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Dell Enters Market for Tough Rugged Laptops
Dell Enters Market for Tough Rugged Laptops

By Barry Levine
March 10, 2009 9:46AM

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Ballistic armor is used in the chassis of Dell's new Latitude E6400 XFR laptop to meet or exceed the military spec. Dell's PrimoSeal technology further protects against liquids and blowing dust, and the Latitude E6400 XFR is ready for extreme temperatures and drops of up to four feet. The new Dell Latitude E6400 XFR takes on Panasonic's Toughbook line.

It's a tough world out there, and Dell is offering a computer rugged enough to take it. The computer maker announced Tuesday the Latitude E6400 XFR, a laptop so rugged it's made with ballistic armor.

The laptop, built around the corporate-class Latitude E6400, is designed for the military, as well as for civilian uses in tough environments. The Ballistic Armor Protection System is designed to meet and exceed the military spec, with chassis material that offers twice the impact strength of traditional magnesium alloy. The PrimoSeal technology has an Ingress protection rating of IP65 against liquids and blowing dust, which Dell said is the top of any notebook in its class.

Storms, Extreme Temperature

Torrential rain, dust storms, extreme temperature ranges, and accidental drops -- up to four feet -- are just a day in the life for this tough cookie.

As with its corporate cousin, the XFR is built around the Intel Centrino 2 with vPro technology. A QuadCool Thermal Management System helps the model meet the military spec for temperature extremes, and an optional solid-state drive up to 128GB can offer additional durability. A standard 5400 RPM shock-mounted hard drive, up to 120GB, comes with a free-fall sensor for added protection.

A contactless smart card reader is protected behind a sealed door, and a fingerprint reader is optional. Optical drives include DVD-ROM, CD-RW/DVD, and DVD+/-RW, and there's a 10/100/1000-Gigabit Ethernet network interface adapter, a 56k internal modem, an EVDO and GPS mobile broadband mini-card, a tri-band HSDPA/HSUPA mini-card, and 802.11 a/g/n.

An impact-resistant 14.1-inch, WXGA, 1280x800 DirectVue LCD, designed for viewing in direct sunlight, is available in either resistive touch or a nontouch version. The ExpressCharge technology means the battery can be recharged, according to Dell, more than twice as fast as the Panasonic CF-30's eight-cell battery.

A Growing Category

The Panasonic model is part of that company's Toughbook line, which has been the leader in this emerging category, according to IDC analyst Doug Bell. With Dell now offering a rugged laptop, he said, "one of the biggest PC vendors is validating this category." He said Dell's PrimoSeal technology, designed for added protection, has raised the bar for Panasonic and others.

In addition to military uses, Bell noted, the category is growing because the industries and situations where technology is useful is growing. This includes construction, medicine, police and field work like oil exploration.

The XFR comes with vehicle docking, so the units can be mounted directly into vehicles where police and field technicians work. Vehicle docking stations provide serial, USB and graphics ports, along with an optional RF pass-through and internal power management.

Back at the office, a Deskdock Adapter enables attachment to the E-Port or E-Port Plus, both of which offer USB, powered eSATA, and graphics ports for connecting to networks, keyboards, monitors and other peripherals.

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