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Dell launches abuse friendly laptop

Dell on Tuesday launched a rugged version of its Latitude laptop in a move to take on Panasonic and General Dynamics' iTronix unit, which currently dominate the market for laptops used by military personnel, police officers and other folks that need a computer that can take a beating.The laptop, which starts at $3,899, is dubbed the Latitude XFR D630.
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Written by Larry Dignan, Contributing Editor on

Dell on Tuesday launched a rugged version of its Latitude laptop in a move to take on Panasonic and General Dynamics' iTronix unit, which currently dominate the market for laptops used by military personnel, police officers and other folks that need a computer that can take a beating.

The laptop, which starts at $3,899, is dubbed the Latitude XFR D630. According to Brett McAnally, director of product management of Dell's commercial notebook unit, the goal was to create a rugged laptop that was compatible with other Latitude laptops to ease deployment.

McAnally said the XFR D630 is at attempt by Dell (Techmeme, all resources) to make more "purpose based" notebooks to compete with Panasonic and iTronix, which has a line of rugged notebooks. In this case, the idea is to create a laptop that can be dropped from 3 feet and survive in moisture and dust and extreme heat. Dell is also promising next day on-site support instead of requiring customers to send the unit back.

Under its exterior, the Latitude is similar to its weaker cousins. McAnally said by making sure the rugged laptop is 100 percent compatible with regular components--battery, AC adapter and other items--it should be easier to deploy. Dell said it has added

solid-state drives, batteries capable of charging faster and screens that are easier to view outdoors. What remains to be seen is whether Dell can upend established players. For instance, General Dynamics can leverage its current relationships with the Department of Defense to pitch its iTronix rugged laptops (right).

Here's a look at the Dell specs:

  • Intel Core2 Duo (Dual Core) Processors (up to 2.4 GHz) 800 MHz Front Side Bus and power managed up to 4 MB smart L2 Cache;
  • Recessed, Dual integrated, sealed/protected Task Lights (red) for keyboard illumination.
  • Supports 512 MB to 4056 MB2 of 667 MHz / Advanced DDR2 Dual Channel Memory
  • HDD Shock Isolation and Protection Cage based on proprietary design / User Accessible HDD Cage supports both "lock down" and "expedited access"
  • Durable HDD standard is 1.8" 80GB2, shock-resistant, isolated and protected HDD
  • Standard Intel GMA X3100 integrated graphics - up to 256MB2 Shared video memory1 (358MB with Vista) / Optimized performance supports
  • Windows Vista Software and Aero / graphics feature
  • Rugged, protected 14.1" Wide-Aspect WXGA DirectVue display / DirectVuedisplay enhancement supports outdoor readability with advanced optics technology / 14.1" WXGA resolution (1280 x 800) Shock isolated, impact protected and sealed from moisture and dust /
  • Measurable wide-aspect benefits - increased viewing areas, less scrolling, multi-page and multi-window viewing / Hardened LCD cover
  • High Definition Audio Codec Mono speaker - 2.0W / Integrated omni-directional microphone, noise cancelling software
  • 24X CD-ROM, 8X DVD-ROM, 24X CDRW/DVD, 8X DVD+/-RW, Floppy Disk Drive / 6-cell "Smart" Li-Polymer battery
  • Dense Die Cast Magnesium Housing and Internal Structural Framing Support System
  • Shock Isolated and Mounted Hard Disk Drive Cage, LCD, Core Electronic Elements
  • Patent-Pending QuadCool Thermal Management System
  • Keyboard, TouchPad, Trackstick and Fingerprint face all sealed and protected from moisture and dust
  • Unique I/O and Expansion Door Design provides rugged, reliable sealing for core elements
  • Rugged Magnesium Handle Anchors Securely to System

While all of those items are nice, I'm more interested in the abuse statistics.The XFR D630 is designed for the MIL-STD-810F standard of abuse (for lack of a better word). In other words you can:

  • Drop the laptop from 3 feet on all surfaces, edges and corner at least 26 times;
  • Operate it in temperatures from -20 degrees F to 140 degrees F;
  • Operate in 95 percent humidity;
  • Pour 4 inches of water an hour on it;
  • Use it in a dust storm;
  • And make graphics at 15,000 feet up.

Now if I'm in those conditions, I've got bigger worries than cooking up PowerPoints, but it's nice to know a laptop is there if you need it.

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