With the approval of a third-party testing lab, Panasonic has announced that its Toughbook U1, 19 and 30 mobile computers now meet the MIL-STD-810G military specification, which was issued in October 2008 to upgrade and replace the MIL-STD-810F standard.
Rugged devices undergo military standard certification testing and emerge with various numbers and letters that identify how much abuse the mobile device can take-how many times it can be dropped, how well it can withstand specific amounts of water, the degrees of heat and cold the device can operate in, and even whether it's safe to use in combustible environments.
These tests, however, allow a bit of wiggle room, as manufacturers such as General Dynamics Itronix have pointed out in the past.
"Most people are not aware that the military itself does not test products but only provides guidelines. As a result, there is actually a lot of flexibility in conducting military standard testing, which has made for an environment in which vendor claims about durability have actually gone untested," Kyp Walls, director of product management for Panasonic, said in a statement Aug.11.
"For example, many companies will use multiple devices to pass the 26 angle military-standard drop test method. This level of slack means that some products can be identified as mil-spec, yet not reflect real-world performance needs," Walls said.
In testing, the Toughbook 19, 30 and U1 were dropped 26 times each from heights of 4, 5 and 6 feet, although the standard allows manufacturers to use up to five devices to reach the magic number 26.
"Even more noteworthy," Panasonic said in the statement, "the same unit was used for the 26 drops at 4 feet, then the same unit was dropped again 26 times from a height of 5 feet and then the same exact unit was dropped 26 times from a height of 6 feet. In short, each unit tested survived 78 drops ... [from] heights of 4 to 6 feet."
The laptops also passed 20 tests applicable to mobile computers, as well as tests of their ability to withstand vehicle vibration and tests of the degree to which they're sealed, Panasonic announced. The ingress protection test was conducted in a dust chamber, in which talcum powder was blown at non-operating devices for 8 hours. Additionally, the devices were sprayed with water at a rate of 3.33 gallons per minute, "from all practicable directions."
The devices are backed by a three-year warranty.
Regarding military standard certification, "Tests can be modified, which is generally used as an excuse by vendors to make them easier to pass. However, Panasonic did not modify any MIL-STD-810G tests to try to water them down or make them easier," Walls said. "Rather, Panasonic has modified a test to make it more challenging and indicative of something a product could face in the real world."