It’s a rough world out there for most computing devices. Fumbling users drop expensive equipment that shatters across concrete. A computer could melt inside a hot car or freeze in the icy blasts of a harsh winter. Even a bumpy road can spell doom for some computers if the vibration is too rough. And if water or dirt launches an assault, well, in most cases, you can just forget about the device surviving. You’d be lucky if you can save your data.
But not every computer is a shrinking violet. Some of them are downright tough — as in, they could outlast their human users in some of the most adverse conditions this planet can throw at them.
The military even has special tests to separate the wheat from the chaff. Called Military Specification 810f, or Mil-Spec 810f, it shows which devices are truly rugged in a bastion of tests and which are merely durable. The GCN Lab performs these same tests each year in our rugged device roundup. But you don’t have to be in the military to get your hands on these survivalists of the computer world. They are just as rugged and often just as useful for civilians. Anyone can drop their phone in an airport lounge, and the carpet there isn’t very thick.
The GCN Lab gathered 10 rugged devices that ran the spectrum of what’s available in rugged gear. Everything from a vehicle-mounted wireless access point to handheld devices and laptop PCs stepped up to face the ultimate test of computing fitness. And unlike the military test, which allows five units to tag team together with one stepping in if another fails, we in the Lab only have one of each. So it’s pass/fail — or perhaps live/die in rugged testing — although we do assign a rugged grade based on how intact a working device is at the end of our battery of punishment.