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Stricter airport regulations may increase consumer demand for computers and other gadgets with thicker skin. As such, so-called ruggedized devices, which have been primarily targeted at the military and field workers, may start to get a sleeker look that appeals to consumers.rnrn
Here, Itronix President and CEO Tom Turner stands atop his company’s latest notebook, a pose that Michael Dell or Hewlett-Packard’s Mark Hurd are unlikely to duplicate with their newest portable systems. All Itronix notebooks with the “rugged” label have been designed to withstand strenuous tests for pressure and vibration.
Itronix, a division of General Dynamics, plans to release its newest rugged notebook, the GoBook XR-1, in September. The XR-1 isn’t cheap, with a starting price of $4,330. But it is designed to withstand falls, spills and other hazards that would render an ordinary notebook useless. Turner said in an interview last week that the company’s GoBook line of notebooks is used by the Air Force and have been deployed to the deserts of Iraq.
Some companies already have their sights set on consumers who crave hardier hardware. In 2005, General Motors signed an exclusive three-year licensing agreement with Itronix to make a semi-ruggedized portable computer styled after the Hummer. Priced at $2,988, the laptops come with enough padding to survive six separate drops from a height of 30 inches onto two 3/4-inch sheets of plywood placed on top of concrete.
HP has several portables designed to take a punch. The nr3600 notebook and tr3000 tablet meet a U.S. military requirement to survive a 3-foot drop multiple times onto to concrete covered by plywood, for example.
The Panasonic Toughbook 29 also meets the military’s ruggedness requirements and comes in its own magnesium alloy casing. Panasonic’s fully-rugged line of Toughbooks can be used with separate, portable touchscreens. The heavy-duty screens can be used up to 300 ft. away from any wireless-enabled Toughbook.
Panasonic’s line of semi-rugged notebooks may be better suited to consumers who want something stronger than the average laptop but don’t necessarily need a computer that’s ready for a war zone. Their semi-rugged notebooks come equipped with spill-resistant touchpads and shock-mounted hard drives to protect data in case they get knocked around a bit. But they retain a sleek look and only weigh between 2.8 and 3.4 pounds.
Terralogic‘s Toughnote Series M laptops come with rubber bumpers on all corners.
Itronix also offers a rugged slate-tablet PC, which it announced last year. The Duo-Touch can withstand rain, snow, wind, dust, vibration, shock and chemical exposure with a temperature range between minus 4 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit, the company says.
Here is the Terralogic Toughnote DI-7. While strides are being made in rugged handheld PCs, they’re not likely to catch on with consumers until they can get size and style more in line with the slick gadgets road warriors are accustomed to carrying.
Rather than buying an entirely new system, travelers can also opt for a sturdy case for the gear they already have. The OtterBox Rugged Laptop Carrying Case is a waterproof case that encloses a laptop like a turtle in its shell. The case is able to withstand a 250-pound person jumping on it, so it will be able to protect your laptop from more mundane situations, like from some knucklehead stacking his luggage on your case at the airport, or from dropping it while pulling it out of your trunk. Stabilizing and shock-absorbing features are prominent, including durable no-slide rubber grips on the case, rubber bumpers inside the case that form a shock-resistant envelope around the laptop and a Velcro strap to secure the laptop when the case is closed. rnrn
The internal bumpers come in three sizes. All the rubber bumpers have Velcro backings that adhere to the inside of the case, making the internal cavity shrink to fit almost any laptop.
OtterBox also makes tough, waterproof cases for the Palm Treo, HP 6500 and 6900 and iPod.
Slappa‘s HardBody Pro Laptop Case combines fashion with function. The durable shell also has suede accents, a shoulder strap and retractable carrying handle. The internal laptop compartment is padded, lined with velvet and has straps to stabilize the laptop.