Need a Really Rugged Laptop?

We’re sure you’re familiar with laptops and notebook computers aimed at general consumers: they tend to focus on slim designs, designer colors, sleek profiles, flavor-of-the-month features like Webcams and VoIP communications, and maybe being able to read your memory cards without booting into Windows. But, you know, if you drop them, they’re pretty much history. Move them from hot-and-humid to cool-and-dry, the condensation might kill them. Cases come apart, hinges have short lifespans, latches break…well, let’s just say they often don’t last long in the real world.

Then there are ruggedized systems like the General Dynamics GoBook XR-1, which is designed to be used in a variety of hostile, outdoor settings and in rugged conditions, and—unlike many systems pumped up for field use—actually packs some significant computing horsepower.

The GoBook XR-1 is the first laptop iTronix has produced since its acquisition by General Dynamics in 2005—and if your associations with the name General Dynamics are more long the lines of "military contractor" than "computer manufacturer," you’d be on target. Under the hood, the GoBook XR-1 features an Intel Core Duo processor running at 1.83 GHz with a 667 Mhz frontside bus and 2 MB of L2 Cache. The unit features a user-removable 40 or 80 GB 5400 RPM Serial ATA hard disk, 512 MB to 2 GB of DDR2 RAM, gigabit Ethernet, and an ATI M22-CSP/32 graphics controller with 32 MB of dedicated memory and 92 MB of shared memory, giving it a boost over the Intel integrated graphics seen in a lot of Core Duo offerings. The display is a 12.1-inch TFT LCD with a standard display heater and integrated touchscreen capability.

Need wireless capability? The GoBook XR-1 is for you: it can support up to three RF modems—WLAN/Wi-Fi, WWAN (EV-DO, 1xTRR/CDMA. HSDPA/UMTS/EDGE/GSM), and BlueTooth—plus a GPS receiver simultaneously. Also on board: a Type II PC Card slot, a swappable optical media bay for CD and DVD drive/burner options or a second battery, FireWire connectivity, three USB 2.0 ports, serial port, VGA out, plus headphone and microphone jacks.

And here’s (literally) the kicker: the GoBook meets or exceeds MIL-STD 810F military standards for drop and shock resistance and protection from water and dust. The GoBook XR-1 is watertight—and can handle submersion in bleach water and scrubbing—and the keyboard can stand up to liquids as well as abrasive dust and particles found on outdoor and industrial settings. The GoBook XR-1 also includes heaters for the hard drive and display for operation n sub-zero environments. The GoBook XR-1 also support Trusted Platform Module and offers an optional fingerprint reader. All this in just 6.8 pounds, and a package 11.8 inches by 9.65 inches by 1.97 inches.

But it isn’t cheap: the GoBook XR-1 will be available in North America this September at prices starting at $4,330, with worldwide release to follow. The GoBook XR-1 might seem like overkill for many users, but for folks who have to take their work into harsh environments or hazardous materials situations (I can think of one documentary filmmaker and another field audio expert who will salivate over these systems), they may be just the ticket.

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