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Similar to my previous question about Virtualization -- I'm extremely hard on hardware. I carry my machines around with me to class every day, and they are often shoved into a bag with various books, power bricks, and other assorted do-dads, and these things "press" on the top of the laptop case because in a laptop backpack the laptop is typically closest to your back. Therefore, I'm willing to spend some extra money to get a laptop that can take a beating -- because it's going to be taking it whether it can take it or not ;).

I've seen manufacturers advertise various different kinds of frame materials, I've seen them show various videos of their machines getting dropped, but given that every manufacturer seems to have a video of their competitors looking bad, I find it hard to use this as a comparison.

Also, it'd be helpful if whatever advice is given is obtainable via the Internet -- I'm not a fan of brick and mortar stores when it comes to things like laptops because I usually get them built with a non-factory-default configuration.

EDIT: I don't need something that's "military grade" or anything like that -- just something that won't develop problems for the use pattern I've described above. For example, I currently use a Dell Latitude E6500 and the LCD keeps developing bad spots.

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So you're not looking for combat-zone durable (dust, water, pressure, temperature), only careless handling/backpack durable? –  Daniel Beck May 28 '11 at 6:25
    
@Daniel: Dust and temperature don't matter -- water and pressure might though. I.e. if I get rained on and it's in my bag I don't want it to be completely screwed. (In my experience most any laptop will be okay in that respect though) Pressure is kind of the issue because it's often got 30 lbs of books on top of it in the bag. –  Billy ONeal May 28 '11 at 6:39
    
If it's in a bag, it's got good protection, now you just want shock protection. Foam/neophrone (not sure on the spelling) are good for this, firm, spongey and flexible. Rugged is for people using their laptop bare, in muddy conditions where it might get thrown off their lap. –  tobylane May 28 '11 at 9:14

3 Answers 3

up vote 3 down vote accepted

The answers to your other question did not apparently suggest you look for a laptop with military specs.

http://www.linux-on-laptops.com/rugged-laptop.html

An excerpt:

Some of the factors that are considered while classifying "ruggedness" of a laptop include:

  • Shock resistance: This is a measure of how much shock can the laptop handle.
  • Water resistance
  • Dust resistance
  • Vibration resistance
  • Extreme temperature exposure

What makes a laptop rugged?

Various techniques are used to protect notebooks against specific issues:

  • Sealed port and connector covers
  • Removable shock-mounted hard drive (preferably SSD)
  • Vibration-resistant LCDs
  • Flexible internal connectors

A rugged laptop is a bit bulkier, looking somewhat like this:

enter image description here

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This is a specific product recommendation -- I'm looking for more general features I should look for in a laptop. (Specific recommendations aren't allowed on SuperUser) –  Billy ONeal May 28 '11 at 6:41
    
That was the purpose of the link I included, which claimed that Panasonic is the only mainstream manufacturer of ruggedized laptops. It wasn't meant to be a specific product recommendation. –  pavium May 28 '11 at 6:46
1  
@pavium: I see. So the "feature" you're pointing out is "made by panasonic?" –  Billy ONeal May 28 '11 at 6:48
    
No, I was pointing out the link, it was a mistake to even mention Panasonic and I have removed the name. –  pavium May 28 '11 at 6:55
    
@Billy I didn't believe this at first, but Panasonic seem to be one of the few producers that actually make "rugged" Laptops. –  slhck May 28 '11 at 7:28

Except for buying a "rugged" laptop, here are some tips that may help you just as well:

  • Select a brand that is known for durability. In the old days, Toshiba was known for good-quality laptops, but it really depends per year.
  • Consider buying a hard-case for your laptop. You may want to fill it with some soft material that absorbs the shock. Nothing saves your laptop more than careful carrying around
  • Choose a brand/model that have sufficient spare parts (also in the future) and that allows you to change parts of your laptop in case of damage. Is it easy to change the hard-drive? The LCD screen?
  • Buy extended guarantee. Normally I would say this is a waste of money, but if you know you might need it in the 1-5 coming years and it even replaces upon user-blamable damage, go for it.
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Consider buying an older laptop off of someone, and put an SSD in it, i.e. see what you can buy from friends, family, or auction sites from people who have recently upgraded their laptops and want to get rid of their own one.

The SSD will give you a performance boost on the older system and will take punishment better than an HDD.

Older laptops (circa 2000, 2001) to me seem to be built a bit better (seem to have stronger physical housings and protection for the LCD) and they will be much cheaper. So if you do destroy it, no big loss. It is also less likely to get stolen. Should be fine if you are using it for basic schoolwork, but if you need a lot of performance this may not be an option.

Regarding Dells, the D500's are pretty bulky and probably fairly cheap by now.

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