Rugged Laptops™ The leader in MILITARY Laptop Computers.


Panasonic is a motivated company who focuses its technology not only to help man but to assist Marine Mammals. Black Hawk Toughbook™ computers are rugged enough for the US military in remote regions all over the world. Now, Panasonic's robust portable computer is moving into a new territory – the wet, salty environment of dolphins.

Thanks to Panasonic’s recent loan of three Toughbook computers to, Dolphin Researchers, Jack & Donna Kassewitz, are introducing the touchscreen computers to the dolphins in their research program. "The Toughbook’s screen brightness and water resistance are important for our project. We’ve seen the videos of trucks driving over Toughbooks and glasses of water being poured on the keyboard and the Toughbook keeps right on working—so we think these computers can handle dolphins."

The Toughbook computers will be part of language interface between humans and dolphins. The beginning phases of the project involve a cognitive game called "same/different" where a dolphin is shown an object in real life, such as a ball or flower pot, then asked to identify a photo of the same object on the touch screen. This process is to teach the dolphin that images on the computer screen can be used to symbolize real objects. Donna Kassewitz explained, "The dolphins have to get the hang of manipulating the touchscreen and also make the mental connection of symbols vs. real life objects. Then we’ll add symbols for actions and dolphin sounds associated with each of the symbols. We feel confident that both the dolphins and the Panasonic Toughbooks are up to the task."

One of the dolphins in the research program, a young male bottlenose named Merlin, already has experience with touchscreen computers. "Now with the Toughbooks’ interconnectivity we are better able to record the dolphin sounds and analyze them in real time" said Jack Kassewitz. "Thanks to support from Panasonic and donations from the public through our website, we are making progress in this important research. We believe both dolphins and humans will benefit from an interspecies language interface. We need all the support we can get towards this goal." Learn more from Black Hawk Toughbooks at about purchasing a Toughbook by Panasonic.

The Black Hawk Toughbook™ are built in the USA and the first BRANDED Refurbished Toughbook with the Certified Eco Seal Hologram, ensuring customers are buying a Toughbook that is ALL ORIGINAL / ALL PANASONIC. Unlike other "black" Toughbooks being sold with CHINA parts, fake batteries, phoney cables, and decals to hide their damage. Every Toughbook Laptop we sell has every Panasonic part number stamped into it. The Eco Seal ensures our Toughbooks are 100% Original Panasonic, Environmentally Tested and approved for use in the USA and Countries which adhere to strict Environmental Standards. Below is a mother Bottle Nose with her dead young who she has been carrying with her for several days. Only humans feel sadness and a sense of loss? Not so says researchers. This animal refuses to let go of her baby. If only more parents would live and act like this Mother. If only Fathers would show this kind of passion to their kids. Yes Dolphins may like Toughbooks, but the message here is that human kind needs to put certain creatures as more important than themselves. "Killing a very bad person is easy and rather rewarding vs. hurting or killing an animal." Seal Team 6.

Rugged Laptops

As promised I have compiled information on rugged-ized and semi-rugged-ized laptops. Because I did not receive many replies from MARMAM <> subscribers, I decided to do some of my own research and summarized this below with links. The few replies I received are posted at the bottom of this message.

Overall, most people who owned rugged-ized and semi-rugged-ized laptops did not seem overly-impressed with their performance. Fully rugged-ized laptops are usually quite expensive (> $3k but see Systemax review below) and often offer compromised performance and/or features. There it is important to identify what features are important first (e.g. screen read-ability, processor speed or battery life) and determine whether the model you are interested has these features.

I received several suggestions to use a standard (i.e. non-rugged-ized) laptop with a pelican case for transporting and storing at sea. Although this approach works well in boats with a closed canopy or cabin or dry-space, I would not recommend it for small (i.e. inflatable) type boat use. An even cheaper (and riskier?) approach is to wrap your laptop base in clear plastic wrap. As long as the plastic covering is inspected and replaced frequently, I have seen this technique work well for some low salt-water exposure situations, but as we all know, salt-water electronics do not mix well, so the extra money for a waterproof or resistant laptop may well be worth it.

On of the biggest issues with all laptops is screen-readability for outdoor use. There is a very good review (see link below) on how to evaluate screen readability with some examples of laptops with good and bad screens in this respect. Most standard laptop do not give an option for outdoor type screens.. Note also that touch-screens have reduced screen readability in sunlight.

It seems that for all but the most extreme conditions, a semi-rugged-ized laptop with a good pelican case might be the best solution. Some links to specific semi-rugged-ized laptops and rugged-ized laptop reviews are provided below. Everyone’s computing requirements and working situations are different, therefore it is not possible to recommend any laptop for everyone’s needs.

Thank you for your input and I hope this information is useful to you.

Tom Norris
Bio-Waves Inc.


One Laptop Per Child

A Guide to Ruggedized Mobile Computers

Ruggedized Laptop Reviews:

Systemax Laptop Review

Panasonic Toughbooks (most models)

Semi-ruggedized laptops

Dell ATG


Good review on laptop screens and readability for outdoor use:

Other Reviews

Hola Tom:

I use regular laptops in the field from small boats to record sounds. I save them inside a Pelican case while not in use and "designed" a plastic umbrella to cover me, the open Pelican, and the computer from splashes and to be able to see the screen (picture attached). This umbrella is plastic on one side and cloth on the other (the fabric is used to make tablecloths). Additionally I sew a dark cloth in the inside to have a better shade. It is truly waterproof and a perfect shade maker. It was custom sawed by me and it is held to the Pelican case lid with an elastic and I sit over the other end so that it does not "fly". The system works quite well and I have been using it for 4 years. I even put artificial ice inside the Pelican case to help with cooling so that the computer does not crash often… PICTURES ATTACHED.

Hope this helps.

Aloha from Mexico,

Carmen Bazua

carmen1.jpg carmen2.jpg


Sorry I’m a little late on this suggestion, but have you considered the laptops for One Laptop Per Child? I just saw the MIT guy that started the program speak last weekend, and they faced many of the same design constraints you mentioned including high visibility screen and resistance to environmental conditions. Not sure about water and salt durability, but at $100 bucks a pop… you can’t beat the price.

Patrick Clemins

The only ruggedized we can purchase is Panasonic & Itronix through the NMSO and the Itronix GoBook III's failed miserably in durability, warranty return and screen brightness.

So the Panasonic CF-30 is now the only one we purchase and so far has been an excellent field use PC.

The only semi-ruggedized I've dealt with is the Dell Latitude ATG starting around 1800. and so far the four I built last year are still going strong with two thumbs up from the users. The screens are perfect on those at 500 nits and they've had no issues whatsoever.

—Sean MacConnachie
Fisheries and Oceans Canada | 3255 Stephenson Pt. Rd Nanaimo BC V9T 1K3
Government of Canada | Gouvernement du Canada

Make/Model/year of laptop: Panasonic Toughbook from 2004 (we call it the 'wannabe', though - as in wants to be tough…) I THINK ours was like a 30, but it was purchased in 2004. Sorry, don't have it here. Perhaps they have upgraded the rugged features to cover the screws and hinges completely for corrosion protection and have a better screen…

Was it a ruggedized model?: Yes

How long did it last?: approximately 4 months at sea, lots of land-based field work, still runs

Was it durable enough for field work?: good on land, terrible at sea

How often was it used in the field? (e.g. how many times a month) approx a week at sea/month and

Was it exposed to vibrations or ‘slapping’ from use on a boat? yes

Was it exposed to fresh or salt water spray? yes- salt, some light rain: screws rusted, signs of corrosion, terrible 'weatherproofing' for at sea conditions! Not tough at all- signs of wear from the first cruise it was exposed, despite the strong-looking metal casing.

Was the screen easy to see in sunlight? no- esp. not in a boat- ok on land because we had more control of shading the screen etc.

Was the pointing device easy to use? no, because you couldn't see the screen!

How long was the battery life (if needed)? long- a few hours, I think. no probs there, we just always had an alternate battery

Would you buy or recommend this computer again for fieldwork? NO NO NO!!!

Additional comments/recommendations: It was also VERY heavy- which was the downside for land-based field work. I know this is an older model, but I wouldn't purchase from them again unless they have made some serious upgrades!

—-B Gamble

Can't help much with performance - as I have just purchased the hardware- but for price - you might want to consider tablet computer in a waterproof case. For me this was a Fujitsu model ST5100 series with an Otterbox housing.

- Greg Early

I looked into them but found the cost to computing performance ratio was a rip-off. The physical sturdiness sounded quite impressive, but we needed computing power. Peli cases + careful handling are a good ways to protect a laptop.

Simon Keith
Science Assistant
WDCS, the Whale and Dolphin Conservation

Make/Model/year of laptop: Toshiba Tecra A7, 2006

Was it a ruggedized model? No, but considered one of the more durable laptops.

How long did it last? Still using it, only because I can't afford anything else.

Was it durable enough for field work? Only just.

How often was it used in the field? (e.g. how many times a month). 4-6 times per month

Was it exposed to vibrations or ‘slapping’ from use on a boat? Lots, used on boat.

Was it exposed to fresh or salt water spray? No, in cabin.

Was the screen easy to see in sunlight? Impossible.

Was the pointing device easy to use? Manageable, but not good.

How long was the battery life (if needed)? Less than one hour, I had to buy and external battery that lasts ~4 hours with a full charge.

Would you buy or recommend this computer again for fieldwork? Never.

Additional comments/recommendations: will never use again!

Anna Hall, PhD candidate
Marine Mammal Research Unit
University of British Columbia <>

I have both the rugged-ized and the semi-ruggedized Panasonic's both of which I have used in the field and on boats. Here are my pros and cons:

  • Rugged-ized

-the keyboard is super small so very frustrating if you have more to do on it that say work with navigational software.

-the one we had did not fair well in cold weather (and I'm not talking super cold i.e 0 to -1) on the boat. The mouse pad would mal funtion basically rendering it useless. Once it warmed up both in the open cabin of the boat and the computer itself things got better.

-never dropped it or soaked it, so can't comment there.

  • Semi-ruggedized

-use this one as my main laptop (still using and it is a CF-51 and I think a 2006). like it and it works well in the field. Have had it in the snow and rain (though not for extend time frames). If anything, if they have upped the memory in them then go bigger.

Make/Model/year of laptop

Was it a ruggedized model?

How long did it last? both still going, I think the ruggedized is a 2005 model

Was it durable enough for field work? so far so good

How often was it used in the field? (e.g. how many times a month) the ruggedized, average four days a month on the water

Was it exposed to vibrations or ‘slapping’ from use on a boat? ruggedized was yes, no problems with vibrations or slapping, used on a 24ft aluminum with covered but open cabin

Was it exposed to fresh or salt water spray? both very minimal, the semi-rugg. saw probably more rain than anything else

Was the screen easy to see in sunlight? no, it is about the same as any other computer (i.e. not great)

Was the pointing device easy to use? rugg. no good in cold

How long was the battery life (if needed)? the semi-rug has a great battery life when new (atleast 5-6 hours straight), but I have noticed with age this is deteriorating slowly.

Would you buy or recommend this computer again for fieldwork? I would pick the semi-rugg over the rugg. as long as you can keep it out of direct harm (too much water etc)

Additional comments/recommendations:

Nicole Wallace

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