GCN LAB REVIEWS
GammaTech D14RM laptop takes a light approach to ruggedness
- By John Breeden II
- Sep 29, 2010
OK, time to put on your thinking caps.
There are different ways to make an object rugged against shock, which in the mil-spec tests means dropping it onto something hard. Most companies encase their laptops in magnesium or aluminum armor. But that increases the weight. So when you drop it, it generates more kinetic energy because energy equals mass times velocity squared. More mass means more energy on the other end. At some point, you can even get decreasing returns by adding more armor, not to mention making an object too heavy to carry.
GammaTech D14RM Rugged Notebook
Pros: Very light for a rugged PC; good benchmark scores.
Cons: Not as rugged as heavier models; peripherals tend to pop off in shock testing.
Rugged level: C+
Ease of use: A
Government price: $2,076 as configured for test
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So what about going the other way?
GammaTech’s D14RM is a featherweight rugged laptop, coming in at just 6 pounds, 5 ounces without its power cables. That might seem heavy, but compared to the near 10-pound monsters in this field, it’s light.
A lighter laptop, in theory, might be able to better survive drops as high as 4 feet onto plywood sitting over concrete, as set out in the Mil-Spec 810f document. And yes, the D14RM did pass all our testing in this area, but there was quite a lot of incidental damage that occurred — and at relatively low distances.
We are giving the D14RM a C+ for ruggedness, meaning it is averagely rugged according to mil specs. In terms of specifics however, several things happened during the drop testing.
First, the D14RM has no latch to hold the screen closed, so it tends to pop open even at short, 1-foot drops. If it lands the wrong way, it could twist along the hinges, though that didn’t happen in our review.
Moving up to 2-foot drops opened a Pandora’s box of bad things. On side drops, the battery flew off. On top or bottom drops, the DVD-ROM drive popped straight out of its holding drawer almost every time. That became more of a problem at 3 feet, when that same drive started to lose plastic components. All of them could be snapped back in place, but the D14RM just isn’t as rugged as most of the others in this roundup, including its bigger brother, the R13S. Again, it passed the tests because it booted each time, but not with as much flair as most of the other laptops.
Its performance was quite good, scoring a respectable 570 on the PassMark Performance Test benchmarks, running circles around most other rugged laptops. Battery life wasn’t quite as good — and was tested before it started popping out in shock testing — with death occurring after just 2 hours, 5 minutes.
We wouldn’t trust the D14RM in Afghanistan but would feel comfortable with it at the airport. If you want a rugged laptop that is only occasionally subjected to harsh environments and drops, do yourself a favor and save a few pounds in your pack with the D14RM.
GammaTech Computer, www.gammatechusa.com
John Breeden II is a freelance technology writer for GCN.