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Dell New Latitude 12 Rugged Extreme

Dell's rugged convertible notebook offers impressive, flexible, and technologically advanced design, and now a whole lot more performance
(by Conrad H. Blickenstorfer)

The Dell Latitude 12 Rugged Extreme was officially introduced on April 3, 2014, as a fully rugged convertible notebook computer and direct competitor to the fully rugged convertibles from their major competition (Panasonic and Getac). In Fall of 2016, Dell quietly introduced a significant technology update to their convertible, and simply called it the New Latitude 12 Rugged Extreme.

Why did Dell get into this market in the first place? To step up its presence in the rugged notebook market. That meant competing with Panasonic and Getac, and both of those offer convertible versions of their rugged notebooks. The idea of a convertible notebook is to serve as both a standard laptop and as a tablet. It's a compromise, of course, but there's enough demand for this type of machine in enterprise and industrial markets to warrant the platform (Panasonic and Getac have been offering them for many years).

There are different ways to go about designing a convertible notebook. For many years, the most common design was the pivot hinge. When designing the Latitude 12 Rugged Extreme, Dell chose an alternate flip-hinge design where the display is simply flipped around in its protective frame. It's a good solution that eliminates the flexing inherent in the pivot hinge designs. The picture sequence above shows how it works.

In terms of specs and design, the Dell convertible has an 11.6-inch display with 1366 x 768 pixel resolution. That's on the small side for a laptop and on the large side for a tablet, i.e. it's a good compromise. It also seems to be the sweet spot for convertible notebooks. Using heavy-duty construction means this Dell isn't a lightweight, starting at 6 pounds, battery included.

Display and interface

Dell is one of the pioneers in modern-era outdoor-viewable displays, and the 12 Extreme benefits from that expertise. Its latest Direct-View screen technology is designed to reduce internal reflectivity and display glare to the extent where the device doesn't need a battery-killing superbright backlight to achieve good viewing performance outdoors and in the sun. Dell also chose resistive over capacitive multi-touch on the grounds that resistive technology works better with gloves and in wet conditions.

Extensive connectivity

Like the competition in this class, the Latitude 12 Rugged Extreme offers very good connectivity and expandability. There are two USB 3.0 ports, an extra USB 2.0 ports, a native RS232 serial port, a gigabit RJ45 LAN jack, audio in/out, VGA and HDMI video, and a docking connector, all with protective covers. The machine can be ordered with a memory card reader and an Expresscard/54 or PC Card slot (though either goes at the expense of one of the two USB 3.0 ports). As can be seen in the bottom/side view composite picture below, all ports have protective covers.

Below a close-up of the protective doors. They securely snap into place, and can easily be exchanged should they ever break or wear out.

State-of-the-art wireless connectivity is crucial in a mobile computing device, be it in the office or out there on the road or in the field. Dell covers that with an Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 8260 module that also includes Bluetooth 4.2. Note that 802.11ac—the latest WiFi standard and often called "5G WiFi"—is up to three times faster than 802.11n. Optional mobile broadband is available via dual-band Dell Wireless 5808E Gobi 5000 4G LTE that also offers A-GPS.

Full ruggedness

How tough and rugged is the Dell rugged convertible? Very, as it should be carrying the "Extreme" label in its name. That includes IP65 sealing, where the "6" means it's totally dustproof and the "5" means it's also protected against low pressure water jets from all directions. The device can operate within an extremely wide temperature range of -20° to 145° Fahrenheit (-29° to 63°Centigrade), which means practically anywhere. Dell says the device is also independently tested according to MIL-STD-810G procedures for transit drop, blowing rain, blowing dust and sand, vibration, functional shock, freeze/thaw cycles, and more.

The pictures below illustrate some of the environmental testing Dell's Rugged Extreme computers are subjected to:

Performance: Intel 6th gen Core processors

What about performance? The initial version of the platform used Intel "Haswell" 4th generation Core processors that provided in RuggedPCReview's testing (see here) very good performance with excellent power management. The "New" Latitude 12 Rugged Extreme skipped a processor generation and comes with a choice of three different Intel "Skylake" 6th generation Core processors. All three of the available CPUs are ultra-low voltage versions with TDPs of just 15 watts and integrated HD Graphics 520. The device supports up to 16GB of DDR4 memory in two slots. Mass storage is via mSATA solid state disks up to 1TB. An SED version (Self-Encrypting Drive) is optionally available. The 12 Rugged comes standard with a 56 watt-hour Li-Ion battery, good for up to 9 hours.

Available CPUs Intel Core i7 Intel Core i5 Intel Core i3
Model 6600U 6300U 6100U
Cores/Threads 2/4 2/4 2/4
Base Clock Speed 2.60 GHz 2.40 GHz 2.30 GHz
Turbo Speed 3.40 GHz 3.00 GHz No turbo
Thermal Design Power (TDP) 15 watts 15 watts 15 watts
Smart Cache 4MB 3MB 3MB
Integrated graphics HD Graphics 520 HD Graphics 520 HD Graphics 520
Graphics base speed 300 MHz 300 MHz 300 MHz
Graphics max speed 1.05 GHz 1.00 GHz 1.00 GHz
Intel vPro Yes Yes No

To see full spec table for these three CPUs, see here.

Keyboard: Full scale and RGB backlight

The keyboard is another bright spot of the Latitude 12 Rugged Extreme. It's full-scale, which makes typing, and especially touch-typing, much easier. The key labels are crisp and clean, and a special RGB backlight allows users to set the keyboard backlight to any color they wish. That can come in very handy.

Security

For security, the Dell Latitude convertible has FIPS 140-2 TPM 2.09 functionality to store secured information. Smart Card reader and optional fingerprint reader provide additional access security. There's a cable lock slot, some of the available processors support vPro, a set of Intel security and remote management technologies that offer multiple lines of built-in defenses, and there are also Dell's advanced security and data protection and encryption tools.

What Dell brings to the table

The big difference between Dell and its competition in the rugged space is that Dell is also a world-leading provider of commercial PCs, which gives them an edge in large scale production experience and also enterprises that like to one-stop shop. Between that, Dell's solid commitment to the rugged space, and the Latitude 12 Rugged Extreme's impressive design, technology and specs, this convertible notebook has a lot to offer. And the Fall 2016 tech update should significantly boost both performance and economy.

Specs Dell New Latitude 12 Rugged Extreme
Status Added 11/2016
Type Fully rugged convertible notebook
Processor (Intel) Core i3-6100U, 3MB Cache
Core i5-6300U, 3MB Cache
Core i7-6600U, 4MB Cache
CPU Speed i3-6100U, 2.3GHz
i5-6300U, 2.4GHz/3.0GHz
i7-6600U, 2.6GHz/3.4GHz
CPU Thermal Design Power All 15 watts
Standard/Max RAM Up to 32GB DDR4 2133MHz in 2 DIMM slots
OS Windows 10 Pro (64-bit)
Windows 7 Pro (64-bit)
Linux Ubuntu 14.04 LTS
Graphics i3-6100U: Intel 520
i5-6300U: Intel 520
i7-6600U: Intel 520
Disk/drive 128GB, 256GB, 512GB or 1TB mSATA Solid State Drive, optional 256GB or 512GB mSATA SED SSD
Media Bay None
Card slots 1 ExpressCard 54 or PC Card, memory card reader (choosing either replaces a USB 3.0 port), 2 x M.2 (internal)
Display type "Direct-View" outdoor-readable, LED backlight, protective front glass
Display size/res 11.6-inch/1366 x 768 pixel 16:9
Digitizer/pens Resistive 5-point multi-touch
Keyboard/scale 100%-scale 82-key RGB backlit, opt. rubberized RGB backlit kbd.
Housing Impact-resistant polymers and magnesium alloy
Operating Temp -20° to 145°F (-29° to 63°C)
Sealing IP65
Shock MIL-STD-810G transit drop (72/60/48"); 3-foot operating drop
Humidity MIL-STD 810G
Solar Radiation unknown
Vibration MIL-STD 810G
Altitude MIL-STD 810G
HazLoc Optional Class I, Division 2, Groups A, B, C, D certification
Certifications TBA
Size (WxHxD) 12.2 x 8.6 x 1.6 inches (311 x 219 x 39 mm)
Weight Starting at 6.0 lbs. (2.72 kg) with 4-cell battery
Power 4-cell 56Wh Li-Ion ("up to 9 hrs"), optional 4-cell 50Wh long-life cycle Li-Ion
Cameras Optional: FHD video front webcam, 8mp rear camera with LED flash
Interface 2 x USB 3.0, 1 x USB 2.0, 1 x RS232 (native), gigabit RJ-45, VGA, HDMI, audio in/out, pogo-pin dock
Wireless Intel Dual-Band Wireless-AC 8260 with Bluetooth 4.2; opt. Dell Wireless 5808E Gobi5000 4G LTE/A-GPS, opt. dedicated u-blox NEO-M8Q GPS
Security Cable lock slot, SmartCard reader, contactless SmartCard reader, optional fingerprint reader, TPM 2.09, ControlVault authentication, Dell Security Tools, Dell Data Protection | Encryption, NIST SP800-147 secure platform, Dell Backup and Recovery
List price Starting at US$3,299
Web dell.com
12 Rugged Extreme page dell.com/rugged
Brochure Dell Latitude 12 Rugged Extreme
Warranty Return to depot
Dell Latitude 12 Rugged Extreme