You Can’t Kill This Laptop

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Getac X500

Photo by Jon Snyder/Wired
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Traditionally, rugged laptops have required a military-grade surplus of tradeoffs. Typically this has meant lower-speed, older CPUs, tiny hard drives, a dearth of ports and even prior-generation operating systems installed.

Whether the manufacturers were reluctant to change configurations regularly or buyers simply didn’t care about performance is a mystery. Either way, you got a bulky and durable machine, but one that crawled along at the most basic of tasks.

That changes with Getac’s X500: A rugged laptop that, finally, has the tech chops to back up its MIL-SPEC cred. Certified for MIL-STD-810G and IP65 (your standard shock, water and fungus resistance) and “ready” for MIL-STD-461F (which covers electromagnetic interference), the Getac X500 is a handle-equipped, 12.4-pound slab of magnesium alloy and rubber with plenty of power under the hood.

Internally, the X500 is powered by a 2.67GHz Core i7 CPU, 4GB of RAM and a 160GB solid state hard drive. Integrated graphics, you say? No: The X500 springs for an impressive Nvidia GeForce GT 330M. The 15.6-inch LCD only provides 1366×768-pixel resolution, but it’s designed for outdoor viewing, giving it a blinding level of brightness. (In fact, it’s quantitatively the brightest display I’ve ever tested.) The display also features a (resistive) touchscreen: It works with your fingertip, but the included stylus is a better bet for accuracy.

Performance is off-the-charts stellar. The X500 turned in near-record marks on both general productivity apps and, shockingly, gaming framerates. That’s excellent news for our military readers: The X500 is just as good for killing actual insurgents as it is for virtual ones.

I also tested the X500’s rugged chops by dropping it several times, dousing it with water and even parking a Subaru Forester on it. Damage was never worse than surface scuffs and cosmetics: The pavement scraped up the underside of the laptop and shredded the rubber feet, but those appear to be easily replaceable and designed to take some punishment. The photos above were all shot after I rained abuse upon it, and as you can see, it doesn’t look battered or frayed.

Gripes, aside from the beastly size, are moderate. The fan is so loud and powerful that it blew papers off my desk from a distance of 18 inches. The touchpad is dismally unresponsive, making it one of the few times I actually preferred to use a laptop’s touchscreen to the traditional pointer.

Whether you’re out there in the field or find yourself playing the role of Chairborne Ranger, Getac’s latest has guts enough for the toughest of tasks. Of course, if the weight doesn’t give you a hernia, the price might. But since it’s likely being bought on Uncle Sam’s dime, well, what do you care?

WIRED Amazingly tough. Doesn’t skimp on performance. LCD viewable in everything short of direct sunlight. All ports protected under secure, but easy to use, snap closures.

TIRED Puny battery life — barely two hours — will not outlast forced march to Kandahar. No USB 3.0. Two serial ports but no parallel port? Come on, Getac! Hulk-inspired looks won’t exactly help you out with the ladies at Starbucks.

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