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Rugged Tablets vs Rugged Cases: What's the Difference?


With the upfront costs of investment in rugged tablets, it may be tempting to purchase consumer-grade tablets and equip them with durable, ruggedized cases. While this might be the right choice for certain applications, tablets with cases may not always make the cut. Here we look at the differences between rugged tablets and rugged cases. 


While a case will increase the durability of a consumer tablet, it won’t be able to match the ruggedness of a sealed tablet built for tough environments. The exterior shells may even appear the same, with similar corner bumpers and hard outer shells, but the interior is inferior in consumer tablets. Rugged tablets are built from the inside out when it comes to durability; each component is designed and secured with the roughest work in mind. 

Water Resistance 

A rugged tablet should have an IP rating and it should be easily identified by the user. This rating system measures a tablet's ability to resist and repel liquid and dust. The resistance a rugged tablet provides will vary from tablet to tablet, but it’s almost inevitably higher than the resistance a case can provide. Most cases provide little, if any, resistance to water and dust. Rugged tablets built for business use can range in their resistances from the common IP65 rating, which would make it resistant to dust and a light rain, to IP68, which would mean it’s completely waterproof to a certain depth. This is achieved through gaskets placed during the tablet’s construction to ensure a near perfect seal; something most rugged cases just can’t match. 


Depending on the tablet, the majority of consumer tablets have few ports. Some, such as the iPad, require extra cables in order to connect something as simple as a USB to the device. Often constructed with multiple ports, rugged tablets allow for easy connectivity to additional enterprise-grade devices or tools. 


A new, updated consumer tablet seems to hit the market every year. This has more implications than just cool new technology. Any older tablets will quickly be phased out and made obsolete, leaving businesses with tools that will no longer function as they should. Rugged tablets avoid this issue because they’re designed with longevity in mind. Where a consumer tablet might be outdated in just a few years, rugged tablets are built to function for five years or more. This prevents businesses from having to make costly updates to their technology each year. 


A consumer tablet battery will last only as long as the charge before they have to be returned to a power station. Rugged tablets often have more powerful batteries, allowing them to be used for longer on a single charge. In addition, some can be equipped with hot-swappable batteries. This allows batteries to be changed without powering down the device, further increasing the length of time it can be used. 


While it’s possible to mount both a consumer or a rugged tablet, there are certain instances where one is better than another. In retail, if the tablet will be seen by customers, it’s common to use a sleek familiar tablet. For example, iPads equipped with rugged cases are a popular solution. By contrast, if mounting a tablet to a forklift or other kind of vehicle is required, a consumer tablet, even in a rugged case, may not be the best option. Large machines are rough on technology, with constant shaking and jostling of the device. Rugged tablets are purpose-built to handle such abuse, while consumer tablets may crack under the pressure. 

When it comes to choosing between a rugged tablet or a rugged case, it ultimately depends on the job and work environment that the device will be used in. For most, a rugged tablet will be the best choice in order to keep your workers as efficient as possible.