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Expedition Laptop - Considering Panasonic ToughBook

Discussion in 'Camping & Outdoor Gear' started by Quixote, Aug 16, 2006.

  1. Quixote

    Quixote

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    I was considering the ToughBook as a mounted item in truck. We're planning a 30k mile expedition over a variety of terrain but not into warzones or hostile territory. The laptop is for inside truck or indoor use only but will see fair amount of shock and some degree of dust.

    Panasonic makes two lines of toughbook - a fully ruggedized version (ToughBook 18 & 29) and a "semi-ruggedized" line (ToughBook 51, W4, Y4, etc.).

    Does anyone have any experience with either of these products? I'm kinda leaning towards the semi-rugged versions to save on cost.
     
  2. uberhahn

    uberhahn

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    Itronix as an option

    Hmmm...

    I used to have a Toughbook as a work computer. Durable in the full Rugged version. I have no experience with the "semi-rugged" version.

    Why not consider something like an Itronix. Not the prettiest, but definitely rugged. Touchscreen can be useful in a vehicle. Can be found cheaply on Ebay and others.

    What functions do you need from it?

    http://cgi.ebay.com/Rugged-Itronix-GoBook-IX250-Touchscreen-CD-Wireless_W0QQitemZ160018025533QQihZ006QQcategoryZ177QQrdZ1QQcmdZViewItem
     
  3. uberhahn

    uberhahn

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  4. Quixote

    Quixote

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    Must Have:
    Run GPS route planning sw from Garmin
    Run ECU monitoring sw from AutoEnginuity
    Play MP3s

    Nice to have:
    Run photoshop
    Play DVDs
    Burn DVDs
    Run Internet Browser

    I did consider a used Itronix but discarded the idea since the rugged laptops may have seen rough use. I will have a Dell Inspiron as a backup to perform all the above tasks but as far as possible I do not want to have the laptop running while I am operating the vehicle.

    The new Itronix are the same price as the ToughBooks. I was leaning towards the ToughBook since a coworker equipped his Everest Expedition with them and they performed well.
     
  5. LEXUSBEN

    LEXUSBEN

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    I can vouch for the full version (18). We have been testing them at work under "actual shop" conditions to be used as their new scan tool. I beat the shi$ out of the first one we had. Very suprised how tought they actually are. Dropped, threw, slammed, you name it and we did it. After hitting the concrete floor probably at least 75 times the screen finally cracked. I had the hard drive pop out on a few occasions and the comp just keeps looking for it, you pop it back in and back to normal, no reboot or anything. I realize this is pretty extreme for what you want but just know it is pretty tough. all external ports are sealed to keep out the junk.

    Besides how often do you get to beat the crap out of a $3500 laptop with no consequences.

    I'll never forget my managers face when he was standing in front of me and I threw it on the floor just to see his reaction :eek:

    Anyway, my .02

    ben
     
  6. aim

    aim

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    I set up a couple of the semi-rugged ones up for people at work. They are nice and stable; the default Panasonic software doesn't have too much crap. The laptops travel a lot (including, apparently, on small boats), get dropped and still work and look fine after a couple of years. In the smaller lines, you get a slightly too expensive, very small, slightly slow, very full-featured laptop (the only one with a built-in optical drive that we could find at the time). The owners love them.
     
  7. Doug_S

    Doug_S

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    I've used a Toughbook as a work computer and love it. They are really rugged and fully dust proof. If you can afford the fully ruggedized version, I wouldn't hesitate to get one.
     
  8. Epic Ed

    Epic Ed

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    Complete overkill for what you're going to need. Why spend the extra bucks on the Toughbook to get features you're not going to need? If you're not going to get shovels-full of sand or streams of water on your laptop, why pay for the spendy technology that you get with a Toughbook when you could cut your budget in 1/2 by getting a rugged and very capable ThinkPad?

    The new ThinkPads have an "airbag" for the hard drive and that's about all the hard core protection you're going to need for your circumstances. We have hundreds of the R51's and T43's deployed to our employees around the country. Many of these guys are working out of non-climate controlled environments in military surplus warehouses. They get a lot of dust, dirt, and abuse and we rarely have any service issues or hardware failures. These guys are hard on their laptops. IMO you'd be much better served by getting a nicely featured ThinkPad.

    Ed
     
  9. Quixote

    Quixote

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    But are the T43's in a mobile environment, i.e. sales people, police officers, etc?

    A moving environment is much much harsher than a stationary non-climate controlled setting. I am concerned about shock resistance as the running laptop will be subjected to constant motion over rough roads.
     
  10. Epic Ed

    Epic Ed

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    Are you running a Baja race with the thing mounted on the dash? The gear for Everest Expeditions needs to survive thousands of miles of travel via everything from rickshaws to over crowded buses to clumsy porters. Plus, they have to survive extremes in temperature and altitude. Maybe I'm under estimating the type of conditions you plan to encounter while traveling, but I'm guessing that the worst you'll encounter are long stretches of washer-board dirt roads with the AC keeping the cabin nice and comfortable. If you have a good mount for it and put it away in a case when you're doing the hard core off roading a Thinkpad would be fine.

    I bought my Cruiser to build it up as an expedition vehicle, too. I'm just getting started, but all you fellas out there who are going through the process are an inspiration. Let us know how this works out for you.

    Ed
     
  11. MSGGrunt

    MSGGrunt

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    A normal computer will fail in a vehicle at some point in time. They are just not designed for the vibrations. I am running a used ($225.00, from Ebay) Itronix ix250 in my 97 FZJ80. This is the same company who makes the ToughBook. Believe me it is rugged. I also bought a CD/DVD drive for it, am running Delorme's Street Atlas 2006 and their Topo program. I have my digital camera software installed and have never had a problem with this set-up.
     
  12. Mark W

    Mark W

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    Don't think that you will not stress a regular laptop using it in your rig. I went through three HP laptops n as many seasons on the trail.

    I'm running one of the Itronics Gobooks now. So far I love it. It has been repeatedly splashed with water and mud and taken some serious pounding over long rough trails. No problems so far.

    I bought it use off of eBay and it arrived, kinda dirty but in othewise perfect condition. Works flawlessly. Cleaned up perfectly too.

    The touch screen is a BIG plus in the rig.


    Mark...
     
  13. NMuzj100

    NMuzj100

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    I use a Toughbook everyday at work and I like them better as computers than any other laptop I've used. I won't say they are abused but they are undocked and carried around in addition to regular mobile operation.

    For in-vehicle use on a regular basis you do need a specialized computer. A regular laptop will not hold up. My employer tried to cheap out and use regular Gateway computers and they were always going down.
     
  14. Quixote

    Quixote

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    My wife was giving me grief this morning about being a cheap-skate!:D. She said "You want to cheap out on the expedition, and then go spend money on putting a race suspension in the Miata!"

    Message heard loud and clear. Panasonic ToughBook 18, 1GB RAM, with RAM-mount is going in.
     
  15. Beowulf

    Beowulf

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    Can you clearly see the display of the Itronix and the Panasonic Toughbook inside the vehicle in bright daylight?

    -B-
     
  16. Mark W

    Mark W

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    The Go book is surprisingly (to me at least) viewable. I have no problems with it in the rig. You'll want to position it to minimize glare though. There's only so much you can expect out of an LCD in broad daylight. :(


    Mark...
     
  17. Beowulf

    Beowulf

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    Understood, but I have heard there are some notebook/tablet PCs that have been optimized for use in bright sunlight. Police and other public service use demands an LCD capable of being seen at night as well as in the daytime.

    -B-
     
  18. Quixote

    Quixote

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    I do not have the laptop yet, but on the Panasonic web site it states that the laptop is specifically designed for maximum visibility in bright conditions. Whatever that means!

    On the occasions I have used my current Dell in the car it has been bright enough, so I'm hoping the ToughBook will be better.
     
  19. NMuzj100

    NMuzj100

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    For the Toughbook. (I'm using the CF-29) Yes. Although some fine details can be hard to see in serious glare. I also find that my polarized sunglasses help reduce the daytime glare.

    It has an adjustable brightness level although I tend to just go from brightest (during the day) to the lowest (after sundown).

    The biggest problem is the tiny scratches that eventually build on the touchscreen. They cause most of the glare problem. Invest in some quality microfibers to clean the screen. I clean mine at the beginning of every shift with a good microfiber that removes the dust and the hand oils quite easily.
    .
     
    Last edited: Aug 22, 2006
  20. Martin White

    Martin White

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    I've had extensive use of the toughbook line at work where they are abused under the most difficult conditions you can imagine, and they hold up very, very well. They are the only computers we use in vehicles. So, in my case, nothing but positive things to say about the toughbook line.
     
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