Defining a Rugged Computer

What is Rugged Computer

The Industry Standards

While not all encompassing, these industry standards listed below are the ones most often referred to as they relate to the primary tests used for durability, as it relates to variables such as resistance to shock, vibration, dust, etc.

US MIL-STD 810G - physical durability characteristics

Recently updated from revision 810F to 810G, these standardised tests relate to physical durability and encompass everything from impact resistance, to vibration resistance, to thermal stress resistance. 

Developed by the US military, they were created to address vendors' claims regarding a product's durability and hence suitability for a range of uses, ranging from indoor office use to in-field combative use. Being tested to a MIL-STD does not make a product suitable for military use, where that 'military use' is a combative one. This is clearly evident for products that only meet the lower levels of testing, that were clearly intended to test for suitability for office applications.

Many 'toughened' office grade products don't even pass the lower levels of MIL-STD testing. However, many Semi-Rugged products do. In either case, what level of durability the tests revealed should be used by users as a guide to deciding whether a product is suitable for a specific role THEY have in mind for it.

US MIL-STD461E - EMC performance characteristics

EMC (Electro-Magnetic Compatibility) addresses the ability of an electronics device to perform in close proximity to other electronics devices, without adversely affecting its ability to do what it was designed to do. The international IEC 'CE' standards are most oftened cited for domestic and office grade products.

The US MIL-STD 461 test series were developed to test for more stringent requirements. However, at the lower end of the scale, they also test for performance in 'benign' office environments. Therefore, meeting 461 does not mean a product is suitable for a battlefield role. As with the 810 test series, the 461 series includes tests across a range of EMC performance levels, from office right up to battlefield requirements.

IEC 60529 - dust & moisture resistance (IP/Ingress Protection ratings)

These standards are often referred to as IP Ratings. They test for resistance to dust and moisture and are generally applied to products used outdoors that might get wet or dusty.

However, they do not equate to physical tolerance to impacts or vibration (for example); a product can have a high level of tolerance to dust and mositure (eg might be IP67 rated), but not be very durable when dropped of a desktop more than a few times. So videos of a product surviving under water are meaningful for products required in high humidity areas or where they are prone to being splashed, but not so meaningful if the product is to be used in a 4WD that spends most of its time travelling offroad in hot climates.


Clearly, a combination of tests, and tests to different levels, need to be used to assess a product's durability and suitability for a category of applications.