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Dell Latitude 14 Rugged Extreme: a hardhat laptop for rough work environments

Elias Plastiras | April 9, 2014
After two years of research and development, Dell has come out with a fully rugged Latitude notebook that's designed for use in field work where normal laptops might not be able to survive.

Other design features are of a more technical nature, such as the inclusion of three pass-through antennas, which Dell claims is one more than its competition offers. On the Latitude Rugged Extreme, there are pass-through antennas for the GPS, mobile broadband, and Wi-Fi modules (it's 802.11ac). Dell said it has also borrowed inspiration from the automotive industry by incorporating Direct-View LCD technology in the screen in order to make it usable in bright outdoor conditions.

The screen resolution is 1366x768, which is low when you compare it to many consumer laptops, but this is the most commonly supported resolution for the sectors that Dell is targeting with this rugged laptop. The screen also has touch capability, but it's of a resistive nature, and this means that it can be used effectively even while a user is wearing gloves.

Despite being a fully rugged product, Dell said the water resistant keyboard on the Latitude E6420 XFR has been designed to feel normal, rather than like mushy rubber, and it's a backlit board that can be used to type easily in dark environments. At the product's demonstration in Sydney, the laptop was shown sitting in a glass tank, and then had dirt and water thrown on it from the top. The dirt and water was mashed into the keyboard a little and then brushed off. The keyboard still worked while being a dirty mess.

Dell said that it has an advantage in offering a rugged product to its customers: the Latitude Rugged Extreme has 80 per cent of the DNA and components of regular Latitude models, and to an administrator who is looking after these machines, it will look like just another Latitude running a standard image. The machine supports vPro management (for the Core i5 and i7 models), and, just like most Dell products, there are various support and service options that can be considered.

Security includes TPM, optional fingerprint reader, Dell encryption tools, and SmartCard reader facilities (including contactless capability). The battery has six cells and a 65 Watt-hour rating, with options including a 9-cell, 97 Watt-hour battery, and long life cycle batteries. The starting weight of the Latitude Rugged Extreme with the standard 6-cell battery is 3.81kg.

A smaller, Latitude 12 Rugged Extreme product is also being offered by Dell. This is a hybrid product with an 11.6in screen that can be flipped around in its frame to turn the unit into a tablet. It's the same principle as the Dell XPS 12 hybrid, but in a rugged enclosure.


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