Computer tech giant Dell is billing it as the industry’s first fully rugged convertible laptop that transforms into a tablet. The Latitude 12 Rugged Extreme convertible notebook will soon hit the market, along with the Latitude 14 Rugged Extreme notebook.
Is this really as rugged as it gets? It is, if you believe Dell. Kirk Schell, vice president of commercial PCs in the client solutions group, is letting the PC-buying world know that the company is renewing and expanding its commitment to the rugged space.
In fact, Schell threw down the rugged gauntlet, declaring: “The Rugged Extreme line is backed by the Latitude promise of reliable, secure and manageable commercial PCs and can move easily from the boardroom to the battlefield or wherever the job takes you -- an assurance unmatched by the competition.” However, Dell did not announce the price or exact availability.
Panasonic could not immediately be reached for comment, but the company is likely to take exception to Dell’s bravado. Here’s what we can confirm: Dell purpose-built its new rugged models to hold up under dust, moisture, drops, vibration, extreme temperatures and other harsh environmental conditions. You can drop the machine up to six feet and it passes military standards for ingress , emissions and hazardous materials.
The bottom line: Dell said its Latitude 12 and 14 Rugged Extreme are built to endure worst-case conditions. It’s the materials, including impact-resistant ultra-polymers and sturdy magnesium alloy, that seem to make the difference. The design also helps. Dell explained that data is protected from the harsh elements via sealed doors and compression gaskets even as fourth-generation QuadCool thermal management lets the machine perform at high temperatures.
We caught up with Roger Kay, a principal analyst at Endpoint Technologies Associates, to get his take on the new ruggeds. He told us this new unit is in line with the family of Augmentix products that Dell bought some years ago.
“Using the flip-style convertible design seems a bit risky from a ruggedness point of view, as the hinge depends on small pivots. For example, I'd be surprised if Dell did the drop test with the system while the display was in between its set positions,” Kay said.
“Nonetheless, the Latitude 12 Rugged Extreme will appeal to field personnel who want the latest features, such as touch, cams and Windows 8, in a highly rugged box. I didn't see a price on it, but fully rugged systems command a premium of two to four times over a similarly spec'ed vanilla box,” he said.
A Growing Market
Specs-wise, the machines come stocked with up to 16GB of memory 7 and up to 512GB solid state storage. There’s a full HD webcam with privacy shutter and an eight megapixel bottom camera with flash on the Latitude 12 Rugged Extreme. There’s also a USB 3.0 and native serial on all Rugged Extreme products with dual serial/RJ-45 on the Latitude 14 Rugged Extreme.
"Today, computing needs increasingly extend beyond the boundaries of the office," said Shawn McCarthy, research director, IDC Government Insights. "We see a growing requirement for ruggedized devices across a wide variety of business directives. As device requirements increase, so will end-user performance expectations. Balancing the divergent needs of end users will become increasingly important for manufacturers of these types of devices."