Many a laptop has met a premature death after falling off a desk or suffering a coffee spill onto the keyboard. Ruggedized laptops are designed to survive such trivial mishaps--and much more.
The Panasonic Toughbook CF-30, pictured here, is a fully rugged laptop encased in magnesium alloy. It can withstand drops of up to 6 feet while closed and not operating and up to 3 feet while open and operating.
The CF-30 has an ingress protection (or IP) rating of 65--the 6 refers to its protection against dust and the 5 refers to its protection against water. Those numbers indicate that the CF-30 can withstand the dustiest and sandiest of conditions (think a sandstorm in a desert with winds of 70 mph), as well as the heaviest of rainstorms.
Though you can take your Toughbook CF-30 into the shower with you (or, more realistically, use it in pouring rain), you can't fully submerge it in water. Other durability features of the CF-30 include the ability to withstand extreme temperatures (from -20 degrees to 150 degrees Fahrenheit while operating), heavy vibration, and up to 300 pounds of directly applied pressure.
The Toughbook CF-30 isn't only rugged, however, as its creators thought of every extreme situation that potential users might find themselves in. For example, to make the display easily readable in bright or direct sunlight, the screen has 20 brightness settings, with a maximum setting of 1000 nits (standard laptops usually have display settings of less than 250 nits).
The promised battery life is stellar, too, at over 12 hours on the lowest screen-brightness setting (but under 4 hours at the highest). In contrast, the average battery life of an all-purpose laptop is about 4 hours (the Lenovo T400 has the best battery life we've seen, 8 hours with an extra-large battery).
For enhanced portability, the CF-30 has the option of mobile broadband as well as incredible wireless range--I was still getting service three San Francisco blocks from the PC World office network.
The CF-30 comes equipped with an Intel Core 2 Duo processor, a 160GB shock-mounted and quick-release hard drive, a touchscreen (definitely a plus, since the waterproof trackpad is not very responsive), and a 13.3-inch 1024 by 768 XGA LCD--not a lot of screen space, but still a good-looking display. It has a built-in handle, as well, but at 8.4 pounds and nearly 3 inches thick, it's not exactly the kind of laptop you'll want to tote everywhere.
Unfortunately, rugged doesn't come cheap: The Panasonic Toughbook CF-30 starts at $3500.