If you need a ruggedized case for your notebook, the OtterBox Rugged Laptop case deserves being on your short list. The rigid, waterproof case provides excellent protection from impacts and water. It’s going to be available this summer in three different sizes, one for 13″ screens, one for 15″ screens and one for 17″ screens.
The hard outer shell of the case is constructed of durable polypropylene that is impact resistant. It’s very rigid and can handle crushing forces (at least from a person jumping on it) as well as high impact forces. A rubberized carry handle and latches provide good texture to provide a positive grip.
Also included is a shoulder strap that clips on to the case with heavy duty, swiveling clips. A neoprene panel in the middle of the strap provides a good level of comfort and since it stretches a bit, it absorbs some shock from walking movement.
Both sides of the interior are coated, wall to wall, with panels of the soft (or plush) side of a Velcro panel. They provide some slight padding as well. To fit your notebook into the case, you can use several of three different shapes of rubber bumpers attached to Velcro panels. The Velcro used in the case is heavy duty stuff, so there are no worries of the bumpers coming loose. An additional strap on the inside can be fastened across the notebook to keep it nestled within the rubber bumpers.
The compound latches are heavy duty and do a good job of tightening down the case into the waterproof seals that you can see while the case is open. An additional lock, operated with a key, provides another layer of security.
A cable port with a rubber “stopper” on the back of the case (or bottom, if it’s standing up) lets you leave the computer in the case while you need to work. Just open up the case, remove the rubber port cover and thread your cables through the back of the case.
- Model 7020 — for notebooks with screens smaller than 14″ — 14.125″ x 13″x 2.875″
- Model 7030 — for notebooks with 14-15″ screens — 16.375″ x 14.5″x 3.375″
- Model 7040 — for notebooks with screens larger than 15″ — 18.375″ x 15.5″x 4.375″
My first step while using the case was to get my notebook (IBM Thinkpad T40) fitted into it. Once I figured out which of the three types of bumpers to use, it was a simple process. The extended battery on my computer added a little extra challenge that required me to use the slimmest profile bumpers in order to fit it in the case. Once the bumpers are fitted, you can strap your computer in and it’s not going anywhere.
The case is very rigid and solid. I was tempted to run a car over the case, but didn’t get a chance. I did, however, jump on top and put my full 245 pounds on top of it. It seemed like the case didn’t even flex at all, even when standing in the middle of it. I was pretty impressed.
We didn’t fully test the waterproof features as we were informed that some of the pre-production models may not be waterproof (only water resistant). The final production models will be waterproof. The seal is constructed of a ridge on one half of the case that presses into a soft seal material in the other half when you close the case. The compound latches help squeeze the ridge into the seal material for a tight fit.
Everything about the case is heavy duty and high quality. The outer shell is rigid and the inside is easily configured to your particular hardware. The clips for the shoulder strap are heavy enough to hold the weight of the fully loaded case.
If you want to carry a power cord or other accessories inside the case, then plan your size accordingly. We tested the Model 7030, for notebooks with 14″-15″ screens. With my T40 inside, there would be no room for my power brick. If you do leave space, you can probably even fashion some custom Velcro straps to hold your other accessories.
If you need a rugged case for your notebook computer — at a construction site, on a research trip to the Andes, when you’re traveling with the band — the Otterbox Rugged Laptop case is good choice. It provides excellent protection against crushing force, impact force, and water. Make sure you get the right sized model to carry everything that you want to carry inside as the case I reviewed would handle my notebook only, with no accessories.
- Excellent impact and crush protection
- Easy to configure for your particular device
- Comfortable shoulder strap (you’ll need it)
- Heavy (but what did you expect?)
- Doesn’t stand on it’s edge, even though it looks like it will
Currently, on the www.otterbox.com site, you can enter your email address to be notified when the rugged cases will be available. Model 7020 has an MSRP of $119.94, Model 7030 has an MSRP of $129.95, and Model 7040 has an MSRP of $149.95.