A laptop for the security-minded

Durabook Pro takes some work but boasts powerful features

GammaTech Computer’s Durabook Pro D15RP reminded me of the old Benjamin Franklin aphorism: Anyone who trades liberty for security deserves neither liberty nor security.


Durabook Pro D15RP

Pros: Durable, secure, high-performing, packed with useful features
Cons: Security features were complicated and took too long to implement

Performance: A
Battery life: B+
Features: A
Ease of use: C
Price: $1,661 GSA; $1,950 MSRP

Hard words, but I kept thinking about them as I grappled with the security features of the Durabook laptop PC, which offers powerful security features but lacks the ease of use of an ordinary laptop. Like democracy, the Durabook can offer you both security and liberty, but you’ll have to work a little harder for both.

For less than $2,000 -- and less than $1,700 on the GSA Schedule -- you get a lot of laptop. The Durabook has a 15.4-inch LCD screen, an optional built-in webcam, an Intel Core 2 Duo 2.1G processor, 2G RAM and an encrypted hard drive. It’s a nice big machine, but it doesn’t have the shoulder-dislocating weight of many similar-sized notebook PCs, weighing in at about 7 pounds.

The Durabook falls into the business rugged category, with a keyboard designed to withstand the occasional coffee spill but probably not a sandstorm in Bahrain. It has a magnesium alloy case, and its rounded edges are covered with anti-shock rubberized material.

In addition to the durability implied by its name, the Durabook Pro D15RP has security as a top concern. It requires you to enter a user name and password after brief periods of idleness whether you are online or not.

My review copy came with software that enables the Seagate Technology full-disk encryption hard drive. Unfortunately, the disk was designed for Microsoft Windows XP and my Durabook ran Windows Vista. Installing the encryption software took two calls and two e-mail messages to the GammaTech help desk. They sent me a link to Vista-compatible software, and it took a full two hours to download and burn the software to a disk. It took two tries plus a “fatal error” message to get the encryption successfully installed.

Fortunately, GammaTech sends a notice with the Durabook advising you to back up the data on the hard drive before you attempt the encryption installation, which I did. Once all that was done, enabling the hard-drive encryption was a simple process of creating a user name and password and backing that information up on a key drive.

The GammaTech technical support engineer I spoke with said he had experienced similar problems with the Seagate software and added that the company is working on a more stable version.

Any security you can add to your laptop PC in these troubled times is welcome, so the inconvenience of a few help-desk calls is more than compensated for by the peace of mind the encryption process adds. But don’t expect the security features on the Durabook to be plug and play. You’ll have to factor in some extra time for backups and installation.

The Durabook performed well on our battery of tests, including, of course, our battery test. The lithium-ion battery lasted 3 hours, 13 minutes — good enough for most mainland flights.

The Durabook aced our performance tests, scoring an overall 667.2 on the PerformanceTest 6.1 from PassMark Software, which is in the top range of scores. It also got very high scores for memory, graphics and compression. Especially considering that the Durabook is packed with so many security and rugged features, the performance scores are impressive.

The Durabook’s built-in webcam was a nice plus. If the security features were as easy to use as the webcam, there would be no stopping GammaTech and its Durabook. I just clicked on the desktop webcam icon and there I was, reflected back in all my high-res splendor. I could have used the image to put on eyeliner, it was that high a resolution.

If you don’t mind a little inconvenience for the sake of extra security, the Durabook Pro D15RP is a terrific value for a rugged laptop PC, and it’s loaded with all the extras a mobile business user needs.

GammaTech Computer, 1-800-995-8946, www.gammatechusa.com

About the Author

Trudy Walsh is a senior writer for GCN.

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