Rugged Laptops: Why Some Laptops Last and Others Don’t

For most of us, choosing a laptop is mainly about performance, display size, storage, and functional features.  But for people who want a laptop that has to last a long time, or when a laptop is likely to be subjected to a lot of bumps, spills, and knocks, then ‘durability’ is a critical consideration.

Some laptops are more ‘rugged’ than others, for many good reasons.  If you want a laptop that will last (and save you money in the long run), read on to learn why some laptops are much more durable than others.

What Makes a Rugged Laptop?

When a device is said to be rugged, it means it’s ready to face challenges above and beyond those you’d expect a ‘regular’ laptop to face. But how do you measure ruggedness of a device? The US Military, which cares how much abuse a device can take, has set a standard -- MIL-STD 810G -- as a guide to determine how rugged or durable a device is likely to be. It is based on a set of 28 tests that range from extreme temperatures to gunfire. The MIL-STD tests vary depending on the size, weight, and intended use of a device, so a laptop doesn’t need to go through all the tests to be certified. Laptops, when tested, generally go through eight to eleven MIL-STD tests such as High Temperature, Low Temperature, Rain, Humidity, Sand and Dust, Immersion, Vibration, Shock, Solar Radiation etc.

You might have also seen specifications such as IP58 or IP65 on your device, which are Ingress Protection (IP) indices measured on a scale determined by the International Electrotechnical Commission. The first numerical digit reflects the level of protection against dust (on a scale of 0-6) and the second digit reflects the level of protection against liquids entering the device (on a scale of 0-9). So for example, a rating of IP58 rating ensures a high level of protection against dust and a very high level of protection against liquid entering the device (in fact, at that level it can be immersed in 3 m of water and still work). A particularly rugged laptop is likely to have an IP specification as well as an indication of the number of MIL spec tests it has passed.

Ultra-rugged Laptops … Sturdy from the Ground Up


Dunk it in water, drop it from a height, or bury it in the ground … ultra-rugged laptops are built from the ground up to handle severe treatment and harsh conditions. Each component is purpose-built for durability, so they inevitably meet high military-grade specs, and are most often used by the military, fire fighters, police officers, and other users who encounter harsh or hazardous conditions. It is not unusual for ultra-rugged laptops to withstand 70 mph winds, 6 inch of blowing rain for an hour, extreme temperatures, drops from 6 feet more than 26 times … and all that while delivering battery life up to 27 hours. These are not your everyday laptops!

Variations of ‘Rugged’ Meet the Needs of Most of Us

If you need rigorous performance in the field or while travelling, many standard laptops go through a process known as ‘ruggedization’. For example, hard drives can be gel-mounted or protected by shock-absorbing dampers, and keyboards can be made spill-proof. Ruggedized laptops are often made of magnesium or aluminum alloy which is tougher than plastic, and can withstand falls from up to 30 inches.

But for most of us, a ‘business-rugged’ laptop does the trick. You might call these ‘stylishly-rugged’ machines since they’re made for typical business executives on the move. Built to higher standards, these laptops generally feature spill-resistant keyboards, sturdy internal frames, and wear-resistant exteriors. These are not waterproofed or ideal for field work, but they’re built to withstand spills and knocks that commonly happen, and they can even survive a fall off a desktop. They may be somewhat heavier than regular laptops, but they provide a high level of durability.

Some laptops offer semi-rugged or business-rugged durability without compromising on style and affordability, as ThinkPad laptops do. ThinkPads routinely sport carbon fiber-reinforced frames, break-resistant screens, spill-resistant keyboards, and other enhancements that keep them going for years. In addition to 11 MIL-STD durability tests, ThinkPads undergo over 200 internal tests. They’re built to survive everything from semi-rugged environments to the wear & tear of business travel, while they stay looking good and performing perfectly for years.

As we at Lenovo like to say … ThinkPads are built to withstand life. 

Check out this video to see how these workhorse machines are built to withstand life