Dell unveils new rugged laptop

March 5, 2008 | 12:03

Tags: #laptop #latitude #military #rugged #toughbook

Companies: #dell #panasonic

Box-shifter Dell seems to be branching out into the niche market of ultra-rugged laptops with the news yesterday that the company has launched the Latitude XFR D630 military-spec laptop. Should Panasonic – creators of the well-respected Toughbook range – be worried?

The luggable laptop looks pretty darn similar to the Toughbook on which it is quite clearly based, but the specifications are rather more impressive. While Toughbook owners have always traded performance for the ability to drive a tank over their laptops, Dell is looking to bring top-end performance to the rugged end of the spectrum.

Accordingly, the XFR D630 is equipped with a 2.2GHz Intel Core2Duo chip, which Dell rather unfairly - although completely accurately - claim makes their unit 23% faster than a Toughbook with a 1.6GHz processor. As is the usual with Dell, the rest of the specifications are customisible and limited only by the money you're looking to spend.

The default memory loadout of 512MB is a little disappointing though but it may go some way to explain why the units ship with Windows XP rather than Vista by default.

The body of the new lappy is die-cast magnesium alloy for that satisfying 'clang' when you drop it, and the keyboard is a sealed unit so you can use it when it's raining. Interestingly, Dell has chosen to fit a mechanical harddrive on shock-absorbing mountings. While this offers a shedload more storage space (the version Dell uses to compare with the Panasonic Toughbook comes with a 160GB drive) it's surely going to be more sensitive to bumps and bashes no matter how clever the mounting system, unless you pony up the extra to have an SSD fitted.

Connectivity is good, with your traditional WiFi and Bluetooth connections as standard and an optional 3G datacard should you be taking it into the real back-end of beyond. If you need to get data off and there's no reception, you even get a dust-proofed dual-layer DVD burner.

The screen is a pretty standard 14.1” unit, although the so-called DirectVue (read: transreflective) technology allows increased readbility in direct sunlight, and if you've got the money you can have a touch-screen fitted as well.

The unit as a whole has passed the Department of Defense MIL-810F specification, meaning that you're OK to take your precious laptop into a live-fire situation should that float your boat. Whether you'd want to is another matter. With prices starting at $3,899 – that's almost £2,000 before taxes – I'm not sure I'd trust the mil-spec rating to keep my baby safe.

Is this a what a real man carries instead of one of those tinker-toy Eee things, or should Dell stick to their core competency of cheap business PCs? Let us know what you think in the forums.
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