Competition in the rugged and semi-rugged notebook space is about to get a lot tougher.
Panasonic and General Dynamics Itronix, two of the leading vendors of rugged and semi-rugged notebooks, are each preparing revamped laptop models based on the new Intel Centrino mobile platform, which the chip maker officially launched in May.
Unlike conventional laptops for consumers and business customers, rugged and semi-rugged notebooks, which were originally developed for military use, have their internal components, such as the hard drive, protected in shock-resistant casings and are more resistant to dust and water than traditional laptops.
While companies like Panasonic and General Dynamics Itronix still sell these notebooks for military and governmental use, vendors are also now beginning to market these PCs for workers who spend most of their time outdoors or in tough environments, such as police officers, fire fighters, EMTs (emergency medical technicians) and construction crews.
While mostly a niche market, the rugged and semi-rugged notebook space got a boost earlier this year when Dell announced that it would offer its first semi-rugged model.
Starting June 4, Panasonic, which is based in Secaucus, N.J., will begin selling its semi-rugged ToughBook CF-52 notebook, which features the Centrino Duo platform, a new 15.4-inch widescreen WUXGA display and enhanced wireless LAN and wireless WAN capabilities.
Panasonic will sell the CF-52 with two different configurations. One will feature Intels Core 2 Duo T7300 processor, with a clock speed of 2.0GHz, the PM965 Express chip set, 1GB of DDR2 (double data rate) RAM and a 120GB SATA (Serial ATA) hard drive. The other will feature Intels T7100 processor, with a clock speed of 1.8GHz, the GM965 Express chip set, 1GB of DDR2 RAM and an 80GB SATA hard drive.
The optimized configuration will sell for $2,499, while the standard configuration has a starting price of $1,649, according to Panasonic.
"The CF-52 is the first widescreen notebook in the Toughbook line," said Kyp Walls, Panasonics director of product management, in an e-mail. "In addition to being built on the new Intel Santa Rosa chip set, the new widescreen semi-rugged Toughbook CF-52 is equipped with the Trusted Platform Module security chip, the Computrace software agent in BIOS and an optional fingerprint scanner and SmartCard reader."
General Dynamics Itronix, which is headquartered in Spokane Valley, Wash., is rolling out two new PCs in the coming weeks. First, the company will offer its own semi-rugged notebook based on the Centrino Duo platform—the GoBook VR-2—on June 5.
The GoBook VR-2 will use Intels Core 2 Duo T7300 processor and Intels 965GM Express chip set. The notebook also offers 512MB of DDR2 RAM and a hard drive with an 80GB capacity.
The VR-2, which weighs 6.2 pounds, will also feature a 13.3-inch display with a new technology from General Dynamics Itronix called DynaVue, which allows for better outdoor viewing. The laptop also offers 802.11a/b wireless LAN capabilities as well as support for the draft 802.11n specifications.
The GoBook VR-2 starts at $3,500.
Then, starting June 12, General Dynamics Itronix plans to offer a fully rugged, ultramobile PC, the GoBook MR-1, which offers the same sort of magnesium alloy casing featured in its other rugged and semi-rugged notebooks. However, this PC will weigh only two pounds and use an Intel Core Solo U1400 microprocessor, an ultra-low volt chip with a clock speed of 1.2GHz.
The MR-1 will also offer users a choice of a 16GB or 32GB SSD (solid state drive).
The starting price for the MR-1 is $4,450, according to General Dynamics Itronix.