Ruggedised notebooks were once the domain of just a handful of specialised manufacturers, but recently they have become more popular. Today it is not uncommon for long-time manufacturers of business and consumer-style notebooks to produce toughened notebook models as well as other devices and peripherals.
One such vendor is Pioneer Computers, which has released the Pioneer DreamBook Tough S15, a consumer-orientated ruggedised notebook.
Pioneer DreamBook Tough S15 is not a full blown industrial quality notebook for use in harsh environments but it does have tougher skin than your average machine.
An obvious and prominent of tough feature is its magnesium alloy chassis, providing a harder shell to protect against physical damage when dropped.
An acrylic screen covers the 15.4in (1280x800) LCD panel, which helps protect the screen from any unforseen bumps that would otherwise severely damage it.
The screen itself shows reasonable brightness and contrast levels, but the cover does seem to dim it just a little.
For shock protection there is an optical drive lock, which prevents the optical drive from accidentally ejecting when the notebook is dropped.
This is actually a physical switch, rather than a gyro-sensor, so you will have to pre-empt potential drops, such as in a busy area, and lock it manually. There is also hard drive shock protection and a spill resistant keyboard, but these features are not uncommon in regular notebooks.
Dust covers for all the ports are missing, suggesting the DreamBook Tough S15 is not as well protected against dusty environments, so bare this in mind if you're planning on using it in a dusty work environment.
Outside the tough features, Pioneer DreamBook Tough S15 is a fairly normal notebook with good performance up its sleeve. Pioneer DreamBook Tough S15 is built on Intel's new Centrino platform, initially codenamed Santa Rosa, and uses one of Intel's latest pre-Penryn CPUs, the Core 2 Duo T7250, with an 800MHz front side bus and a 2MB L2 cache.
Pioneer DreamBook Tough S15 has 2GB of DDR2 667MHz RAM installed and runs off the onboard Intel X3100 graphics chip, rather than a dedicated graphics solution.
Unlike many ruggedised notebooks, the DreamBook Tough S15 does not really look the part. Often ruggedised notebooks look like airplane black boxes or transport cases for large quantities of hard cash, but instead the DreamBook Tough S15 looks like a fairly normal notebook, so you would not be embarrassed about taking it out in public.
Regardless of its consumer-like design it is primarily aimed at the workplace and is installed with Windows Vista Business.
Pioneer Computers model includes support for Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g and draft-n standards, gigabit Ethernet and Bluetooth 2.0, but does not have 3G wireless Internet, though this is an optional inclusion for an additional cost.
A webcam is built into the top of the screen as is a microphone, so you'll be able to make business or personal video calls over the Internet.
In Pioneer Computers benchmarks Pioneer DreamBook Tough S15 did fairly well. It is not at the top of the list but it was not scraping the bottom of the barrel either.
In WorldBench 6 it scored a total of 79, an above average score indicating Pioneer DreamBook Tough S15 is capable of running most common applications and will even handle some video or photo editing, as long as it is not too heavy.
In Pioneer Computers MP3 encoding tests it saw results fairly indicative of the CPU. Converting 53 minutes worth of WAV files to 192Kbps MP3 files in iTunes took 83sec then 127sec using Cdex.