General Dynamics Itronix GD8000 Rugged Laptop Offers Better Battery Life

General Dynamics Itronixs has now joined Dell, Lenovo and Panasonic in releasing a new rugged notebook in the last few months. This week, GDI is rolling out the GD800 rugged laptop, which is a long-awaited update to its GoBook XR-1. Improvements include increased durability, a bigger, more visible screen and better battery life - which comes courtesy of the same Intel technology that Panasonic also looked to for its latest rugged Toughbooks.

General Dynamics Itronix-which delights, understandably, in sharing images of its devices plunged into snowbanks, baking under the desert sun and being borne down on by truck tires-has released the newest addition to its rugged line, the GD8000 notebook.

With the release of the GD8000 rugged laptop, GDI joins Dell, Lenovo and Panasonic in updating their more durable lines of notebooks. Earlier this month, Dell released its Latitude E6400 XFR laptop, while Lenovo offered a demonstration of the durability of its ThinkPad line.

The GD8000 is intended for harsh environments such as those faced by military personnel, field service workers and first responders. The primary advancements since its previous offering, the GoBook XR-1, include increased ruggedness, longer battery time and a display that can be viewed in all conditions.

"[Our users] treat our notebooks like Craftsman tools," said Tim Hill, a product marketing manager with GDI, in an interview with eWEEK. "They stand on them, they throw them off trucks, they use them in driving rain. And any time a notebook has to leave the field, it's a pretty big event. If you think of someone doing tactical awareness in Iraq-if his notebook stops working for even 10 minutes, it isn't good for that guy."

Hill said GDI looked at the reasons why devices were returned, and spoke with its users, who said, overwhelmingly, "Do whatever it takes to make this thing stay in the field for five years. That's what we want."

The military standard for ruggedness is to drop a notebook from a height of 36 inches, turn it on, see if works, repeat; if it breaks, up to five notebooks can be used to accomplish 26 drops.

"We looked at that, and what really goes on in the field, and the height of Humvees and bucket trucks, and thought about what height they'd really be dropped from," said Hill. The GD8000 was instead tested to be dropped from a height of 42 inches 26 times, using a single notebook-that was turned on the whole time.

Similarly, GDI turned the industry-standard water test on its head. Instead of spraying the notebook with approximately 1.75 gallons of water over 15 minutes, the test became 30 gallons of water over 4 hours, in 40-mph winds.

"It's about the seals," said Hill. "It's like a dish sponge-once it gets saturated, water's going to pass through. We basically turned the notebook on and let it soak for 4 hours, just to make absolutely sure it's going to work in the field when someone out in the rain needs to do his job."

The screen size was increased from 12.1 inches to 13.3 inches, and GDI's DynaVue touch-screen display-which uses light-filtering technology to balance brightness with the contrast ratio, eliminating reflections that interfere with clarity-enables readability in all lighting conditions, including direct sunlight.

Battery life was improved from 8 hours to 10, through the combination of an Intel Core 2 Duo SL9400 processor (1.86GHz), a 120GB hard drive, 4GB of DDR 3 (double data rate 3) memory and the Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 4500MHD.

Hill explained that the battery hasn't changed, but in conjunction with the Intel technology, its performance is significantly improved. In January, Panasonic Toughbooks got a similar makeover with Intel inside.

The General Dynamics Itronix GD8000 includes GPS and is WWAN (wireless wide area network) ready, with integrated Qualcomm Gobi 2000, as well as Wi-Fi, WLAN (wireless LAN) and Bluetooth connectivity options.

The GDI GD8000 laptop is available with either the Microsoft Windows XP or Vista operating system, and pricing begins at $3,800.