The Toughest Laptops On (and Off) Earth

From modern war zones to the vacuum of space, these rugged PCs can handle some serious punishment.

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Modern laptops have a hard life. We treat them like disposable commodities, throwing them in our bags like discarded gum wrappers, using them as coasters, and shoving them into the hands of toddlers looking for a Netflix fix. It's inevitable that with all the punishment they endure, at some point they'll reach the point of no return.

But as badly as us regular folks treat our personal computing devices, it's nothing compared to the punishment dished out to laptops used by the military, police, and field researchers. While we expect our MacBook Air to shrug off the occasional Starbucks spill, ruggedized laptops are designed to withstand pouring rain, six-foot drops, intense vibration, and extreme temperatures.

These are the toughest personal computers on the planet. Most have been tested to comply with the MIL-STD-810 standard—the Department of Defense's environmental testing procedure.

These are not laptops you buy to survive your morning commute. These are laptops you use to invade countries.

Dell Latitude E6420 XFR

There's a certain trade-off inherent to rugged laptops. In order to prevent overheating and maintain long battery life, manufacturers tend to avoid high-performance components.

But in the case of the Latitude E6420 XFR, Dell has managed to squeeze some pretty powerful hardware—for a rugged laptop—into the magnesium-alloy ballistic armor–protected chassis. The laptop comes with an Intel i5-2520M processor and 4 GB of RAM as standard, with various upgrade options available.

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Getac X500

Unlike Dell, Getac deals exlusively in rugged laptops and tablets. The company describes its flagship X500 as “the most powerful rugged notebook we’ve ever made.” Considering the competition, that's less impressive than it sounds.

The laptop features the—good for its time—Intel i5-520M as standard. Along with the usual military-grade shock-, dust-, and splash-proof ruggedness, the X500 boasts an impressive 30-hour battery life provided you spring for the dual-battery setup.

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Getac V100

For those looking for something a bit more “sporty,” there's the V100, also from Getac. This laptop was a hinged swiveling screen, and can be converted into a weather- and shock-resistant tablet. Furthermore, the multitouch screen with haptic feedback is glove-friendly—great for when you're navigating Siberian tundra.

But before you decide to replace your iPad Air with this thing, bear in mind that the V100 weighs in excess of 5 pounds.

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Panasonic Toughbook 31

The Panasonic Toughbook 31 comes with a certain pedigree. It's the latest in the 14-year-strong Toughbook series, and Panasonic claims that the 31 is the most rugged laptop available today. This is undoubtedly pure marketing-speak, but after demonstrations like the one below, it's difficult to argue:

WetPC Underwater Computer

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While most of the products on this list can withstand a fair amount of water exposure, none of them are technically submergible. That's where the WetPC sets itself apart.

The WetPC underwater computer is designed with deep-sea diving in mind. The device is not—technically speaking—a laptop, but rather a wearable computer. The PC features a pressure-proof processor, a mask-mounted visual display, and a five-button hand controller.

While you probably shouldn’t attempt any letter-writing with this neptunian device, according to the press materials, it allows underwater researchers to collect data quickly and effectively.

Lenovo Thinkpad T61p

Military-grade rugged laptops are all well and good, but what about a PC that can survive the cold reaches of outer space? Enter the Lenovo Thinkpad T61p, the laptop used on the international space station.

Rather than built-in system computers, laptops are favored for space exploration as they are easily replaceable. It's worth noting that the T61p isn't particularly sturdy—at least, not compared to the other laptops in this list. But then again, if you were in space and experienced the kind of conditions rugged laptops are designed for, a damaged hard drive would be the least of your worries.

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Stone Tablet

For those who demand the ultimate in ruggedness and reliability, the Stone Tablet offers extreme performance. While the user interface needs a bit of work, and we noticed some memory issues, nothing beats this device when it comes to longevity. Capable of surviving 1,000-foot drops and long-term underwater submersion, the stone tablet is also available in a variety of shapes and sizes.

If you want to use it on your lap, though, weight might be a problem.

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[Hero image: Flickr user "cayusa"]

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