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Which rugged tablet is best?

People who need to use tablet computers in hostile environments demand products that are drop-proof, shockproof and waterproof. If your work or play takes you on the open seas, on top of mountains or on construction sites and in oilfields, you want a tablet that can take abuse from water, extreme temperatures, drops and general hard use.

Firefighters, sailors, medics and emergency services workers all need tough equipment and so do people who are into extreme adventures. If you are looking for a rugged tablet with a long battery life and a touchscreen you can use while wearing gloves, take a look at the Panasonic ToughPad FZ-G1.

What to know before you buy a rugged tablet

Built-in protection for your tablet comes with several trade-offs. Higher levels of protection require higher-quality materials, more expensive than the ones for tablets used around the home or office. Building rugged tablets means building bigger, stronger ones that weigh more and cost more, too.

Military-grade

Unlike consumer products, military-grade electronics need to work effectively in any location and any condition. These tablets need to be rugged enough to work in extreme conditions and all weathers, from desert dust storms to mountain snowstorms to heavy seas.

Military-grade tablets and computers are made with materials that absorb shock so they can stand up to rough handling, accidents and drops. They are compression-sealed to keep liquid, sand and dust from penetrating the case and fouling the electronics inside. Look for rugged tablets that advertise how well they perform in drop tests.

Certification

Look for tablets designated MIL-STD 810, a U.S. military standard that shows they have been tested and certified for endurance in extreme environmental conditions. To earn this certification, tablets must function perfectly after passing 29 tests involving extreme temperatures and humidity, vibration, shock and impact. 

Operating system

Choose an operating system compatible with your Android, Windows or iOS phone, laptop and computer, and save yourself a steep learning curve.

What to look for in a quality rugged tablet

What’s inside?

The most rugged tablets are not just a strong case wrapped around the inner workings of a regular tablet. The most rugged, reliable tablets are purpose-built with interior components tougher than those of regular consumer-grade tablets.

Look for solid-state drives more capable of withstanding shocks and drops than hard drives. The glass used in the screen needs to be tougher, too. Because users of rugged tablets tend to spend lots of time in remote areas, extended battery life is important, as is GPS functionality. 

Ingress protection rating

IP ratings indicate the tablet has been sealed to protect it against liquids and dust particles. Ratings range from 1-6 for protection against the intrusion of dirt and dust and 1-9 for water. Combined, they create a two-digit IP rating. The higher the number, the more protection is built into your tablet.

Battery

Rugged tablets are often used in remote locations, so look for battery life longer than that of a consumer-grade tablet. To be completely on the safe side, look for a rugged tablet with a dual battery system so you can swap in a fully-charged one when you need it.

How much you can expect to spend on a rugged tablet

You can find tablets described as rugged for as little as $300. Military-grade tablets start at around $700 and easily reach $4,000 and more for the most powerful.

Rugged tablet FAQ

Are all rugged tablets equally rugged?

A. No. Different makes and models have different degrees of ruggedness. If you need a rugged tablet but not one that can withstand severe conditions, consider a semi-rugged tablet that has shock-absorbing technology and is resistant to dust and dirt.

Are all rugged tablets internet-enabled?

A. No, some are Wi-Fi-only and require you to be near a wireless transmitter. 

What’s the best rugged tablet to buy?

Top rugged tablet 

Panasonic ToughPad FZ-G1

What you need to know: This feature-rich 10.1-inch Windows touchscreen brute is certified MIL-STD 810 and has an IP 65 rating.

What you’ll love: This powerful 4-gigabyte tablet is built for 4G data connectivity. It has an Intel i5 processor that runs Windows 10 Pro. It has 128 GB of flash memory and 8 GB of RAM. The lithium-ion batteries are user-replaceable and give it an 11-hour run time. The screen is high-definition, readable in daylight and operable with gloved hands. 

What you should consider: The memory is on the small side for such a powerful computer.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon 

Top rugged tablet for the money

MobileDemand Flex 10A Android Pie Rugged Ultra Lightweight Touchscreen Tablet

MobileDemand Flex 10A Android Pie Rugged Ultra Lightweight Touchscreen Tablet

What you need to know: This rugged Bluetooth Wi-Fi tablet weighs only 2.1 pounds and is law-enforcement grade for police, firefighters and emergency medical services.

What you’ll love: The built-in briefcase handle and back hand strap make it easy to use in the field and on the go. It is certified MIL-STD-810G. The touch-screen is scratch-resistant and the durable protective case has a built-in detachable QWERTY keyboard. It comes with built-in front and rear cameras.

What you should consider: This tablet is Wi-Fi only, so you cannot use mobile data or a SIM card.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon 

Worth checking out

Dell Latitude 7212 Rugged Extreme Touchscreen Tablet

Dell Latitude 7212 Rugged Extreme Touchscreen Tablet

What you need to know: The 11.6-inch touchscreen is full HD and operable while wearing gloves.

What you’ll love: This tablet runs on the Microsoft Windows operating system. It includes a GPS card and has a built-in MicroSD memory card reader. This IP-65 unit has integrated front and rear cameras. The screen is made of super-strong Gorilla Glass, polarized to be readable outdoors in bright light. 

What you should consider: This tablet supports a secondary lithium-ion battery but only comes with one.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon 

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David Allan Van writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
 

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