Notebooks often take more physical abuse than a rental car, and that's by their owners who paid for them. In some cases, the laptop may find itself in harsh surroundings; with a South Pole expedition, in a Marine unit in Iraq, or with missionaries in Africa.
There aren't that many choices for laptops that can take a lot of punishment, but Dell (NASDAQ:DELL) is adding one to the mix with the launch today of the Latitude XFR D630. The D630 is designed to address performance and compatibility issues Dell felt is a common problem in similar ruggedized notebooks.
"Dell is one of the only vendors in the rugged space that doesn't require a tradeoff of performance and durability," claims Brett McAnally, Dell's director of product marketing for commercial notebooks. "A lot of technologies offered today in this space tend to be one or two processor generations behind."
McAnally claims the D630, which uses an Intel Core 2 Duo T7500 at 2.2Ghz, is up to 23 percent faster than Panasonic's CF30 rugged notebook in processor performance and offers four times the graphics performance. Panasonic has carved out a niche for its "Toughbook" line of notebooks designed for the most demanding road warriors. The company offers three different categories of "tough": Business-rugged; Semi-rugged and Fully-rugged models.
Dell said its Latitude XFR D630 meets the Department of Defense's MIL-STD 810F standard for enduring extreme conditions. That means enduring temperature ranges from 60 below to 205 degrees Fahrenheit; rain lashing it at up to four inches per hour and being dropped up to three feet.
Because it's expected to be used outdoors, the XFR has a sealed keyboard to protect against rain and sand and the screen is extra bright compared to standard laptops to make it easier to read. All of the components have shock isolated mounting to handle rough treatment.
Dell is addressing what it feels is another problem in rugged notebooks, and that is commonality with its mainstream notebook line. The Latitude XFR is 100 percent compatible with existing Latitudes today, so it can use the same software image being used in other Latitudes. It will also use the same battery.
The last piece of the puzzle is service. Dell plans to offer standard service contracts for customers using the XFR with next business day support, with some exceptions. Places like Iraq and Antarctica are out of the question, at least for the moment.
The XFR D630 is available today in the U.S. at a starting price of $3,899. It comes with an 80GB standard hard disk and Dell will offer the pricey option of a 32GB or 64GB solid state flash drive.
This article was first published on InternetNews.com.