The best rugged laptops of 2018: we test drop-proof laptops for working outside

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Sure, the Windows 10 April 2018 Update made working on your computer easier than ever before, but what if you need something a bit more extreme, to reflect your work environment? Well, the best rugged laptops may be just what you need. And, as luck would have it, we went ahead and gathered up all the best laptops that can withstand the roughest areas on Earth – the best rugged laptops can handle all kinds of drops, knocks and extreme temperatures.

The best rugged laptops will have solidly built bodies that can withstand drops, or even pressure being placed on it – like if something heavy falls on it. They should also protect against liquid, dust and extreme temperatures. You should be able to take it anywhere on Earth.

Don’t forget, however, that the best rugged laptops need to actually keep up with the best laptops. So, we’re looking for laptops that aren’t just rugged, but feature powerful components as well.

If you work on a busy work site, or are constantly using your laptop while traveling, then buying the best rugged laptop for your needs is essential, so read on to find our top picks for 2018.

1. Dell Latitude 14 Rugged Extreme

The very best rugged laptop

CPU: Intel Core i3-6100U | Graphics: Intel Graphics 520 | RAM: 4GB | Screen: 14-inch 1366 x 768 | Storage: 128GB SSD | Connectivity: WiFi, Bluetooth, optional GPS, LTE | Weight: 3.9kg | Dimensions: 356 x 246 x 52mm

Very rugged design
Can configure the hardware
Only 4GB of RAM in base model
Big and heavy

The Dell Latitude 14 Rugged Extreme is the best rugged laptop you can buy, and while it’s been that way for a minute, it’s still a fantastically designed rugged laptop that meets military standard (MIL-STD) requirements. It features a rigid magnesium alloy build, shock-absorbent case, is IP65 certified against dust, sand and water, and can even withstand extreme temperatures. It also features respectable specs, too, and like other Dell laptops, you’ll be able to customize for your needs. If the Latitude 14 Rugged Extreme is a bit overboard for your needs, read on to find a toned-down version that may be more to your liking. 

  • This product is only available in the US and UK at the time of this writing. Australian readers: check out a fine alternative in the Panasonic Toughbook CF-33  

2. Dell Latitude 14 Rugged

A fantastic rugged laptop from Dell

CPU: Intel Core i5-6300U processor | Graphics: AMD Radeon R7 M360 | RAM: 8GB | Screen: 14-inch 1920 x 1080 | Storage: 128GB SSD | Connectivity: WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, LTE, Ethernet | Weight: 1.9kg | Dimensions: 347 x 243 x 44.4mm

Tough
Good price
Low capacity hard drive
Lack of ports

Dell is a mainstream laptop manufacturer – but it still makes some of the best rugged laptops. The Dell Latitude 14 Rugged is a great machine that combines a tough outer shell with components that are quite beefy for the category – including an Intel Core i5 processor and dedicated AMD Radeon graphics. The display looks good, coming with a matte finish that makes it comfortable to use outdoors – which is probably where you’ll be using it. It’s the less ‘extreme’ version of the Latitude 14 Rugged Extreme which sits at the top of our list of the best Rugged laptops. 

  • This product is only available in the US at the time of this writing. UK and Australian readers: check out a fine alternative in the Panasonic Toughbook CF-33 

3. Panasonic Toughbook CF-33

Rugged 2-in-1 laptop

CPU: Intel Core i5-7300U processor | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 620 | RAM: 8GB | Screen: 12-inch 2160 x 1440 | Storage: 256GB SSD | Connectivity: WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, LTE, Ethernet | Weight: 2.76kg | Dimensions: 313.0 x 288.4 x 46.1mm

2-in-1 design
Fantastic screen
Heavy
Expensive

If you want one of the best 2-in-1 laptops, but you don’t want something that feels like it’s going to snap in half the first chance it gets – the Panasonic Toughbook CF-33 is for you. This 2-in-1 has a flexibility that most rugged laptops just don’t. If you need something that’s easy to carry while you do stock takes and jot down notes, then tablet mode will work wonders. Then, if you need to type up some documents, you can attach the keyboard and comfortably type away. It may be expensive, but it’s one of the only 2-in-1 laptops that can actually take a beating. 

4. HP ProBook x360 11 G1 EE Notebook PC

A sturdy laptop

CPU: Intel Celeron N3350 processor | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 500 | RAM: 2 - 8GB | Screen: 11.6inch 1366 x 768 | Storage: 128GB SSD | Connectivity: WiFi, Bluetooth, | Weight: 1.35kg | Dimensions: 207 x 302.4 x 19.9mm

Good price
Thin and light
Not as robust as other devices
Underpowered

At first glance you'd think that the HP ProBook x360 11 G1 EE Notebook PC is just an ordinary laptop, rather than a rugged one. However, it actually falls somewhere between the two. While it isn't designed for big drops and dangerous environments, it is built to withstand more knocks, drops and spillages than normal laptops. This is thanks to an industrial rubberised body, spill resistant keyboard and Corning Gorilla Glass 4 screen. While it may not be as robust as other rugged laptops, it is easily portable, and the screen can be flipped to turn it into tablet mode.

5. Lenovo ThinkPad 11e

Rugged performance

CPU: Intel Core i3-6100U processor | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 520 | RAM: 8GB | Screen: 11.6-inch 1366 x 768 | Storage: 128GB SSD | Connectivity: WiFi, Bluetooth, | Weight: 1.5kg | Dimensions: 300 x 210 x 22.3mm

Good performance
Rugged design
Bulky compared to normal laptops

Just like the HP ProBook x360 11 G1 EE, the Lenovo ThinkPad 11e is more like a standard laptop with some rugged elements. Still, Lenovo has put effort into the construction of this machine, so it includes reinforced corners and ports, and can withstand drops of up to 90cm. It also features military specifications which ensure that this is a laptop that can withstand anything you throw at it, including high pressure, vibrations, high and low temperatures and much more. It’s also affordable, while still offering plenty of power for everyday tasks.