What is a Ruggedized Device?

Ruggedized or hardened devices are different from consumer-grade devices in that they were engineered, manufactured, and tested to have increased durability, endurance, and strength. While more consumer-grade devices are adopting elements of rugged devices, such as greater resistance to splashes and longer battery life, many features that are valuable to businesses, government organizations, and other, more demanding buyers are still unique to the ruggedized computing category.

Today, ruggedized devices fall into three general categories:

What is a semi-rugged device?

Semi-rugged devices are often referred to as “commercial-grade” or “business rugged.” These devices often have the same elements as non-rugged enterprise-class devices, which are different to consumer devices in that they are sometimes designed to support multiple employee shifts, have additional security, enable attachment of multiple accessories, and other needs. However, this class of device is typically better protected. Examples include a spill-resistant keyboard on a laptop and a thicker case. Less noticeable changes include steel cores and attention to antenna design and placement.

What is a fully-rugged device?

Fully-rugged devices are often tested to withstand specific conditions, as outlined in various industry or government certifications, such as resistance to extreme temperatures, water, or dust. Some of these tests require visible changes such as protective covers. Inside, however, are other ruggedized elements that help ensure effective operations under in-field or otherwise difficult computing conditions. Examples include a solid-state drive instead of a mechanical hard drive, that is more prone to breakage when dropped or even handled roughly. This class of device may also be built with magnesium alloy cores, which are lightweight but also withstand the impact of drops much better than the aluminum or steel cores of consumer or enterprise grade semi-rugged devices. Many fully ruggedized devices require specialized mounts or other accessories, as they cannot operate with consumer or even enterprise grade accessories.

What is an ultra-rugged device?

Ultra-rugged devices are engineered to operate efficiently in the most difficult physical conditions. These include being attached to (or even inside) equipment that shakes, travels, or otherwise moves a great deal, extreme temperatures (such as materials manufacturing plants), and the most challenging environments encountered by outdoors workforces (e.g., sandstorms, blizzards, etc.). These devises are typically larger and heavier than their consumer-grade counterparts because of exterior protection and internal design choices. One of the earliest adopters of ultra-rugged mobile devices was the U.S. military, which generated its own set of specifications that devices needed to meet (known colloquially as “Mil-Spec”). Today, even organizations not associated with the military look for “Mil-Spec” certification to ensure it can support their workforce and organization needs