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In the realm of tough and sturdy notebooks, champions are far and few between. Sure, there’s Panasonic’s ToughBooks, Gammatech’s Durabooks, and even Dell has a rugged notebook. They’re all fine machines, but no one is about to dunk a ToughBook in 30 gallons of water or throw one on concrete over and over. That is where General Dynamics comes in.

The same folks that conceived and built the U.S. Air Force’s F-16 Falcon fighter jet and the Marine Corps’ Stryker Combat Vehicle are behind the Itronix GD8000 notebook, a military-standard notebook computer. You don’t have to be a soldier to appreciate what the GD8000 has to offer. While the unit may be at home on the battlefield, it can be even more useful at a construction site, hospital or police car.
The $3,800 Itronix GD8000 is built to take a beating and is loaded with features, including:

  • Magnesium chassis with impact-absorbing polycarbonate casing
  • 13.3-inch DynaVue touch-screen display for outdoor/direct sunlight viewing
  • Ergonomic design, full-size keyboard
  • Weighs 7.9 pounds fully equipped
  • Operating temperature from -22F to 140F
  • Up to 10-hour battery life
  • Integrated GPS and wireless connectivity with Wi-Fi, optional high-powered WLAN and Bluetooth
  • Fingerprint reader, smartcard port
  • Trusted Platform Module 1.2 and optional embedded Computrace software
  • EnergyStar and EPEAT certified

Sizewise, the Itronix GD8000 is a little bit bigger than a traditional notebook. At roughly 10 inches by 12 inches by 2 inches, the Itronix GD8000 Notebook is a little heavy on the arm and too big to hide in a briefcase. But who needs a case with the GD8000? The unit sports an integrated carry handle and closes up tight, eliminating the need for a separate travel case—except of course for the power supply. Users will need to put the power brick somewhere and regrettably, that power brick is full-size. An integrated power supply would prove to be a nice option, allowing users to just carry the PC and a power cord.

The Itronix GD8000 proves to be a workhorse that can perform under most any conditions. Designed to meet the MIL-STD 810F rating, the notebook has to survive some challenging conditions, such as being doused by 30 gallons of water and dropped multiple times from 42 inches onto solid ground.

Channel Insider tested the Itronix GD8000 with an Intel Core 2 Duo L9400 (1.8GHz), 3GB Ram, 120GB hard disk and a DVD-RW optical drive. Windows XP Professional SP3 came pre-installed. Normally, the Itronix GD8000 arrives with Windows Vista, with an XP downgrade available.

We tested the system with PerformanceTest 7.0 from Passmark software and scored a rating of 452.1—not a spectacular score, but acceptable for a notebook hampered by onboard graphics. Usable battery life was about five hours in a single battery configuration. After basic testing, we derived some perverse pleasure from throwing the unit down some stairs, onto the ground and even spraying it with a hose. Despite our best abuse, the Itronix GD8000 kept working.

The Itronix GD8000’s design ensures survivability. All ports are covered with watertight doors, the lid securely latches closed and the unit is clad in polycarbonate. Users will appreciate the full-size splash-proof keyboard and the integrated touch-screen. A removable stylus is stored in the palm-rest area of the notebook for use with the touch-screen. The touch-screen proves to be easy to use and offers decent sensitivity, if General Dynamics could convert the screen hinge to a twist and swivel joint, the unit would become a decent heavy-duty tablet. The 13.3-inch display is exceptionally bright and can be used in full sunlight. A nice touch would be to add a backlight to the keyboard, allowing the system to be easily used in low-light conditions.

The Itronix GD8000 is loaded with wireless connectivity options; users will find Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS and wireless broadband available. Users can score additional battery life by swapping out the optical drive with a secondary battery, which purportedly boosts battery life to 10 hours—more than enough time for the typical work shift.

With government use in mind, General Dynamics made sure security was a primary feature. The Itronix GD8000 sports a fingerprint reader for access security and offers the Infineon Security Platform Solution, which incorporates encryption and other technologies to protect files stored on the system.

The Itronix GD8000 is far from cheap, but it does come down to “you get what you pay for.” The unit is tough, speedy and customizable, making it a good fit for government markets as well as the extremely clumsy.