Do you really need a rugged laptop?

Do you really need a rugged laptop?

Best answer: While you might think that having a rugged device is better than one that can break easily, you most likely don't require a rugged laptop. Whether it's best to purchase a rugged notebook depends on your occupation and/or the value of the data stored on the PC.Dell: Dell Latitude 5420 Rugged ($1,360+)

Paying for the protection

Just like gaming and more powerful productivity laptops, rugged notebooks are pricey. You're paying for a specific feature, which is the ability to use a portable PC that won't be destroyed from dents, knocks, and minor damage. A rugged laptop is designed to be used in the field, but it's a wasted expense if you mostly use a PC in the office or at home.

To figure out whether you need a rugged device, you need to answer some questions. Are you going to use the laptop for business, do you rely on cloud storage for important files, and how valuable is uptime? Having a machine that can withstand damage allows you to keep on computing even after a knock or two, while a lightweight thin laptop may cease to function.

Working in the field or inspecting hazardous environments make a rugged laptop an ideal purchase. It's also worth considering if you store valuable data on the device and do not make immediate backups automatically on cloud services. If you work in an office and don't really mind if the laptop suddenly ceases to work and you're forced offline for anywhere up to a day, it's an unecessary expense.

Rugged doesn't mean sluggish performance

Just because a rugged laptop like the Dell Latitude 5420 may appear bulky when placed next to the super-thin Ultrabooks manufacturers are releasing these days, that doesn't mean performance takes a hit too. The laptop we highlight here from Dell includes the latest processors from Intel, speedy flash storage, and plenty of RAM.

Even at the base price of $1,360, you're getting an Intel Core i3-7130U processor, 8GB DDR4 RAM, and a 128GB PCIe M.2 drive. It's possible to send the price of the Latitude 5420 way up by replacing the storage drive with a 2TB version, throwing in 32GB of RAM, and upgrading to an Intel Core i7 processor.

Rich Edmonds
Senior Editor, PC Build

Rich Edmonds was formerly a Senior Editor of PC hardware at Windows Central, covering everything related to PC components and NAS. He's been involved in technology for more than a decade and knows a thing or two about the magic inside a PC chassis. You can follow him on Twitter at @RichEdmonds.