Final Thoughts On The Dell Latitude 12 Rugged Extreme
Performance Summary: Specialized systems generally excel at what they were built for while sacrificing in other areas. In this case, Dell's Latitude 12 Rugged is a burly 2-in-1 that is built to withstand the rigors of Mother Nature while out on the job site, though its toughness doesn't come at the expense of performance. It fared very well compared to systems with similar specs, racking up first place finishes in Cinebench, PCMark 8, and 3DMark.
Dell did a great job designing a laptop that you don't need to coddle when working out the field. When you're knee deep in rubble, chasing tornadoes, or studying climate change in Antarctica, the last thing you want to do is babysit your laptop from the elements. The Latitude 12 Rugged doesn't need a babysitter—it stands up to all kinds of abuse, be it a sand storm, rain, extreme heat, accidental drops on rocky terrain, or whatever. First and foremost, the Latitude 12 Rugged is all about remaining functional in situations that would render a traditional laptop useless.
The Latitude 12 Rugged gets its toughness from a sturdy chassis that leaves nothing to chance. Locking latch doors with pads on the other side protect the various ports from flying debris and liquid, while the corners of the laptop have rubber bumpers that are the tech equivalent of hard hats.
While the rugged nature of this laptop was evident the moment we unboxed it, what surprised us was the performance. As configured, this system cruised through our benchmarks without breaking a sweat or making any noise. The combination of an Intel Core i7-6600U processor with 16GB of DDR4-2133 RAM, onboard graphics (Intel HD Graphics 520), and a SanDisk X400 256GB M.2 (SATA 6Gbps) SSD isn't exactly a deadly combination, but it proved potent, even more so than other systems with similar spec sheets, partially due to the machine's lower-resolutions display.
There's a good bit of versatility here, too. The Latitude 12 Rugged is able to hold its own as a tough and tumble laptop, but it can also be used as a tablet, albeit a thick and heavy one. Dell equipped the system with a flip-hinge display that flips around and can fold back onto itself. And because it's a resistive touchscreen, you can use it with gloves on. Another thing we should note is that the drivers and OS image are compatible with Dell's standard (non-rugged) Latitudes with similar form factors. If you've got to manage a fleet of notebooks -- some rugged, some non-rugged -- having only a single image to prepare can be a real time saver.
We weren't as impressed with battery life. Dell touts up to 9.1 hours of run time on a single charge, but in our tests, we saw anywhere from 2 hours to a little under 4 and a half hours, depending on the load. Based on what we saw, a more reasonable expectation is around 7 hours during real-world use. That's decent, but nothing that warrants a back-flip.
Owing a rugged system doesn't come cheap. Pricing starts at $3,299 on Dell's website while this particularly configuration checks in at a little over $4,200. That's a tough pill to swallow when regular laptops with similar hardware inside costs less than $2,000, but that's the price of ruggedness.
Obviously not everyone needs a rugged laptop. For those who do, however, Dell's tough and tumble Latitude 12 Rugged is a sturdy workhorse that isn't afraid to venture where regular laptops can't.