Durabook S14I: Tough Semi-Rugged Laptop
PC Magazine|August 2021
Buyers of rugged laptops, sturdy systems designed to be bolted to first responders’ dashboards or dropped onto rocky ground, make a distinction between “semi-rugged” and “fully rugged” notebooks— machines rated to survive a fall of three feet versus six feet, say, or pouring rain versus a high-pressure hose.
ERIC GREVSTAD

Its maker calls the Durabook S14I ($3,004 as tested) “one step above semi-rugged,” meaning it’s not the most bulletproof laptop you can buy, but it’s still formidably tough, versatile, and well-equipped. The S14I hits a sweet spot for users whose work takes them (and their gear) into harm’s way. The only thing keeping it from an Editors’ Choice award is its mediocre battery life. You’ll definitely want to fill its modular bay with the available second battery pack instead of the DVD drive found in our test unit.

MAY EXPERIENCE SOME TURBULENCE

The Durabook S14I (technically S14I-G2, to differentiate it from a predecessor with 8th Generation instead of 11th Generation Intel processors) is built to withstand a drop of four feet, one foot more than two rival 14-inch laptops for field workers, the Dell Latitude 5424 Rugged and the Panasonic Toughbook 55. Its IP53 ingress protection rating means it’s secure against dust and sprays of water but not against pressurized jets or immersion.

As you’d expect, it’s no ultraportable—its aluminum-magnesium alloy chassis weighs 5.07 pounds, a bit more than the 4.6-pound Panasonic but noticeably less than the 6.8-pound Dell (and far less than the 8.5 pounds of the latter’s six-foot-droppable sibling, the Latitude 7424 Rugged Extreme). At 1.5 by 13.8 by 11.1 inches, it’s bulkier than the less well-armored and much less costly Acer Enduro N3 (0.98 by 13.8 by 9.7 inches), closer to the Toughbook 55 (1.3 by 13.6 by 10.7 inches).

Durabook S14I

PROS

Shrugs off abuse that would smash most laptops. Brilliant 1080p touch screen. Highly configurable. Peppy 11th Gen Core i7 CPU.

CONS

Pricey. Slightly awkward keyboard, and balky touchpad. Weak audio. Disappointing battery life.

BOTTOM LINE

Technically a semi-rugged laptop, the Durabook S14I survives almost as much torture as fully rugged units. Field workers and first responders should be well satisfied, as long as they invest in its optional second battery.

At $3,004, our test unit is far from cheap, though a comparable Latitude 5424 I configured at Dell’s site was about $400 more. It combines a Core i7-1165G7 CPU, 16GB of memory, a 512GB NVMe solid-state drive, a touch screen with full HD (1,920-by-1,080-pixel) resolution, Wi-Fi 6, and Windows 10 Pro. Options that our system lacked include a SIM card for 4G LTE mobile broadband, a backlit keyboard, a fingerprint reader, and a face recognition webcam.

Don’t expect the thin bezels or near-borderless display of today’s sleek notebooks. Lift the lid (a two-handed job since it’s latched down) and you’ll see the screen set in a sizable armored plate. A sliding shutter covers the webcam centered at top. There’s a carrying handle on the front edge and fingernail-breaking covers or doors over all the ports (except, oddly, the AC adapter connector).

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