Consumers offered super-rugged laptop

Itronix, maker of rugged laptops to the U.S. military and gas giant Transco, has brought out a smaller and lighter version for the consumer market.

"It's the smallest, lightest fully rugged laptop in the world," said Sandy McCaskie, director of computing technologies for General Dynamics, "People who travel on a regular basis can step up from semi-rugged laptops. Companies that can't replace notebooks every eighteen months will last five years, and be upgradeable during that time.

Like its predecessors, the GoBook XR-1 can be operated even when submerged in jet fuel, or at temperatures of -23 Centigrade. It can also withstand a drop test specified in the US military standard 810F.

It weighs 3.1kg, about a kilo less than the previous version, the GoBook II, and has an Intel Core Duo 1.83GHz processor, as well as Wi-Fi, GPRS, Bluetooth and GPS radios. At £2,500 (AUD$6,335), it is an expensive laptop, but will carry on working for at least five years, said McCaskie.

It also has several other improvements over its predecessor, most notably a more sensible arrangement for sealing the USB, network and other ports. "The ports used to have rubber seals," said McCaskie, "but that's not the best way." Instead of rubber caps that can wear out or fall open, there is a seal between the inside of the ports and the rest of the case, leaving ports that can be accessed easily, but won't leak sand or water into the main body of the laptop.

The cooling system is also separated within the casing, so water and sand down the air vent will not get to the electronics. The system has a glow-in-the-dark keyboard, and the whole thing is completely washable.

The latch and other parts can be operated with gloves on, and one handed -- some connectors on the previous model needed two hands to operate. Other features include a hard drive that can be removed in a hurry so data does not fall into the wrong hands -- or so a traveller can keep the data with them if they put the laptop in an aircraft hold. The laptop can survive being driven over by a lorry, including a 6x6 or an 8x8, but not by a tracked tank, said McCaskie.

The biggest share of Itronix' laptops go to the military at the moment, though McCaskie says this share is actually less than half. The rest are mostly used by field service engineers or other mobile personnel. The more "office-like" styling of the new machine should expand Itronix' currently negligible share in the business traveller or "road-warrior" market, McCaskie believes.

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