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March 24, 2009
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Itronix wants title of "most rugged" police notebook computer

By Kevin L. Jones
Product Editor


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Itronix's new rugged notebook, the GD8000.(Courtesy of Itronix)

General Dynamics Itronix recently released the GD8000, a rugged notebook that its manufacturer claims is “the ‘most rugged’ rugged notebook available.”

The new computer is the next generation of the company’s flagship rugged notebook computer, the GoBook XR-1. With the GD8000, Itronix hopes to become the #1 rugged notebook manufacturer.

“The GD8000 is going to be a player to reckon with,” said Tim Hill, group manager of product marketing for Itronix.

To back their claim of “most rugged,” the company changed its testing protocol, increasing their demands for the equipment well beyond the “MIL-STE 810F” ruggedness standards set by the U.S. Military. For example, the military requires that ruggedness be tested by dropping a computer from a height of 36 inches, 26 times, and after each drop it’s to be turned on to see if it’s working. If the computer breaks during the test, it can be replaced up to five times and still be considered passing.

“That doesn’t mimic real life,” said Hill.

For Itronix’s tests, only one computer could be used and it had to survive all 26 drops from a height of 42 inches – a more realistic height for the computer to be dropping from, according to Hill. Also, the computer had to be on during all 26 drops.

The company also modified the military’s tests for water-damage. Instead of testing to see if their computers worked after spraying it with 1.75 gallons of water for over 15 minutes, Itronix sprayed their computers with 30 gallons of water for over 4 hours, in 40-mph winds.

“You can clean it with a hose,” said Hill.

And the company didn’t limit its testing to sterile laboratories either. According to Hill, when the company’s marketing division got their hands on one of the computers, they decided to push its limits – dropping it from a two-story building on to grass, running it over with a pickup truck, and even throwing it from a bridge into the Spokane River.

“This is what happens when the marketing guys get a hold of these things,” said Hill.


Itronix hopes to over take Panasonic's position in the rugged notbook market with the GD8000.(Courtesy of Itronix)

Yet, no matter the punishment, the computer worked, and the marketing guys have the video to prove it.

As impressive as this all sounds, one person certainly isn’t impressed: Kyp Walls, director of product management for Panasonic, makers of the Toughbook.

Walls called Itronix’s claims to the most rugged notebook title “interesting” but when told Itronix’s new testing methods, he seemed nonplussed.

“We’re a pretty conservative company in general. If we publish that our computers can survive a 36-inch drop, it will survive more than that,” said Walls.

As an example, Walls cited a recent email his company received from a police department radio technician in Mo.: “I accidentally dropped my Toughbook 19 laptop from a perch 26 feet up, and it landed on a concrete floor. When I went down to recover it, I was astonished to find it still running my software application. The casing was slightly damaged, but all the components have been working just fine since then.”

Because Itronix released the GD8000 this week, it hasn’t yet been used in any real life situation, and for Walls, the true test for any computer is how it handles in the user’s environment. Walls said this can best be quantified by the annual failure rates, or how many of the computer sold are reported to have failed in the field. Currently, Panasonic’s Toughbooks hold a less than 2 percent failure rate.

“We invite Itronix to share their annual failure rates,” said Walls. “If it beats ours, we’ll consider their claims a whole lot more seriously than we do today.”



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