ELECTRONIC GEAR: Tough Laptops for Hard Use Environments

laptop on fire
laptop on fire


One of the most common questions I hear asked (and am asked) is “what laptop is the best for a hostile/tough use environment?”. Well you will first have to consider how rough your laptop will be handled and how much exposure it will have to the environment.

If you are working in a place like Iraq but mostly stay on a base then a regular laptop will be fine even if you have an occasional chopper or Hummer ride. But if you are climbing Mount Kilimanjaro and need a laptop to update your blog then a ruggedized laptop might be a better choice.

And of course your budget will depend on your selection, it may very well be the main deciding factor for you when buying a laptop for hard use.

Below are a few suggestions based on my experience using, issuing and maintaining laptops in hard use environments, both professionally and for personal use (watching certain movies).

Budget: Acer laptops are tough as hell and cheap – I have carried my Acer packed in a backpack surrounded by smelly socks and M-4 mags everywhere from Blackhawk rides in Iraq, in my checked luggage wile flying in the US (probably the roughest handling you laptop will ever get) and even camping in the Indonesian jungle a few times without any problems.

Price: from 350 dollars, up to a couple grand.

Mid Range: Toshiba Laptops are also tough, I knew allot of guys that used them in Iraq and the never had a problem with them. They are a bit more expensive then an Acer, but if you could afford one then splurge.

Price: Starting around 1000 bucks to sky’s the limit.

Expensive: The Panasonic Toughbooks  is sort of the Holy Grail of ruggedized laptop, just about everyone is told “get a Panasonic Toughbook” when they are asking about laptops that can take a beating – I call BS.

Sure they are tough and I would suggest one if you are doing a research project in the Amazon living in a tent for 6 months but outside of that they are not worth the bread.

Even worse they are about a generation behind technology wise, so you will basically be paying 5K for a laptop with last years processer and video card.

I was issued a brand new top of the line Panasonic toughbook in Iraq for a few years, I used it as a beer coaster because of the slow ass processer and lame video card (if a laptop cant run Call of Duty Modern Wars then I don’t use it - period).

Price: 5,000.00+ and damn ridiculous in my opinion, save the scratch and buy something useful like a gold AK-47

Do not use the following Laptops outside of an office:

Dell: I had a kick ass Dell that I bought online, the hard drive went to shit in less than a year and then the laptop itself died completely in under 2 years. It couldn’t take the heat of the desert and sand getting inside.

Sony: I have never seen a Sony product stand up to a harsh environment for more than a year. Also Sony has the worst repair policies, if you buy your laptop in the US but the hard drive dies overseas Sony will not reinstall your operating system, you have to ship it back to the US. Sony can go to hell.

The above selections are based on my personal experiences and not by any means the only choices for laptops used in hard use environments. If you have any other suggestions please feel free to comment below.



~James GJames is a Veteran Civilian Contractor who has worked in the Middle East and Southeast Asia for way too long. He spends his off time in his homes in Indonesia and Virginia getting drunk, shooting guns and writing poorly written articles.