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Discussion Starter #1
Hey All,

So I've searched through all the threads around Toughbooks and most seem pretty dated. In fact, some of the models mentioned in the threads aren't even offered anymore from Panasonic.

In the meantime, it seems like Dell has made good inroads into the rugged market. As with anytime Dell enters a market...prices plunge. In fact, looking at Dell Outlet right now, one can find a Latitude XFR with a 2.2 Core 2 Duo proc and 2+ gig of memory, DVD/RW for ~$1300. Thats about the price of a low end chart plotter.

If you keep perusing and doing *MANUAL* searches of all the configurations available on outlet, a XFR 2.2 Core 2 Duo w/2 Gb RAM, 64 GB Solid State hard drive, TOUCHSCREEN!! can be had for ~$1700. Take out the solid state drive and its ~$1500.

What are opinions on using this at the helm. Yes, you'd have to wire in a 12v outlet at the helm and craft up a waterproof power connection...but for the versatility offered by having a laptop with a nice 14.1" touchscreen at the helm and the ability to use $600 Raytech RNS or Bluechart at the helm rather than $300 chart cards...its really appealing to me.

A navpod with a couple of clean straps or bungee cords to mount it tight to helm...then pack it up suitcase style and take it ashore. Its MILSPEC so, it should be rugged enough for spray.

Anyone have comments on these screens in direct sunlight? What about water damage?

Anyway...I have a C80 on my (soon to be delivered) Beneteau 343....but I'm not enthused about the chart costs. I could move the C80 to the nav station and replace the helm plotter with one of these. Heck, I could sell the C80 and get two of these XFRs for that price!

By the way, these aren't "refurbished" in the traditional sense...they were ordered misconfigured and returned unused. Rules/regs say that they cant be sold new anymore, so they're immediately put on outlet. And even if ordered refurbished, Dell has 3 year mail in warranty on these units.

I'm very intrigued, but I'd love to know peoples' real world experiences with these ruggedized touchscreen capable laptops at the helm....post 2006 ;)

Dell Factory Outlet
 

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I'm not sure about a lap top at the helm. I've sailed through some rough weather that probable would have destroyed it. A lap top in the nav station would be great. But I will leave it to greater minds for the helm position.
Personally I would not buy a dell. Four years ago I promised them that I would never ever buy another dell product as long as I live. And I never brake a promise.:)
 

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Discussion Starter #3
I'm not sure about a lap top at the helm. I've sailed through some rough weather that probable would have destroyed it. A lap top in the nav station would be great. But I will leave it to greater minds for the helm position.
Personally I would not buy a dell. Four years ago I promised them that I would never ever buy another dell product as long as I live. And I never brake a promise.:)

Well, this isn't your typical laptop. These are ruggedized laptops. Take a look at this feature list:

* Solid die cast magnesium alloy chassis
* Optional integrated touch screen
* Solid State Hard Drives (SSHD)
* Shock isolated protection for hard drives and LCD display
* Sealed keyboard capable of withstanding the elements
* Super-bright 500nit LCD DirectVue anti-glare display

Was your opinion based on having a a generic consumer grade laptop on the helm, or one of these ruggedized machines?
 

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It really doesn't matter if it has those features if the rest of the machine isn't up to spec. First, I doubt that Dell has gone and put a transreflective LCD panel in the machine. Without that, the screen will be nearly unreadable during daylight hours. Second, if the machine isn't sealed and gasketed to at least IPX7 standards, it isn't going to like being in a cockpit environment for very long. :)

From what I have seen, I believe this is more a semi-ruggedized rather than fully ruggedized computer. Personally, I don't like Dell machines. When I worked with an international news service, we had some as machines for the photographers, and they were very unreliable, and those were machines that were treated considerably better than a laptop in the cockpit of a sailboat would be.

Another issue is reliability. Windows has reliability issues, and given the hostile environment, a dedicated chartplotter would make far more sense than using a laptop. Most of the dedicated chartplotters have transreflective screens that are daylight readable as well. Having a BSOD occur right at the moment you need the chartplotter most would be a bad thing.

IMHO, if you want to use a laptop for navigation purposes, leave it down below where it belongs.

Well, this isn't your typical laptop. These are ruggedized laptops. Take a look at this feature list:

* Solid die cast magnesium alloy chassis
* Optional integrated touch screen
* Solid State Hard Drives (SSHD)
* Shock isolated protection for hard drives and LCD display
* Sealed keyboard capable of withstanding the elements
* Super-bright 500nit LCD DirectVue anti-glare display

Was your opinion based on having a a generic consumer grade laptop on the helm, or one of these ruggedized machines?
 

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One word..

NO!!!! I use a tablet every day for work and would never, ever even consider one for use at the helm even if made more rugged. The screen will be un-readable in direct sun. The key thing I see missing is a WATER RESISTANT or WATER PROOF rating.

How will it work when you get salt water in the USB ports, the network port, headphone jack, power plug jack etc etc. on and on.. I own four notebook computers from a Mac to multiple PC's and I rely on none of them for navigation, won't do it.. Planning yes navigation no. Computers are good tools but coming from someone wo uses one 12-14 hours a day 5-6 days per week I can say they are very, very far from reliable and yes this INCLUDES my Mac..
 

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NightOwl,

I work for Dell in Engineering here in Austin TX. Actually, one of the guys I am friends with is in Displays (LCD screens) Engineering. I can check with him about your intended use and see what he has to say. There is also a guy that I don't know in Reliability Engineering that might be able to help. He has a pic of sailboats at some slip somewhere, so he might have some insight. I will report back the information I get.
 

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NightOwl,

Below is the response from the Displays Engineer.


"Hmm. Dell laptop on a sailboat . Hmmm.

I would be concerned that the high humidity + opportunity for splashing water on it would eventually damage something. I would especially be concerned about the connections between the motherboard and the display. Connections are sometimes subject to corrosion in high humidity / salt spray environments That might kill it.

You could check the Dell website and look up the specifications for temperature and humidity. But I would be leery."

I am also going to check with the Mechanical Engineering folks for their take on it.

Sailingdog - Sorry you don't think highly of our product. Hopefully we can change that one day. What I find is it's not necessarily the hardware, but the technology and the OS that don't seem to be as progressive as the capabilities of the hardware. I have had two other brands prior to working for Dell and those others were junk. My wife said she wasn't getting "ANYTHING but a Dell next time". Luckily, I started working there and she got a discount too!!
 

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Discussion Starter #8
This is unbelievable feedback...what are the odds of someone in Dell engineering giving their take :)
 

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Well, this isn't your typical laptop. These are ruggedized laptops. Take a look at this feature list:

* Solid die cast magnesium alloy chassis
* Optional integrated touch screen
* Solid State Hard Drives (SSHD)
* Shock isolated protection for hard drives and LCD display
* Sealed keyboard capable of withstanding the elements
* Super-bright 500nit LCD DirectVue anti-glare display

Was your opinion based on having a a generic consumer grade laptop on the helm, or one of these ruggedized machines?
I had no problem with the lap top, it was dell company that caused the problem. They put an additional $49 charge on my credit card when I ordered an item for the lap top. When the bill came in I called them and no one could figure out what the $49 charge was for, they said they would send me a corrected bill. Never received the corrected bill but got a call from a collection agency. It took me 8 months to straighten this out and many phone calls that went all over the world to people who could barely speak English. I finally got someone in Florida who took it off my credit card, so I promised him and dell that I would never buy another dell product as long as I live. It's been four years now and no one from dell has ever figured out what the $49 was for.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
http://www.dell.com/downloads/global/products/latit/en/Latitude_XFR_D630_specsheet.pdf','popup575x600','WIDTH=575,HEIGHT=600,RESIZABLE=YES,SCROLLBARS=YES,TOOLBAR=NO,LEFT=0,TOP=20');


Um, check out the front picture on that spec sheet...shows a fire hyrant hose of water hitting the thing!

The XFR is the result of superior design expertise
and a proven Armored Protection System™ (APS),
which is comprised of three powerful elements
unique engineering Designs
• Robust Exoskeleton Structure
• Patent-pending QuadCool™ Thermal Management
System
• Reinforced LCD Assembly
• Overmold Protection System
• Sealed Keyboard and Touchpad Assembly
• Reinforced and Thermally-Enhanced HDD Access Bay
• Secure Battery Protection System
• Dense Magnesium Hinged and Friction Fit Doors
Mil–stD–810F testing
• Published specifications, independently tested
• Operating temperature — -20˚F to 140˚ F
(-29˚C to 60˚C)
• Moisture ingress — 4 in/hr rain, 40 psi (IP54)
• Dust, Dirt ingress — 1.5 m/s – 8.7 m/s wind (IP54)
• Drop/Shock — 36” drop, 26X non-yielding surface
• Vibration — random vibration simulation, 1000 miles
transportation
• Humidity — 0 to 95% non-condensing
• Altitude — 15,000 ft operating
• Crash Shock — 40g, 11ms; 75g, 6ms
• Salt Fog


 

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Nightowl,

They are showing it in closed position. Wouldn't you have it open at the helm? And that is probable fresh water.
 

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Also, attaching the power cord would break the seals by requiring you to open the doors over the connectors. I doubt they'd try that with the machine plugged in or on.
 

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This is unbelievable feedback...what are the odds of someone in Dell engineering giving their take :)
NightOwl,

We're everywhere. Actually, we pride ourselves on monitoring forums, blogs and such. I love working there and the last thing I want is for you to have a bad experience or a blown expectation out of our product. It is a plus for me too...I hope to be a salt if I ever get to retire. So, I learn a lot from this board.

I am afraid that the Mechanical and Reliability teams are going to say the same thing as Sailingdog about any of these units "off the shelf". That will probably put it into a specialty category which I know I couldn't afford. However, I have seen computers on production lines where they get hosed down with all kinds of detergents and such. If it isn't our XFR, I will ask if they know any other options that might fit the bill.

Anyway, thanks for considering Dell.

Mike
 

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BTW, if you actually work for Dell, you should probably disclose that or risk getting banned... :) There's a post on full disclosure which you might want to read.

NightOwl,

We're everywhere. Actually, we pride ourselves on monitoring forums, blogs and such. I love working there and the last thing I want is for you to have a bad experience or a blown expectation out of our product. It is a plus for me too...I hope to be a salt if I ever get to retire. So, I learn a lot from this board.

I am afraid that the Mechanical and Reliability teams are going to say the same thing as Sailingdog about any of these units "off the shelf". That will probably put it into a specialty category which I know I couldn't afford. However, I have seen computers on production lines where they get hosed down with all kinds of detergents and such. If it isn't our XFR, I will ask if they know any other options that might fit the bill.

Anyway, thanks for considering Dell.

Mike
 

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I had no problem with the lap top, it was dell company that caused the problem. They put an additional $49 charge on my credit card when I ordered an item for the lap top. When the bill came in I called them and no one could figure out what the $49 charge was for, they said they would send me a corrected bill. Never received the corrected bill but got a call from a collection agency. It took me 8 months to straighten this out and many phone calls that went all over the world to people who could barely speak English. I finally got someone in Florida who took it off my credit card, so I promised him and dell that I would never buy another dell product as long as I live. It's been four years now and no one from dell has ever figured out what the $49 was for.
Denby,
I am really sorry to hear that. Don't laugh, but when I have a problem with my own work system I get tech support from folks that can barely speak English. Sign of the times, I guess. :(

I will admit that a few years ago, before I started there, it was pretty bad CS. Michael Dell has come back to run the company and kicked most of the Execs that were in place out of the organization. There is a renewed focus on the customer and we recently placed ahead of everybody else in an independent industry monitoring survey. I hope we get another chance with you, someday, and that we exceed your expectations.
 

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BTW, if you actually work for Dell, you should probably disclose that or risk getting banned... :) There's a post on full disclosure which you might want to read.
Sailingdog,
First off (please don't read angry tone here...I am on here strictly for personal reasons), I am an engineer. Not Customer Service. I have never and am not now acting in an official Dell capacity on this board. The company does encourage us to help out where we can, but they mean more on Facebook, LinkedIn, blogs, Wiki and such. I want to sail and own a boat one day and ran across this board via an internet search. This is the first time I have discussed Dell in the 8-9 months that I have been on this board and after I assist NightOwl with making a good choice or avoiding a bad choice, regardless of the brand he chooses, I won't mention Dell again. I only saw the notebook question and hoped to help where I could. I didn't mean to cause any issues.
 

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I have a number of Dell products, including two laptops. But I also have a pilothouse, with a reasonable expectation of protection from the elements.

You might wish to rethink the Toughbooks, which are military spec, I believe. They can handle pretty well everything you can throw at them in terms of CPU needed to handle nav and comms and other aspects of boat life (budget, menus?).

My solution to this will be to get a bunch of identical "fleet" laptops from a bank or law office that are coming off lease. By a "bunch", I mean five or six at $250-$400 each. If I spend some time tweaking them and optimizing them and "ruggedizing" certain connectors, I can image the hard drives and bag them in bubble wrap and dessicant and stow them in dry spots. If one goes in the drink or dies, I have its clone at the ready. A boat job would be firing them up once a month to update waypoints, radio data, etc. and to check that they are in good shape.

This is more than most need, but I am considering long-term cruising and redundancy is a way of life...a way of life, I say.
 

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Valiente—

Only some of the toughbooks are fully-ruggedized milspec compliant machines. Some are semi-ruggedized and would die almost as quickly as any other brand of laptop on a boat.

The idea of using multiple, essentially identical laptops with the same software image on them is an excellent one IMHO.

You could use a USB thumb drive to keep the most current data portable for use between them. USB thumb drives are now reasonably cheap and high enouch capacity that even all your charts would fit on one. A 16 GB one would hold a lot of documents, waypoints, etc, and costs less than $25 in many places. You could actually incorporate this into your machine image, and that would reduce the need to image drives while at sea.

If you do feel a need to image the drives instead of going the USB thumbdrive route, you should pick up one of these:



About $20 and allows you to connect to a bare hard drive (SATA or IDE) via a USB cable, click photo to buy.

I'd also highly recommend you get the "portable" series of software for your machine. This allows you to carry and run things like webbrowsers, e-mail clients and such from a USB thumb drive, making it much simpler to keep your bookmarks, e-mails, and such all up to date regardless of what machine you're using. :)

I have a number of Dell products, including two laptops. But I also have a pilothouse, with a reasonable expectation of protection from the elements.

You might wish to rethink the Toughbooks, which are military spec, I believe. They can handle pretty well everything you can throw at them in terms of CPU needed to handle nav and comms and other aspects of boat life (budget, menus?).

My solution to this will be to get a bunch of identical "fleet" laptops from a bank or law office that are coming off lease. By a "bunch", I mean five or six at $250-$400 each. If I spend some time tweaking them and optimizing them and "ruggedizing" certain connectors, I can image the hard drives and bag them in bubble wrap and dessicant and stow them in dry spots. If one goes in the drink or dies, I have its clone at the ready. A boat job would be firing them up once a month to update waypoints, radio data, etc. and to check that they are in good shape.

This is more than most need, but I am considering long-term cruising and redundancy is a way of life...a way of life, I say.
 

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Keep a cheap $500 Dell laptop loaded with a navigation program (such as Nobeltec) safe and dry at the Nav station and put a 12" Touchscreen monitor at the helm.

Planar makes them for 1-2K depending on waterproof levels. I've used a $600 Zenarc 10.2" TS for two years with good success.

panbo.com is a good source of info.

Ronbo
 

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NightOwl and all,

OK. Went down to the lab and pulled one out of the cabinet to look at. Here are my observations.

All the ports are sealed by covers with rubber gaskets. I am not sure if the connectors are rubber jacketed to seal when in use (with the port doors open) because none of them were down there.

The closure of the unit does not have any gasket between the base and the display that would seal it against the elements and the keyboard did not look like anything special. So I don't think it would be waterproof.

The side(s) have a vent port for air flow across the heat sink and a vent on the bottom for air access to the fan, so that is not sealed.

So, I believe this unit would do better than others, down below, but I don't think it would be a long term, viable option at the helm while underway.

Thanks!
Mike
 
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