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Notebook PCs for the accident-prone

Panasonic upgrades its Toughbook line, and General Dynamics shows off a tiny drop and spill-proof notebook.

Mobile computing can be a haphazard business, and new notebooks from General Dynamics and Panasonic give their owners permission to drop them (from a reasonable distance) as often as they like.

GoBook MR-1
General Dynamics Itronix miniscule rugged notebook PC Erica Ogg/CNET

General Dynamics' GoBook MR-1 claims to be the smallest fully rugged ultramobile PC, and it may very well be. It weighs 2 pounds, and is about the size of a small jewelry box. It was made to have all the same features and capabilities of the full-size GoBook XR-1 but in a more compact form factor. That means four wireless connections: Wireless LAN, Bluetooth, GPS, and Wireless Wide Area Network. It's built on Intel's Napa platform. (NOTE: We goofed when we first posted this, giving the wrong platform. The GoBook is indeed built on Napa.)

All of General Dynamics' touchscreen notebooks, which are cold- and heat-resistant, now come with its proprietary outdoor viewing capability, called DynaVue. Outdoor viewing is one of the most confounding problems related to rugged computing. General Dynamics' solution is to put the polarizing film closer to the top of the touchscreen underneath the glass to reduce reflection.

Consumers aren't General Dynamics' customers--the company sells to militaries, telecom and utility workers, and public safety officers.

Toughbook 52
Panasonic's new Toughbook 52 Panasonic

Panasonic's new Toughbook 52, which replaces the 51 series, is aimed at business users as well as government, utility and safety workers. The 52 model adds a widescreen display and a carrying handle, but keeps the magnesium alloy case and shock-mounted hard drive of its predecessor. It's built on the Santa Rosa architecture, and has a Core 2 Duo processor.

Though it's semi-rugged (as opposed to fully rugged), Panasonic still promises the Toughbook will survive a 1-foot drop on concrete, and that the removable hard drive can weather a 3-foot drop. Besides being drop-proof, it's also apparently spill-proof--the notebook has a special system so that any liquid spilled on the laptop is drained out of the bottom without getting inside.