The best rugged laptops of 2018: we test drop-proof laptops for working outside

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The Windows 10 April 2018 Update may have made working on your computer easier than ever, but if your workload requires something a bit more durable, you’re going to need one of the best rugged laptops. We went ahead and scoured the web for the best laptops that can withstand the toughest places on Earth – the best rugged laptops can handle basically everything that can happen on the planet. 

The best rugged laptops have a rigid, durable chassis that can handle extreme drops or high pressure without breaking a sweat – like if something heavy falls on the laptop or you drop it off a building or something. They’ll also protect against liquid, dust and extreme temperatures – the best rugged laptops can handle anything you throw at them.

Still, the best rugged laptops need to be good laptops – so they need some horsepower. We’ll be looking for laptops that aren’t just hardy, but can get some work done, too.

If you work on a busy work site, or need to use the top rugged laptops while traveling to the most extreme places on the laptop, then keep tuned to find the best rugged laptops for your needs in 2018.

1. Dell Latitude 14 Rugged Extreme

The very best rugged laptop

CPU: Intel Core i3-6100U | Graphics: Intel Graphics 520 | RAM: 4GB | Screen: 14-inch 1366 x 768 | Storage: 128GB SSD | Connectivity: WiFi, Bluetooth, optional GPS, LTE | Weight: 3.9kg | Dimensions: 356 x 246 x 52mm

Very rugged design
Can configure the hardware
Only 4GB of RAM in base model
Big and heavy

The Dell Latitude 14 Rugged Extreme is the best rugged laptop on the market today. And, while it’s kind of old at this point, it’s still a well designed rugged laptop that meets military standard requirements. It features a rigid magnesium alloy build, shock absorbent case, is IP65 certified against dust, sand and water and can even withstand extreme temperatures. It even features respectable specs, as well. And, like the rest of Dell’s catalog, you’ll be able to configure the Dell Latitude 14 Rugged Extreme however you like.

  • This product is only available in the US and UK at the time of this writing. Australian readers: check out a fine alternative in the Panasonic Toughbook CF-33  

2. Dell Latitude 14 Rugged

A fantastic rugged laptop from Dell

CPU: Intel Core i5-6300U processor | Graphics: AMD Radeon R7 M360 | RAM: 8GB | Screen: 14-inch 1920 x 1080 | Storage: 128GB SSD | Connectivity: WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, LTE, Ethernet | Weight: 1.9kg | Dimensions: 347 x 243 x 44.4mm

Tough
Good price
Low capacity hard drive
Lack of ports

Dell may be a mainstream laptop manufacturer, but it still makes the best rugged laptops around. The Dell Latitude 14 Rugged is a fantastic machine that combines a tough outer shell with components that are pretty powerful for the category – including an Intel Core i5 processor and dedicated AMD Radeon graphics. The display looks decent, with a matte finish that makes it comfortable to use outdoors – which is probably where you’ll use it. It’s the less ‘extreme’ version of the Latitude 14 Rugged Extreme which sits at the top of our list of the best rugged laptops. 

  • This product is only available in the US and UK at the time of this writing. Australian readers: check out a fine alternative in the Panasonic Toughbook CF-33  

3. Panasonic Toughbook CF-33

Rugged 2-in-1 laptop

CPU: Intel Core i5-7300U processor | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 620 | RAM: 8GB | Screen: 12-inch 2160 x 1440 | Storage: 256GB SSD | Connectivity: WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, LTE, Ethernet | Weight: 2.76kg | Dimensions: 313.0 x 288.4 x 46.1mm

2-in-1 design
Fantastic screen
Heavy
Expensive

If you want one of the best 2-in-1 laptops, but you don’t want something that feels like it’s going to snap in half the first chance it gets – the Panasonic Toughbook CF-33 is for you. This 2-in-1 has a flexibility that most rugged laptops just don’t. If you need something that’s easy to carry while you do stock takes and jot down notes, then tablet mode will work wonders. Then, if you need to type up some documents, you can attach the keyboard and comfortably type away. It may be expensive, but it’s one of the only 2-in-1 laptops that can actually take a beating. 

4. HP ProBook x360 11 G1 EE Notebook PC

A sturdy laptop

CPU: Intel Celeron N3350 processor | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 500 | RAM: 2 - 8GB | Screen: 11.6inch 1366 x 768 | Storage: 128GB SSD | Connectivity: WiFi, Bluetooth, | Weight: 1.35kg | Dimensions: 207 x 302.4 x 19.9mm

Good price
Thin and light
Not as robust as other devices
Underpowered

You might think the HP ProBook x360 11 G1 EE is a normal laptop at first glance. However, once you dive deeper, you’ll see there’s more than meets the eye. While it isn’t designed for big drops and dangerous environments, it's still one of the best rugged laptops for most everyday users – it’s built to withstand more knocks, drops and liquids than the everyday laptop. This is due to an industrial rubberised body, spill resistant keyboard and Corning Gorilla Glass 4 display. It’s not going to be as robust as some of the other rugged laptops on this list, but it’s easily portable and the screen can be flipped – making it a rugged 2-in-1 laptop.

5. Lenovo ThinkPad 11e

Rugged performance

CPU: Intel Core i3-6100U processor | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 520 | RAM: 8GB | Screen: 11.6-inch 1366 x 768 | Storage: 128GB SSD | Connectivity: WiFi, Bluetooth, | Weight: 1.5kg | Dimensions: 300 x 210 x 22.3mm

Good performance
Rugged design
Bulky compared to normal laptops

Just like the HP ProBook x360 11 G1 EE, the Lenovo ThinkPad 11e is more like a standard laptop with some rugged elements. Still, Lenovo has put effort into the construction of this machine, so it includes more robust inputs, and it can even survive drops of up to 90cm. It also features military specifications which ensure that this is a laptop that can withstand even the harshest conditions. It’s also affordable, while still offering plenty of power for everyday tasks.