'I took my S15C camping'

This is a commercial-grade notebook computer bridging the gap between a student notebook and fully rugged.


I tested Durabook S15C, a semi-rugged notebook with a 15.6-inch display. Like many GammaTech products, it is marketed within the price point of a consumer product, which is one reason the company’s products are so popular.

While it looks like the kind of notebook you can buy at a big-box store, including its relatively low weight for a semi-rugged machine, it was designed for tough environments, data security and maximized communication.

I took my S15C camping in moderately high altitude and it got to see some snow in the middle of summer. I found that it was capable of lakeside and poolside use; an officer should be confident about using it in the rain.

Don’t try this at home

The S15C is designed to be MIL STD 810 G method 516.6, Procedure IV-rated in drop resistance. These are “in transit” 29-inch drops with the unit off and closed. The requirement for survival is it must be able to reboot after the drop.

I have a completely different take on this type of test. First, I confirm that it will survive the protocol-specified 76-cm drop on 2-inch plywood. When I confirm it can handle this, I leave the computer out on the dining room table and every time a guest comes by and says something that resembles “nice computer,” I toss it to them, open or closed, running or not. After all, my job is to push the envelope a little.

Of the 20 or so times I have done this over a month, only two people caught the computer. It generally landed flat, but there is no guarantee that this will be the outcome. I like completing the scientific portion of the testing so that I can really beat on the product. I have done this before with another Durabook and my two-word response is the same with this product: without incident. (The rubber bumpers on the outside of the unit prevent it from dropping and spinning on my carpet.)

Features & options

Agencies can configure it with an Intel i7 processor at 620 M, an Intel I i5 processor at 560 M, an Intel i3 processor at 380 M or an Intel Pentium processor P6 200. The board can handle two dual-channel DDR III SODIMM modules for a total of 8 GB. The HDD is a 2.5-inch SATA II 300 anti-shock mounted unit that encases the data rather well. The optical media device is either a Dual DVD or a Super Multi DVD. The shock mounted HDD (mine came with a 500 GB SATA) uses flexible cabling and isolation to protect data.

I was a little unreasonable in throwing the unit around and I am quite satisfied that it will exceed expectations.

Screen: The Durabook S15C has anti-shock mounting for the HDD and the LCD screen. Most LCD screens on big-box laptops are delicate. Some businesses make their money off students who drop the product on the way to class and discover that repair is actually more expensive than purchasing a replacement unit, and most consumers don’t even check to see whether the product can be repaired.

The S15C has a sunlight readable option, but the standard set up and antiglare touchscreen did fine in bright sunlight. A side-by-side comparison between this machine and several other units, including my MacBook Pro, proved this one to be outstanding in bright daylight and artificial light. It was consistently a little blue and “Photoshoppers” like me would have to calibrate it a little.

The S15C has a touchscreen LCD with an antiglare finish. I did the same thing that many would do prior to reading the manual. I touched the screen to see what the unique finish felt like; I didn’t know that it was touch sensitive.

I found it was much easier to access the textbox on a template by touching. If the form is in an editable PDF, the officer can even use the touchscreen to circle items or check boxes.

Mousing on the screen is intuitive and reads complex gestures—something desirable in a product that potentially could be mounted in a patrol car. For example, it could be trained to recognize a certain type of finger swipe or click to summon help in a subtle way.

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