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Durability for portability

Notebooks with durability

Wi-Fi hot spots are popping up everywhere public and private while mobile broadband is developing by leaps and bounds. Processors are drawing less energy from stronger batteries while laptops are becoming smaller, lighter, and overall more portable. It won't be long before we can stream internet radio all day in the park as easy as tuning into an FM station. But can your notebook and speaker setup sit in the moist and dirty grass like a boombox can?

Notebooks, in general, are very vulnerable outside. Dirt can get into ports, liquids can spill onto the keyboard, and pin connectors can bend. Most don't have handles, are flimsy, brittle, and have narrow operating temperature ranges. With few exceptions, consumer notebooks are not rugged enough to leave the living room.

There needs to be an ultra portable notebook to take advantage of the web that is now being beamed to our parks, beaches, and camp sites. They will need anti-glare screens to see in the sun, a mouse controller that is sturdy, and, of course, resistant to the elements. There's only a few models that come close: industrial duty laptops including the Panasonic ToughBook, and the OLPC.

The ToughBook is the consumer version of an industrial laptop tank. They meet military standards of reliability but weigh more than some desktops. The OLPCs are light weight and feature rounded edges, sealed rubber keyboard, and alternate charging sources like solar cells and foot peddles. Since they are designed for children in developing nations, however, they won't run software you're probably used to or store your media files.

We will start to see notebooks with the durability features of the OLPC. As portability becomes less synonymous weight and increasingly includes durability, manufacturers will see that consumers would rather add four ounces of rubber to protect their investment than remove eight ounces and sacrifice an optical drive.

In the mean time, check out the Lenovo 3000 series. The operating temperature range is the best I've seen among mainstream notebooks. You can find notebooks with acceptable operating temperature range of 32 F to 95 F listed by price here. They are fairly priced and you can add a soft or hard shell case. But where do I find rubber plugs for the ports and how do I protect the keyboard from spills?