19 Oct 2020

What to Look for When Purchasing a Rugged Computer

Author – Tom Wang

The ability to be connected has become critical for today’s law enforcement officer, and rugged computers are ideal for the outdoor environment that field officers operate in. They provide versatility and portability. And most importantly, they are designed and built to work in environments that commercial computers would never survive. The challenge is finding a rugged computing system that meets the requirements of your department and is also affordable.

Officers in the field utilize their computers for everything from running license plates as they drive to tapping into the department’s databases and filing reports. Being able to do these tasks seamlessly and reliably is key to their ability to do their jobs efficiently and successfully. These rugged mobile devices provide law enforcement with the tools that they need to serve and protect.

Rugged computers come survival tested to withstand the daily challenges of drops, vibration, moisture, water, dust, and other aspects of working in the community. They easily handle those rough rides in a vehicle and over paths that pass as roads. They work effortlessly in challenging, harsh environments. They don’t sweat the heat, nor turn numb in the bitter cold.

There are also two classes of rugged computers, fully rugged and semi-rugged, so departments have the flexibility to purchase the rugged computer or tablet that best fits their requirements. There are several things to consider when determining what rugged computer is best for you.


What makes a rugged computer “rugged”? Rugged computers come survival tested. Testing procedures have already proven that it can withstand drops, rough rides, moisture, water, and dust. To prove that, it will have a MIL-STD-810G rating, which assures shock, drop, and vibration protection, as well as the ability to withstand use in a wide range of temperatures.

Look for rugged computers that come with a fanless design because they increase reliability and durability, but decrease power usage.

It should also carry an IP rating, which ensures the unit from damaging water and dust intrusion. This means that users will be able to regularly disinfect their computers using wipes and standard cleaners in light of the coronavirus (COVID-19).


Once your department’s new mobile work companion has proved its ruggedness, its ability to wirelessly connect to the rest of the world needs to be considered. Something along the line of an integrated fast, energy-efficient Intel processor combination provides excellent coverage and will keep you in touch. Also, WWAN connectivity will allow your users access to LTE networks for expanded coverage and built-in GPS for tracking. With the expansion of FirstNet and other public safety-specific networks, secure connectivity is becoming commonplace for departments.


With hacking on the rise, it’s almost a given that some ‘bad actors’ from somewhere in the world will target your department sooner or later. The better your security, the more secure your information will be. Some robust security features to look for include: TPM (Trusted Platform Module), Intel vPro, a smart card reader, RFID reader, fingerprint scanner, and a Kensington lock. The TPM 2.0 chip is a platform authentication and a biometric fingerprint scanner that quickly identifies and verifies users.

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