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Twinhead Durabook D13RY review: Twinhead Durabook D13RY

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The Good Rugged construction built to military specifications; wide-screen display; built-in smart card reader; lengthy two-year warranty.

The Bad More expensive than traditional (nonrugged) laptops; somewhat heavy for its size; mediocre battery life; keyboard slightly cramped; lacks WWAN option; limited phone support hours.

The Bottom Line The otherwise average Twinhead Durabook D13RY earns its high price with military-grade rugged construction.

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5.4 Overall
  • Design 6
  • Features 7
  • Performance 5
  • Battery 4
  • Support 5

If the Twinhead Durabook D13RY looks familiar, that's because it is: the rugged laptop uses the same case as the Polywell Ruffbook M410ic. However, the Ruffbook has a 14.1-inch standard-aspect dsiplay, while the Durabook D13RY includes a 13.3-inch wide-aspect screen and a Webcam. Also, Twinhead has constructed the Durabook D13RY to meet military specifications for durability, a claim which Polywell never made. We actually like the Durabook a bit more than its doppelganger. The Durabook's wide-aspect display is better suited to today's work and play, and when it comes to performance the Durabook does a better job of keeping up with competing systems. That said, the Durabook D13RY is more expensive than similarly configured traditional laptops--our configuration cost $1,945--so we can really only recommend it for buyers who need a laptop to withstand heavy abuses in environments beyond the home, office, or coffee shop.

Price as reviewed / Starting price $1,945 / $1,239
Processor 2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7200
Memory 2GB of 667MHz DDR2
Hard drive 120GB at 5,400rpm
Graphics Mobile Intel 945GM Express (integrated)
Chipset Mobile Intel 945GM
Operating system Windows Vista Business
Dimensions (WDH) 12.3x10.1x1.5 inches
Screen size (diagonal) 13.3 inches (wide-aspect is assumed)
System weight / Weight with AC adapter 5.9 / 6.8 pounds
Category thin-and-light

The biggest selling point for the Durabook D13RY is its rugged construction, built in accordance with military standard 810F to withstand shocks, drops, and spills. While we don't have a formal torture-testing procedure, we did give the laptop a solid beating to ensure the manufacturer's claims weren't false. We dropped the laptop (while it was running) from chest height onto thinly carpeted floor with no effect; we tried dropping it multiple times at awkward angles and were particularly impressed that the display hinge survived quite a few brutal knocks. We dumped two eight-ounce cups of water onto the laptop's keyboard and watched as the Durabook D13RY continued to run. When we turned it upside down, a remarkable amount of water poured out of the system; we doubt your average laptop could survive this level of abuse. These unscientific tests, however fun, can't simulate the effects of prolonged rugged conditions, but we do think the Durabook D13RY's magnesium case and spill-resistant keyboard will bring peace of mind to users whose job conditions or lack of coordination have destroyed other laptops.

With all that ruggedness, it's no surprise that the Durabook D13RY tips the scales at 5.9 pounds without its AC adapter. While still falling within the thin-and-light category, it's almost heavy enough to qualify as a midsize laptop, making the Durabook too heavy to carry every day.

Based on the laptop's size, we expected to find a standard-aspect 14.1-inch display inside the Durabook D13RY's square lid, but instead we discovered a 13.3-inch wide-aspect screen with a Webcam incorporated into the wide bezel. (For reference, 13.3 inches is the size of the MacBook's display.) With a native resolution of 1,280x800, the display is easy to read and offers enough screen real estate for most uses short of high-res image editing. The screen includes a glossy but largely unreflective finish that also makes for great movie watching.

The boxy shape of the Durabook D13RY demands a somewhat cramped keyboard, with a slightly shortened space bar and small Ctrl, Enter, Shift, Caps Lock, and Tab keys, among others. The compact touch pad was likewise a bit too small for our tastes, though workable. We liked the responsive, rubberized activation buttons. Little else resides on the keyboard deck; a power button and a Wi-Fi on/off button fit above the keyboard, while two speakers on the lower corners emit sound that's extremely tinny, even for a laptop.

The Twinhead Durabook D13RY has a more or less average selection of ports and connections for a thin-and-light laptop, with a few unexpected extras. We particularly like the integrated smart card reader, which lets you add a level of security beyond just passwords. There's also a serial port for those few users still working with older peripherals. We only wish, given the likelihood of the Durabook straying far from traditional office environments, that Twinhead offered WWAN connectivity as an option. (You can, however, slip your carrier's WWAN card into the Durabook's PC Card slot.) We also wish the laptop's three USB ports were spread out around the case instead of clustered side by side, which can lead to cord crowding. Those hoping to take the Durabook D13RY to the desert or other non-computer-friendly environments should note that it lacks covers to protect its ports from the elements, a feature found on the more expensive Itronix Hummer GoBook VR-1. Also worth noting: the laptop's tray-loading DVD drive can be found on the front of the system, which is either convenient for loading discs or uncomfortably in the way, depending on your preference.

  Twinhead Durabook D13RY Average for thin-and-light category
Video VGA-out VGA-out, S-Video
Audio Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks
Data 3 USB 2.0, mini-FireWire, serial port, multiformat memory card reader, smart card reader 3 USB 2.0, mini-FireWire, multiformat memory card reader
Expansion PC Card PC Card or ExpressCard
Networking modem, Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11 a/b/g Wi-Fi, optional Bluetooth modem, Ethernet, 802.11 a/b/g Wi-Fi, optional Bluetooth, optional WWAN
Optical drive DVD burner DVD burner

On CNET Labs' mobile benchmarks, the Durabook D13RY scored on a par with the $1,789 Dell Inspiron E1505, which included a discrete ATI graphics card but otherwise identical components. In a field that included systems based on Intel's latest Centrino Pro platform (the $1,999 Sony VAIO FZ180) and AMD's Turion 64 X2 processor (the $1,599 HP Compaq 6515b), the Durabook D13RY performed respectably, but fell consistently at the back of the pack. The Twinhead Durabook D13RY provides adequate performance for most typical uses, but clearly its rugged construction remains its main selling point.

We were surprised to see the Durabook D13RY was stocked with a battery that's smaller than the batteries found on such ultraportable laptops as the 11.1-inch Sony VAIO TXN17. The Durabook D13RY lasted 1 hour, 46 minutes in our resource-intensive DVD battery drain tests--a few minutes less than the Polywell Ruffbook M410ic. That's a little less than average for a laptop in the thin-and-light category, and disappointingly low for a system that is presumably designed for extreme conditions far away from a wall socket. The company does offer a larger, extended-capacity battery for $59 that it claims will add about another hour to its life (CNET did not test this battery).

Twinhead backs the Durabook D13RY with a two-year limited warranty--twice as long as the typical laptop warranty. The upgrade to three years of coverage costs just $75, while express service options are available for an additional fee. Unfortunately, the manufacturer's customer service staff is available by phone or e-mail only Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. PT. The company's support Web site includes some basic driver downloads and a general FAQ, but we got a page error when we tried to access the product-specific FAQ for the Durabook D13RY.

Multimedia multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
HP Compaq 6515b
Durabook D13RY

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