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Best rugged laptops of 2021: the top drop-proof laptops for outdoors or WFH

Included in this guide:

Best rugged laptops of 2020
(Image credit: Future)
PRICE
VERDICT
REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID
VERDICT
REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID

Look no further than the best rugged laptops of 2021 if you’re looking for durability and power in one device. While most laptops are not made to withstand extreme temperatures, dust, water, drops, and bangs, these laptops were designed for this one purpose. There may be plenty of laptops out there that are lighter or thinner, none will endure the way these will.

No matter if you’re just a bit clumsy, a writer on the road looking for the best laptops for writers, or work on a hectic worksite, one of the best rugged laptops here will work for you. They have been put through all sorts of testing so you can be sure they will stand up to any abuse.

With Dell laptops leading the charge, here are our top picks of the best rugged laptops that tout power and durability. Looking for a rugged portable for your kids, be sure to check out our best laptops for kids list. Meanwhile, those looking for a featherweight option, some of the best Chromebooks are rugged as well.

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Best rugged laptops of 2021

Image Credit: Dell

Image Credit: Dell

1. Dell Latitude 14 Rugged Extreme

The very best rugged laptop

Specifications
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
Reasons to buy
+Very rugged design+Can configure the hardware
Reasons to avoid
-Only 4GB of RAM in base model-Big and heavy

If you’re looking for a laptop that can handle anything the planet can throw at it, you’ll want to get your hands on the Dell Latitude 14 Rugged Extreme – it’s all in the name. It is a bit old at this point, but that almost doesn’t matter. 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 – it can even handle extreme temperatures. Like the rest of Dell’s catalog, you can configure the Dell Latitude 14 Rugged Extreme however you feel like – or however you can afford.

  • 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  

Image Credit: Dell

Image Credit: Dell

2. Dell Latitude 14 Rugged

A fantastic rugged laptop from Dell

Specifications
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
Reasons to buy
+Tough+Good price
Reasons to avoid
-Low capacity hard drive-Lack of ports

Dell is a household name when it comes to the best laptops, but it still makes the best rugged laptops right now. For example,the Dell Latitude 14 Rugged is a tough laptop that combines a rigid outer shell with quick components that are powerful enough for the category – including a 6th-generation Intel Core processor and dedicated AMD Radeon graphics. Even the display is decent, rocking a matte finish that makes it comfortable to use outside – probably where it’ll be most used. It’s the less “extreme” version of our number one pick, but its still one of the best rugged laptops on the market right now.  

  • 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  

Image Credit: Panasonic

Image Credit: Panasonic

3. Panasonic Toughbook CF-33

Rugged 2-in-1 laptop

Specifications
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
Reasons to buy
+2-in-1 design+Fantastic screen
Reasons to avoid
-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. 

Image Credit: HP

Image Credit: HP

4. HP ProBook x360 11 G1 EE Notebook PC

A sturdy laptop

Specifications
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
Reasons to buy
+Good price+Thin and light
Reasons to avoid
-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.

Image Credit: Lenovo

Image Credit: Lenovo

5. Lenovo ThinkPad 11e

Rugged performance

Specifications
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
Reasons to buy
+Good performance+Rugged design
Reasons to avoid
-Bulky compared to normal laptops

Similar to the HP ProBook x360 we mentioned earlier, the Lenovo ThinkPad 11e is more like a standard laptop that just so happens to be a bit rugged. Still, you can just tell that Lenovo has put effort into the construction of this device, as it includes more robust inputs, and can survive drops of up to 90cm. It also features military specifications, that make this a laptop that can survive the harshest conditions. What’s more, it’s affordable, while still offering enough processing power for everyday tasks.

Matt Hanson

Senior Computing editor

Matt (Twitter) is TechRadar's Senior Computing editor. Having written for a number of publications such as PC Plus, PC Format, T3 and Linux Format, there's no aspect of technology that Matt isn't passionate about, especially computing and PC gaming. If you're encountering a problem or need some advice with your PC or Mac, drop him a line on Twitter.