40,000-mile sailing race is ultimate endurance test for Dell's rugged laptops and tablets

Yacht skippers will use the devices during the 11-month around-the-world race for communication and navigation.

A look inside Dell's new extreme testing lab

Dell tests its rugged devices to withstand many environmental forces--rain, wind, extreme temperature, blowing sand and dust, and salt fog--usually one test at a time.

The skippers leading the 11 yachts in the Clipper Round the World race are putting the rugged laptops and tablets to multiple environmental tests all at once in the 40,000 nautical mile race around the world. The yachts left London in September 2019 and will finish back there in August 2020.

Each skipper has a Dell Latitude 7212 Rugged Extreme Tablet and two Rugged Extreme Laptops. With Dell as a race partner, the organisers supply a fleet of 11 identical racing yachts and a fully qualified skipper and first mate. The skippers use the laptops for communication, navigation, weather, and planning. 

David Plourde, strategist, specialty products, rugged at Dell Client Solutions, said that the rugged devices meet ATEX and IECEX exposure standards as well as the US military standards which take into account unique working conditions such as electromagnetic interference.

"What military users need to know is, 'How close can I get to a munition before it will explode,'" he said. "Oil and gas workers as well as people in mining or farming also have to think about explosive environments."

SEE: 16 top laptops for business users in 2019 (free PDF)

All of those occupations showed up on Dell's Top 20 Most Rugged Jobs list. Dell scored each occupation from 1 - 5 in three categories: physical labor, risk of injury, and environmental exposure. The most rugged jobs are:

  1. Oil and gas engineer
  2. Police officer
  3. Mining machine operator
  4. Commercial fisher
  5. Construction worker
  6. Military personnel
  7. Lumberjack
  8. Firefighter/EMT
  9. Electrical line technician
  10. Demolition expert
  11. Rescue worker
  12. Farmer
  13. Painter
  14. Storm chaser
  15. Geologist/volcanologist
  16. Warehouse logistics operator
  17. Marine biologist
  18. Insurance claim adjuster
  19. Pilot
  20. Manufacturing worker

Dell tests laptops and tablets to meet military and other standards by measuring the performance of storage and functionality in a variety of conditions, including:

  • Altitude
  • Blowing dust
  • Blowing rain
  • Blowing sand
  • High humidity
  • High temperature
  • Low temperature
  • Rapid temperature change
  • Salt fog
  • Shock
  • Solar radiation
  • Thermal shock
  • Vibration

Dell has its own lab in Austin, Texas and works with third-party testers to make sure the tablets and laptops meet the military and other standards.  

 The devices are built to keep working in dusty and sandy conditions with doors that cover ports and openings on the rugged models as well as laser-cut gaskets that seal openings completely on the extreme rugged models. 

"Dust can be a conductor of electricity, so it could have some impact on the electronics in the system and too much dust could stuff the fan intake and cause components to overheat," he said.

The laptops also have a quick release hard drive.

"If I need to save my data but leave the machine, I can save the data and bug out quickly," he said.

Also see


The Qingdao is one of the 11 yachts in the Clipper Round the World, a 40,000 nautical mile race around the world.

Image: Clipper Round the World Race

By Veronica Combs

Veronica Combs is a senior writer at TechRepublic. For more than 10 years, she has covered technology, healthcare, and business strategy. In addition to her writing and editing expertise, she has managed small and large teams at startups and establis...