Semi-Rugged Laptop for Oceanographic Use

Discussion in 'What Notebook Should I Buy?' started by Klems87, Sep 22, 2019.

  1. Klems87

    Klems87 Newbie

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    Hello everyone, I have a bit of a unique work situation and I am trying to figure out the best semi-rugged laptop for my line of work. I have been researching something suitable for a few years and I think the industry has finally caught up to what I need, but looking for some actual user viewpoints.

    Background: I work for a marine tech company where we design and build various marine components and vehicles (ROVs, surface vehicles, etc). My primary duties are office related where I write technical documentation and user manuals. My secondary duties are field related were we often have 8+ hour days out on the ocean testing our equipment in small boats. I like having the capability to easily switch between the two environments. I also have my own marine survey company.

    This has lead to some unique requirements:
    1. It needs to be sunlight readable.
    2. It needs to be splash resistant against salt spray.
    3. It needs to have a desktop dock so I can use 2x monitors for spreadsheets and technical writing.
    4. Powerful enough to run ArcGIS Pro.

    My primary laptop since 2016 has been a MS Surface Pro 4 in a Mobile Demand rugged case. It has worked well allowing me to switch between environments, but lacks a sunlight readable display.

    I typically buy computers that are powerful enough to still be relevant 3-4 years later, so I usually go high end on the CPU and middle of the road in terms of storage space.

    I have narrowed my choices to the following:
    Panasonic Toughbook 55
    Dell Latitude 5420 Rugged

    I'll have some more questions at the end of the general ones.

    General Questions

    1) What is your budget?

    This is more based on what a semi-rugged will cost. A fully rugged laptop is out of my price range.

    2) What size notebook would you prefer?

    N/A - No choices from rugged manufacturers
    3) Which country will you buying this notebook?

    United States

    4) Are there any brands that you prefer or any you really don't like?
    a. Like: Panasonic, Dell
    b. Dislike: Getac (S410 hasn't been updated since 2017, no US re-seller, can't order off-the-shelf)
    5) Would you consider laptops that are refurbished/redistributed?


    6) What are the primary tasks will you be performing with this notebook?

    Web browsing (Google Docs)
    OnShape (cloud-based CAD)
    DeepView Side Scan Software
    ArcGIS Pro

    7) Will you be taking the notebook with you to different places, leaving it on your desk or both?

    Normal use: On a desk hooked up to two monitors.
    Field work: 30ft Fishing Vessel or smaller inflatable boat. Salt spray and warm temperatures likely.

    8) Will you be playing games on your notebook? (If so, please state which games or types of games?)


    9) How many hours of battery life do you need?


    10) Would you prefer to see the notebooks you're considering before purchasing it or buying a notebook on-line without seeing it is OK?

    I'm ok buying online without seeing it, but I have seen a Toughbook CF-54 and a Dell 5414 Rugged (previous model) in person on the job.

    11) What OS do you prefer? Windows, Mac OS, Linux, Chrome OS, etc.

    Windows 10.

    Screen Specifics

    12) What screen resolution(s) would you prefer? (See further below for explanations.)

    High Resolution: 1080p (1920x1080)
    None of the manufacturers make anything else higher.

    13) Do you want a glossy/reflective screen or a matte/non-glossy screen? (See further below for explanations.)


    Build Quality and Design

    14) Are the notebook's looks and stylishness important to you?


    Notebook Components

    15) How much hard drive space do you need?

    512GB SSD

    Timing, Warranty and Longevity

    16) When are you buying this laptop?

    Within the next 6 months.

    17) How long do you expect to use this laptop?

    3+ Years

    18) How long could you afford to do without your laptop if it were to fail?

    1-2 Months, I have a few backup laptops that still work, but are just old.

    19) Would you be willing to pay significantly extra for on-site warranty, or would it be acceptable to you to have to ship the laptop to the vendor for repair with perhaps a week or more outage?

    I can ship to vendor, but I would prefer to replace components myself (keyboard, port covers, etc.)


    Additional Questions:
    I have read all the reviews I can find, but most just talk about the hardware "as launched". Very few of them have actual user reviews and any issues encountered.

    1. Are there any firmware/BIOS/driver update issues?
    - Updates have always gone smoothly on my Surface, but I've head updates on these rugged machines haven't gone so smoothly.

    2. How reliable is the system from a software standpoint?
    - One reviewer had a couple "blue screen of death" issues:

    3. Any hardware issues?
    - one keyboard issue on a 5424 Rugged:

    4. Finding replacement and upgrade parts seems easier for the Toughbook 55 than the 5420. I seriously can't find official batteries for the 5420 anywhere.

    Anything else you think I should be aware of?
  2. ZaZ

    ZaZ Super Model Super Moderator

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    Having seen neither of these notebooks, it's hard to help. You might want to post in the manufacturer forum, where you'll get a much higher concentration of owners who hopefully can lend a hand.
  3. Blacky

    Blacky Notebook Prophet

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    Rugged laptops are hard to gain access to for more information. Dell has a long tradition of making rugged laptops so I would go with them. They should also have better warranty and customer support.
  4. sparkle999

    sparkle999 Notebook Geek

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    Hi, I can’t comment on the specific models you mention, however I can commend the Panasonic toughbook range: I used to lead the technology function that supported a workforce of c800 mobile engineers. We used Panasonic tough books as the preferred mobile device. From memory these were Cf19s, Cf20s. Whilst the initial outlay was high, the total cost of ownership was low: we had devices out in the field that were as much as 7 years old and fully functional. The team routinely trialled other makes, however cheaper options turned out to be false economy. Hope this helps.
  5. mklym

    mklym Notebook Evangelist

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    I had a semi-rugged Panasonic CF-52Mk2 that had been submerged. It was never disassembled and cleaned, let it dry out was all. That would have killed most other non-full rugged units. I ran it for over 7 years with no issues.
    Not looking at, or interested in, a refurbished is cutting your choices down substantially. There are many seller of refurbished laptops on eBay. Unfortunately, very few of them actually refurbish the units, mostly clean the outside and install a generic copy of Windows. If you go to the Panasonic forum here on NBR and post what you need in the buy/sell, there are members who properly refurbish Toughbooks. They also support the units after the sale. You might be surprised at what you can get in your price range, maybe cheaper.
    After having been through most of the major brands I can honestly say that nothing compares to the Toughbook line.
  6. Klems87

    Klems87 Newbie

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    Thank you everyone for your time and responses! I have a lot to think about.

    A few days after my original post Notebook Check posted their in-depth review:

    There were quite a few hits to the display, performance and the older GPU.

    It seems like the Toughbooks have the sworn durability and the Dell's have better performance.

    Has anyone used any of the more recent 54XX Rugged laptops? I know the ATG series was pretty much garbage.
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