic TOUGHBOOK CF-54
If you look around at many construction sites or even hospitals, there's a good chance you'll see some form of Panasonic Toughbook. There's a reason for that: You get legendary build quality with a Windows PC that you actually want to use.
The Toughbook 54 isn't the most rugged, nor the most portable, laptop in its range, but it's the best all-arounder. You get rugged toughness along with a laptop that's still portable and packed with great tech. You won't likely use one of these as a gaming machine, but you can still get one with discrete graphics.
Otherwise, there is a bundle of options to choose from when spec-ing up your Toughbook. These include an optical drive, the usual higher storage, and CPU options, as well as LTE or even Windows 7 if, you know, your business still runs on that.
- Plenty of protection
- Swap batteries on the fly
- Optional GPS and LTE
- Windows 7 if you really need it
- Older generation processor
- Quite pricey
Best for Business
One tough laptop
For business buyers the options available on the Toughbook continue to make it a compelling choice that's still as good as ever if you work outdoors.
Best Budget - HP ProBook x360 11.6" G1 EE Notebook
The HP ProBook x360 is built for anyone who needs toughness on a tighter budget. It's affordable, durable, and can convert into a tablet. It passes the MIL-STD 810G1 protection test, which means that it has been tested to withstand shocks (meaning drops, not electricity), vibration, and humidity.
The display is covered in Corning Gorilla Glass 4 and rubber to help protect it from knocks, drops, and scratches, and HP threw in a spill-resistant keyboard which will be positive news for anyone who's ever dumped a cup of coffee all over their laptop.
The Intel Celeron N335 processor isn't very powerful, but it'll handle most lighter tasks with ease, though it's not going to cut the mustard if you work somewhere like construction. Nevertheless it represents great value and is well worth attention for those on a budget.
- Gorilla Glass 4
- Durable rubber covering
- Great price
- Pretty weak CPU
- Low internal storage
Toughness on a budget
If you need something tougher than your average budget laptop, this will do the job nicely, though you'll need to invest in some cloud or portable storage.
The rugged laptop space is super niche and there are not tons of choices out there, but that doesn't mean there aren't any compelling laptops. For those who need the added toughness, getting the right laptop is absolutely crucial.
On all fronts, Dell's Latitude 5424 Rugged is a winner. It's built from materials that car makers would use, it's got a ridiculous amount of ports and options to create just the laptop you need, and as an added bonus if you work outdoors, you'll have no problem seeing or touching the display.
It's not thin, not particularly light or portable. But it looks and is built like a tank. Avoid the base model if at all possible, and you'll have something powerful that you could also probably toss out a window and not have to worry too much about.
Credits — The team that worked on this guide
Richard Devine Richard Devine is an Editor at Windows Central. A former Project Manager and long-term tech addict, he joined Mobile Nations in 2011 and has been found on Android Central and iMore as well as Windows Central. Currently you'll find him covering all manner of PC hardware and gaming.
Sean Endicott is a tech lover who manages to go through too many devices because he isn't careful enough. He's learned a thing or two about making sure that the weak points of a device are reinforced.
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