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The most durable laptops for 2021

We love fast, powerful laptops — who doesn’t? — but sometimes the most important laptop feature is durability. If you’re working outside, in a production area, or in an environment where everything tends to get dirty, you’ll want a laptop that can take it. Fortunately, a number of manufacturers make high-quality, ruggedized laptops just for these situations. Here are several of the best if you need a particularly hardy machine!

If you are particularly interested in durable battery life, our guide can help you find the right one — or, you may be interested in the best laptops fit for school life.

Dell Latitude 5420 Rugged Business

Dell’s Latitude line is specifically made to endure harsh conditions, including 36-inch drops, blowing dust (from a workshop or outdoors), vibration, humidity, thermal extremes, dripping water, and more. But that doesn’t mean you have to give up on solid specifications with the 14-inch Rugged Business model: The base version comes with a 7th-generation, dual-core Intel i3-7130U processor (upgradable to an 8th-gen CPU), 8GB of RAM, and a 128GB PCI NVMe solid-state drive.

For connections, the Latitude 5420 provides 3 USB-A 3.0 ports, a USB-C port, HDMI, and Gigabit Ethernet, plus card slots for both SD and SIM cards, as well as an option for a smart card reader. That’s quite the complete package, but keep in mind that the bulky nature and included handle of this model will take up more room than the average 14-inch laptop — ruggedized laptops like this need extra space.

Dell Latitude 7424 Rugged Extreme

While the Latitude Rugged Business laptop is an excellent choice for certain dangerous environments, sometimes professionals need more, especially if they are frequently working outdoors and in conditions that another laptop can’t handle. The Rugged Extreme version offers free Hazardous Locations Certification, a sealed RGB keyboard (with an option for a rubberized keyboard for further protection), a contactless smart card reader for security, and options for outdoor-friendly features like a built-in GPS card or a bay for an extra battery — all in addition to the ruggedized features that the Business version comes with. Even the sturdy display is made to be readable in outdoor conditions where glare may be a factor.

Inside, the Latitude 7424 laptop sports a 7th-gen, dual-core Intel Core i3-7130U process, 8GB of RAM, and a 128GB PCIe NVMe SSD for storage. Ports include HDMI, USB-C, and USB-A 3.0, plus optional storage bays, anchors, straps, and an included stylus for more careful work.

Panasonic FZ-55 Toughbook

If you’re looking for a “semi-rugged” laptop that offers even more features and can function as a desktop replacement when necessary, this particularly well-equipped Panasonic Toughbook may be the right fit. In addition to the 14-inch touchscreen with anti-glare treatment, the durable model comes with a built-in stylus and has protection against 3-foot drops, water spray, extreme temperatures, blown dust, and more — plus a compact design that includes a useful handle for carrying.

This Toughbook also comes with an 8th-gen Intel Core i7-8665U processor, 8GB of RAM, and a 512GB SSD for storage. In addition to Wi-Fi and Bluetooth support, users also get 4G LTE built-in for data connections in areas where a Wi-Fi connection may not be possible. Ports include USB-C, USB-C with Power Delivery, HDMI 2.0, and microSDXC. The powerful battery is also rated for up to 40 hours to handle a full day’s worth of work no matter where you are.

These features make the FZ-55 Toughbook quite similar to the Dell Latitude Rugged Extreme model above, but it  sacrifices some rugged features for better performance.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon (Gen 8)

Maybe you’re more interested in an office-class laptop that has excellent performance but is durable enough to deal with everyday events. In that case, a bulky ruggedized model probably isn’t for you, but you may be interested in this excellent Lenovo ThinkPad X1 model. The base 14-inch model offers a 10th-gen, four-core Intel Core i5-10210U processor, 8GB of RAM, and a 256GB PCIe SSD.

Ports include two USB-C/Thunderbolt 3, two USB-A 3.2, and HDMI 1.4 — the ThinkPad X1 Carbon also supports Wi-Fi 6, so you are sure to benefit from the latest wireless standards. The keyboard is spill-resistant for office accidents, and security features include a Kensington lock slot, camera cover, fingerprint reader, and dTPM 2.0 chip.

Getac S410 G2

If you’re interested in a ruggedized laptop but prefer a model with a lower base price, this 14-inch Getac laptop fills the niche nicely. At a much more affordable price, it offers an 8th-gen, four-core Intel Core i5-8250U processor, 4GB of RAM, and a 500GB HDD. The durable design includes a splash-resistant membrane keyboard, plus resistance to vibration, 3-foot drops, high altitudes, humidity, and temperature changes.

The ports, which include USB-A 3.0, USB-A 2.0, and HDMI, have covers to protect them in dusty situations, too. If you’re okay with settling for lesser specs to reduce the price while still getting all the rugged protection features you want, the Getac S410 is a great place to start!

Durabook S15AB

A highly customizable ruggedized laptop.

Durabooks are designed with certification to protect against shock, vibration, 3-foot drops, high altitudes, extreme temperatures, and humidity. They also benefit from a sturdy aluminum alloy frame, port covers to protect against dust, and a quick-release battery to support swift battery replacements out in the field. The 15.6-inch display both provides a larger screen than our 14-inch picks, and it can be read in sunlight.

Internal specs start with an 8th-gen Intel Core i7-8565U processor, 8GB of RAM, and a 256GB SSD, but these can be upgraded based on your needs. You also get customization options with an open media bay, optional RFID/NFC for security, and more. Ports include USB-A 3.1, USB-C, SD card, VGA port, HDMI, serial port, SIM card slot, and smart card reader, so the laptop’s prepared for just about anything.

The catch is that it’s difficult to buy a Durabook in the wild. Durabook prefers that you visit their site and get a direct quote for a customized model before you purchase, which does add some extra time to the purchase process.

Finally, if you want to add even more protection, take a look at our recommended laptop bags for all occasions, and check out the best bags for larger 17-inch laptops.

Research and buying FAQ

How many years should a laptop last?

There are two things to consider — wear-and-tear and utility. When it comes to wear-and-tear, the more durable a laptop is, the longer it will be able to weather accidents, temperature changes, and other issues that could cause damage. Ruggedized laptops, in particular, are designed for easy battery replacement, which is generally the first component to start failing in a laptop, so they are well-suited to operate for years if cared for.

But users also have to consider utility: How long are a laptop’s specs going to be useful before an upgrade becomes necessary due to obsolete tech or lost support? Expect laptop utility to last up to five years before a replacement starts looking like a very good idea.

What are rugged laptops used for?

These laptops come with military specifications and other certifications for operating in harsh conditions and surviving minor accidents more easily. They are designed for industrial and construction industries, among many others. Whether it’s a survey job far from any Wi-Fi, a busy workshop short on office space, or a military flight that needs devices that can survive high altitudes, rugged laptops are there to fit the niche. They tend to excel in outdoor conditions, are highly resistant to dust and water, and don’t develop the same sort of problems at high elevations that other laptops may.

Are rugged laptops worth it?

That depends on your profession. Ruggedized laptops tend to be significantly more expensive than their slighter counterparts and are best suited to jobs that require that kind of protection (outdoor, factory, etc.). We do include an office-friendly pick with the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon that’s more suited to traditional laptop work in a sturdy frame.

If you are looking for a laptop made to survive the rigors of college classes, you may be interested in our guide to the best college laptops.

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