Semi-rugged laptops are used by professionals in various industries who need a reliable devices that withstand extreme conditions that a regular business-class device cannot do.
24 Aug 2021

The Complete Guide to Semi-Rugged Laptops

Mission-critical can be a relative term. When it comes to businesses, we often refer to servers or Wi-Fi access points as mission-critical technology. But for the individual worker, your personal computer is essential to doing your job, especially in the wake of digital transformation in the public and private sectors. We’re always online now, always connected, and becoming more so.

However, the average consumer-grade or business-grade laptop is designed for indoor use in clean, safe, climate-controlled spaces. 

If you use it outdoors, in a vehicle, or in an area where welding or machine work is done, you risk compromising the user experience and damaging the machine itself. The latter risk was more tolerable when your IT department could quickly deal with device failures. But with remote and hybrid working arrangements becoming the norm, this timely resolution is becoming harder.

If your IT team cannot resolve operational failure in your primary work computer, you’ll need a device that goes above and beyond what business-class can do. Have you considered semi-rugged?


What Qualifies as Rugged? 

What Is a Semi-Rugged Laptop? 

Rugged and Semi-Rugged compared 

What Else Can a Semi-Rugged Laptop Do? 

A Good Semi-Rugged Can Be Well Worth It 

Frequently Asked Questions

Discover Getac’s semi-rugged laptop – the S410 

What Qualifies as Rugged?

Semi-rugged or fully-rugged computing devices are designed for operation outside air-conditioned indoor spaces. They are designed for a longer lifecycle than an enterprise- or consumer-grade machine. This reduces the frequency of malfunctions and damage. They also offer multifactor user authentication (recently ordered by President Biden for all computers used by the US federal government) and multiple high-speed wireless connection options, including Wi-Fi, LTE/5G, or even Li-Fi. 

Rugged computers are operable in winter cold or summer heat (-21oC to 50oC at the minimum) and using work gloves. They’re also certified waterproof, dustproof, and tolerant of drops, impact, and other abuse. And those certifications are essential. Any vendor can put a metal chassis on a laptop and call it rugged, but that’s not enough. 

A truly rugged device will have at least two forms of certification. One is Military Standard (MIL-STD), which proves the device has undergone a series of harsh tests originally devised for military equipment. The other is the Ingress Protection rating, which verifies water and dust-proofing. Without both certifications, you should consider a device’s ruggedness to be nothing more than marketing. 

Find out more about Getac’s semi-rugged laptop, the S410.

Semi-rugged devices work well for industries like in manufacturing where physical risks to devices are not trivial, or when connectivity and information security must be maintained.

What Is a Semi-Rugged Laptop?

Device manufacturers designed semi-rugged laptops to function well in challenging environments. They are similar to rugged laptops but do not adopt some more extreme features such as reduced drop tolerance or waterproofing.

They are also made for professionals who work a portion of the day in hard hat regions but still want an office-style PC with a full keyboard. These include additional non-office settings, including workshops, manufacturing floors, automobiles, and, occasionally, the outdoors, where safety and climate control cannot be ensured.

Industries that commonly use semi-rugged laptops include automotive, manufacturing, and law enforcement, but practically speaking, any industry or enterprise where: 

  • Physical risks to your device are not trivial

  • Mobile connectivity and information security must always be maintained

  • You might need your laptop to run on battery power for a full shift or longer

  • You would be better served by a semi-rugged than a consumer or business-grade device.

The same applies if you use your device under direct sunlight. The average laptop screen produces about 250 nits of brightness. Still, comfortable viewing under direct sunlight requires at least 800 nits. This requires serious battery capability if you need such viewing anytime – a good-quality semi-rugged offers both. 

Rugged and Semi-Rugged Compared

Getac recognizes two categories of rugged devices: fully rugged and semi-rugged.

A Getac semi-rugged laptop will offer the enhanced battery, screen, connectivity, security, and temperature capabilities mentioned in the previous section. These devices will also be certified tolerant of moderate levels of abuse (MIL-STD-810H) and withstand a 3-foot drop without damage or operational interruption. It will be usable on a vibrating surface. This device can operate in dusty conditions typical of a machine shop, mechanic’s garage, or during brief periods of moderate rain (IP53 rating).

In short, a semi-rugged laptop offers the same heightened technical capabilities as a fully-rugged laptop while omitting certain extreme and/or niche tolerances. 

Users note that some device vendors will try to pass off “business-rugged” devices as semi-rugged. But the term “business-rugged” is problematic. It has no consistent definition, which is why Getac doesn’t use it.

A business-rugged laptop might have the exact tolerances of a semi-rugged one, or it might not. Look for the certifications to ensure your device can meet the demands of your environment.

What Else Can a Semi-Rugged Laptop Do?

Standard laptops require maintenance, sometimes a lot of it, when they are often subjected to significant computing or networking workloads. But a semi-rugged laptop can drastically reduce your need for maintenance under heavy strain. 

Additionally, business laptops are often designed for standard office duties rather than industrial ones. They might not offer the legacy, or industry-specific device fit you need. It may also not integrate easily with any custom software you use. But a Getac semi-rugged can fit right in for several industries. 

Semi-rugged laptops enable law enforcement professionals to do their work with ease and convenience.

Law Enforcement

Our semi-rugged devices are well-suited for in-vehicle patrol operations. They are simple to mount, visible in direct sunshine, resilient to the stress and vibration of a high-speed pursuit, and specially integrated with ANPR software and Police National Computer (PNC) access.

Out of the vehicle, their long battery life, full keyboard, and enhanced connectivity come in handy during evidence collection, forensic work, and various other types of paperwork. 

Automotive & Manufacturing

Our semi-rugged laptops are dust and mist-tolerant, easy to mount, and work-glove usable. They can withstand the typical abuses encountered in a garage, workshop, machine shop, or factory floor.

We have engineered our semi-rugged devices for any industry-specific and legacy interfaces you need. Getac semi-rugged laptops also integrate easily with your Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES), and quality inspection software. 


With their modest weight, sunlight readability, and moderate rain tolerances, Getac semi-rugged laptops work well for outdoor tasks done by water companies, telecoms, and electricity providers (assuming no risk of the explosive atmosphere). Their extended battery life is handy during long work shifts spent inspecting or meter readings. Their dedicated GPS enables easy workforce management, survey work, and Geographic Information System (GIS) use.

With their smooth integration with EAM and CMMS software, asset management and maintenance management have fewer hassles. 

A Good Semi-Rugged Can Be Well Worth It

A good semi-rugged laptop can offer a significant step up for your organization in terms of capability and build quality without undue trade-offs in terms of awkwardness.

Getac’s S410 semi-rugged model is only 1.5-inches thick and starts at a little over five pounds. This is a modest increase over an enterprise-class notebook of the same screen size.

It also omits the rubberized padded corners or other “toolbelt & workboot” effects typical of other rugged models. Users can bring the device to a coffee shop, office, or boardroom without seeming out of place. 

Semi-rugged laptops are priced similarly to a modest step of a high-end business notebook. However, the superior reliability, capability, flexibility, and after-sale support you get with semi-rugged laptops are well worth the investment.  

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a rugged laptop?  

Device manufacturers designed rugged laptops to withstand extreme environments and continue to perform effectively. Features will include drop and shock protection, reduced screen glare, and a wide range of operating temperatures. 

What is a semi-rugged laptop? 

A semi-rugged laptop will have many adaptations for harsh conditions. However, these will not be as extensive as fully rugged laptops. For example, drop protection height could be slightly shorter, so semi-rugged laptop designs can be smaller and more portable. 

How does a semi-rugged laptop differ from a standard laptop? 

Besides adaptations for harsh conditions, a semi-rugged laptop performs the same way as a standard laptop with equivalent processors and specifications.

Discover Getac’s semi-rugged laptop – the S410 

Discover Getac’s semi-rugged laptop, the Getac S410. If you’ve got further questions about semi-rugged laptops, contact us. Find out more by registering for our newsletter, RUGGED

As one of the leading rugged computer providers, Getac offers extensive rugged computing product lines and serves a wide range of vertical markets.

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