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Ruggedized Notebooks for Tac Ops

Written by Susan Geoghegan

Ruggedized, portable computers are designed to operate under harsh conditions that are inherent in police, fire and military environments. Since different levels of ruggedness are required for specific applications, it is important to choose the option that will be most effective. The degree of protection against dust, vibration, drops, immersion, and extreme temperatures determines whether a laptop or notebook is categorized as semi-rugged or fully rugged.

Semi-rugged devices are not fully sealed against water and other outdoor elements, but still offer a certain degree of protection against harsh temperatures, extreme vibration and moisture on the keyboard. With a full magnesium casing and shock-mounted hard disk drive, this class of computer protects against shock and vibration, and can also handle drops of up to 3 feet. Some semi-ruggedized units offer a shock-mounted display screen, additional cushioning material around key components, and a keyboard lighting system for night-time use.

Designed from the inside out, fully rugged devices are certified to military standards and can withstand extreme temperatures, drops, shocks and vibrations. With a higher IP (Ingress Protection) rating, they offer greater protection against rain, fog, wind, dust, sand, humidity, as well as hot and cold ambient temperature. Fully rugged laptops typically have an internal cooling system to reduce the heat produced by the microprocessor, and some offer an internal heater that allows the device to operate in below-zero temperatures.

Determining the degree of ruggedness required depends on the type of conditions to which the computer will be exposed. A semi-rugged computer would be a good choice for a patrol car where the device rarely leaves the vehicle. However, devices used in SWAT scenarios must be able to withstand severe conditions, requiring fully rugged models. While the following companies offer a full line of rugged laptops, we selected one product from each company specifically designed for harsh environments.

Dell 

For over 26 years, Dell has provided technology solutions that address the unique needs of a broad spectrum of industries. The Latitude E6420 XFR is part of the Dell family of rugged solutions that meet the challenges facing first responders and law enforcement personnel. It features BallisticArmor™ rugged technologies, such as PR-72™ chassis material, and PrimoSeal™ ingress protection.

This provides an IP-65 level of protection against water and dust. Independently tested to withstand the harshest environments, the Latitude E6420 XFR has been tested to MIL-STD-810G, MIL-STD-461F, and UL1604 standards. It has been Gold-rated by EPEAT™, a ranking system that evaluates products according to 51 specific criteria into three tiers of environmental performance.

With the third-generation QuadCool ™ thermal management system, the Latitude E6420 XFR provides quiet, efficient cooling in extreme temperatures, using minimal battery power. The 14.0-inch HD antiglare LED display features Direct Vue™ technology for sunlit readability, and an optional resistive touchscreen. Intel® Core™ processor options, high-bandwidth DDR3 memory, and wireless connectivity options deliver peak performance, even in remote locations.

Six-cell ExpressCharge™ batteries that recharge to 80 percent in one hour, and extended-life battery options provide increased productivity when in the field. With an optional touch-enabled display, users can conveniently interact with their laptops without a keyboard, even when wearing protective gloves. Like Dell’s entire fleet of E-Family laptops, the Latitude E6420 XFR provides the protection, scalability and support that result in a lower Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). Pricing starts at just over $4,500 depending on options and upgrades, and includes a three-year warranty and limited on-site service after remote diagnosis.

DRS Tactical Systems/ARMOR 

The ARMOR™ brand of DRS provides police and first responders with fully rugged tablets that perform even in the most extreme conditions. Battle-proven and reliable, these devices can withstand repeated docking and undocking, as well as drops, moisture and dust, and provide the highest levels of security. The ARMOR X10gx Tablet offers high-performance communications capabilities that include Gobi™ Wireless Broadband, RF Switching, Integrated GPS, 802.11 Connectivity, and Bluetooth® Wireless.

Employing an advanced magnesium alloy chassis that reduces weight without compromising durability, the ARMOR X10gx is fully compliant with MIL-STD-810G and IP67-rated for ingress protection. It features a daylight readable, energy-efficient 10.4-inch LCD display and the exclusive QuickBack™ Data Recovery System provides the highest level of protection for valuable data.

The ARMOR X7 is a more compact version of the ARMOR X10gx, rated MIL-STD-810G for extreme conditions and IP65-certified for ingress protection. It features a 7-inch WSVGA, sunlight-readable display, weighs just 2.8 pounds, and has integrated non-slip hand grips. List prices for the ARMOR X10gx and the X7 are $3,787 and $2,377, respectively. Both tablets have an EPEAT™ Gold rating and come with a three-year limited warranty with extended coverage and customized service plans available on request.

DRS’ years of experience in rugged computing gives them specific insight into what mobile workers look for in a portable device. These include enhanced portability, full communications capabilities, and go-anywhere docking functionality. Bob Fowler, Senior Product Manager at DRS Tactical, points out the advantages of the computer tablet over handheld devices. While handhelds provide a high degree of portability, their displays are often too small for efficient field operations. “A tablet’s larger display and standard aspect ratio allows standard applications to be made portable, without rewriting them,” Fowler said.

GammaTech 

For over 24 years, GammaTech has been one of the largest global providers of innovative notebook computers. Having the distinction of being the first to bring ruggedized computers to the mass consumer market, the company’s mission is to continually strive for technological advancement, product quality and customer satisfaction. GammaTech’s line of Durabook Rugged Tablets come in varying sizes and are built to handle the tough environments inherent in the public safety and industrial markets.

With NvidiN11M Optimus technology and an Intel integrated graphics controller, the Durabook S15C2 combines rugged features and performance with the screen resolution and graphic processing power required for intensive applications. The flexible HDD cable design absorbs shock from drops, while the anti-shock mounting design protects the 15.6-inch LCD screen and hard disk drive from damage and data loss. Built to MIL-STD-810G standards, the S15C2 notebook’s spill-resistant design stops spills from leaking into sensitive interior parts.

An exclusive optical disk tray lock prevents accidental tray eject from drop and vibration, while double-protection smart battery circuitry prevents damage caused by current or voltage surges and overheating. The Durabook S15C2 is EPEAT™ Silver-rated and comes with a standard two-year limited warranty and has a MSRP of $2,176.

General Dynamics Itronix 

General Dynamics Itronix (GD-Itronix) is a leading developer of rugged wireless portable solutions, offering a full range of field computing systems that include laptops, notebook PCs, and tablet PCs. Built to withstand the harshest of environments, GD-Itronix mobile computers are used in a variety of law enforcement applications, such as computer-aided dispatch (CAD), license plate recognition (LPR), mobile incident command and field reporting, and electronic ticketing.

The GD8200 is a fully rugged notebook that leverages the second generation Intel® Core™ i7-2655LE vPro™ mobile processor to maximize computational power while optimizing power consumption and performance in extreme temperatures. Tested to MIL-STD-810G and IP65, it offers the widest range of environmental certifications, including additional fluid, shock and acidic atmosphere tests. The GD8200 withstands sand and dust, water, shock and vibration, even the pull of gravity.

With a broad range of communications options, specialized solutions can be designed to customer specification, including options such as integrated GPS, 4G LTE and security technologies. The GD8200 is equipped with DynaVue® II touchscreen display technology and a multi-touch touchpad for advanced functionality. Data is kept safe and protected with multiple security technologies, such as anti-theft, user authentication and virtualization.

Consistent vehicle mounting allows customers to upgrade their fully rugged notebooks without replacing vehicle docks, significantly reducing total cost of ownership. The GD8200 has a Gold EPEAT™ rating, and it comes with a three-year warranty with prices ranging from $4,000 to $6,000.

Mobile Demand 

Mobile Demand is a leading manufacturer of complete rugged handheld computer systems for a variety of industries and applications. They provide flexible, value-based solutions that result in lower total cost of ownership and deliver exceptional customer service before, during and after the sale. Mobile Demand is the only manufacturer that offers an integrated numeric keypad and bar code scanner for easy entry in the field.

Small and lightweight, Mobile Demand’s xTablet T7000 is the perfect choice for law enforcement applications, such as field command center operations, and situational analysis. This Windows-based PC tablet features one-hand operation that allows police officers to keep one hand unencumbered at all times for enhanced mobility and safety. It supports standard full-screen software applications, and is MIL-STD-810G/F and IP65 certified against drops, shock, water resistance, dust and temperature.

The xTablet T7000 features a built-in numeric keypad for data entry, an All-Light Readable 7-inch Display, and Secure Wireless LAN and WWAN communications. It speeds development and deployment, reduces downtime, lowers repair and replacement costs, and requires less IT support than consumer grade devices.

Mobile Demand suggests considering two factors before purchasing a rugged device. First, choose a PC that uses Microsoft Windows – it comes with a wider availability of applications and reduces user training costs and project risk. Second, opt for a rugged PC with integrated components that provide streamlined application development and greater ease of data management. The xTablet T7000 ranges in price from $1,900 to $2,800, depending on the number of features and upgrades.

Motorola Solutions

Motorola’s line of local government technology allows public safety agencies to communicate in real time during mission-critical environments. Their fixed-mount computers are a popular alternative to laptops and tablets for convenient in-vehicle computing and reporting. The MW810 is a highly compact fixed-mount computer that features a flexible three-piece design, making it ideal for space-limited vehicles.

The MW810 offers three powerful Intel® processor options, 2 GB DDR3 DRAM 1066Mhz of internal memory (expandable to 8 GB), and multiple expansion board options. It is MIL-STD-810G tested and IP54 certified, and features a 12.1-inch transflective, high contrast display for enhanced performance even in difficult lighting conditions. Six backlit softkey buttons located across the bottom of the display and a one-touch emergency key situated at the top provide quick and easy communication between users.

Optimized for wireless, the MW810 delivers robust coverage and increased throughput, even at highway speeds. With a choice of expanded I/O capabilities, customers can outfit all vehicle types with the same CPU platform, streamlining equipment maintenance and life cycle management.

When CLEMIS, a division of Oakland County’s Department of Information Technology, was looking for a rugged in-vehicle workstation, they opted for the Motorola MW810. Designed specifically for public safety applications, the MW810 turned their patrol cars into mobile offices, providing information to police officers in real time. The result was enhanced situational awareness, an increased number of warrant arrests, elimination of duplicate data entry, and improved quality and accuracy of field reports.

The MW810 comes with a three-year warranty against defects in material and workmanship, and has a list price of $5,260. Customers can contact a Motorola Solutions sales representative regarding applicable discounts based on exact system configuration and volume purchase.

Panasonic Solutions 

Panasonic Solutions Company is a division of Panasonic Corporation of North America, delivering award-winning products for government agencies and commercial enterprises. Their line of Toughbook® computers are designed to increase uptime and reduce repair costs, resulting in lower total cost of ownership and greater return on investment. Durable and reliable, the Panasonic Toughbook 19 is a lightweight, fully rugged wireless laptop certified to MIL-STD-810G, MIL-STD-461F, IP 65 and UL 1604.

With a convertible notebook to tablet design, the Toughbook® 19 features a shock-mounted flex-connect hard drive with quick release and full magnesium alloy case that can withstand a six-foot drop. Other features include an Intel® Core™ i5 vPro™ processor, 2.5GHz with Turbo Boost up to 3.2GHz, and a choice of 3G Gobi™ or 4G LTE Mobile Broadband. The 10.4-inch LED touchscreen is capable of up to 6000 NIT in direct sunlight and features Panasonic Circulumin™ technology. A lithium ion battery pack delivers nine hours of operation and charges in just 3.5 hours.

Security features of the Toughbook® 19 include Intel® Anti-Theft technology, Computrace® theft protection, and a Kensington cable lock slot. With the Toughbook® ROI Evaluator, purchasing agents can objectively compare mobile computing solutions from a variety of manufacturers and determine which offers the best ROI and TCO. All Toughbooks® have either a Gold or Silver EPEAT rating. The Toughbook 19 comes with a three-year limited warranty on parts and labor and is priced at $3,349.

Xplore Technologies 

Xplore Technologies’ mission has remained unchanged since its inception 15 years ago, which is to be the industry’s leading provider of the most rugged and innovative computing systems. The company engineers, manufactures, sells, and supports rugged mobile, wireless tablet computing systems to the public safety, government and industrial markets. In 2010, after continued investment in testing, research and market development, the fifth generation system in the iX104C5 product family was launched.

Xplore’s iX104C5 Dual-Mode Sunlight-Readable (DSMR) Tablet was designed to operate in the most demanding environments. MIL-STD-810G and IP67 tested, this fully rugged tablet is HazLoc-certified, submersible and dust tight, with a 7-foot operating drop spec (4 feet to concrete). Equipped with an AllVue™ Xtreme sunlight-readable display, the iX104C5 provides enhanced visibility in outdoor conditions, making it a popular choice for law enforcement.

According to Dan Morris, Xplore’s Director of Product Marketing and Military Programs, what places this device above the competition is its contrast ratio. “Against brighter displays, users choose ours because of this, and because of the large viewing cone of 178 degrees, or 89 degrees off axis. Of all the features, this is perhaps valued most by our customers in law enforcement and the military,” Morris said.

The iX104CS features Intel® Core™ i7 architecture, Turbo Boost technology, and standard 2GB DDR3 memory that is expandable up to 8GB. Integrated Intel® HD graphics address higher-end applications that require real-time capabilities and faster processing. The iX104C5 delivers the platform stability, high performance, and long lifecycles that give Xplore customers total control of ownership and high return on investment. It comes with a standard three-year limited warranty and has a list price of $4,600.

Susan Geoghegan is a freelance writer living in Naples, Fla. She can be reached at sgeofl@embarqmail.com.

Published in Tactical Response, Mar/Apr 2012

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DellDRS Tactical SystemsGammaTech Computer CorporationGeneral Dynamics ItronixMobile DemandMotorolaPanasonicPanasonic Computer SolutionsXPlore Technologies
 

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