The bulletproof Dell that costs an arm and a leg

Recently, I spent a day in the company of Dell at the wonderful Mercedes site at Brooklands. What could be more fun than chatting at length with Dell technical staff while surrounded by German car porn?

The bulletproof Dell that costs an arm and a leg

For a couple of weeks beforehand I’d been trying out Dell’s new XFR ruggedised laptop, which is one serious piece of kit. The reviewer’s PDF details all the abuse you can give to this machine, from dropping it on the floor, pouring water onto it, and leaving it out in a sandstorm to using it as ballistic armour plating if someone shoots at you (I think I read that somewhere…).

It’s caused me to rethink my laptop strategy, as I normally carry a laptop with its PSU in a proper shoulder bag. The XFR comes with a sturdy shoulder strap and has no need for any sort of bag. If you fit the optional extra battery pack, you’ll find that this laptop will run for nearly 12 hours, so you can dispense with the power supply and cable too.

I did cough somewhat when I saw the price tag of nearly £4,000. Is there no way that Dell can bring this price down to a more realistic level?

The XFR is built like a tank. Every externally accessible port has a full latched submarine-style cover that seals it from the outside. Clearly this isn’t a device for the mainstream laptop market, where slimline chic and clip-on coloured covers abound. But there’s a long list of professions that could do with a ruggedised laptop that doesn’t mind getting a full-frontal assault from Mother Nature. Just think about a building engineer working on site, when a sudden downpour on their laptop would cause instant death to an ordinary laptop. This thing just shrugs off such abuse.

I was so impressed with the XFR that I went to the Dell website to build an online specification for my own needs, but I did cough somewhat when I saw the price tag of nearly £4,000. Is there no way that Dell can bring this price down to a more realistic level?

Also at the show was a demonstration of a new motherboard management technology from Dell. Basically, this fits 1GB of flash memory into the computer or server, which contains all the latest drivers for all the major operating systems at the time the box leaves the factory.

You can reflash and update this RAM whenever you want to bring down the latest drivers, and it makes doing a driver-intensive install of an OS for a customer a doddle – boot into the BIOS, choose your OS, then boot into the relevant OS DVD.

Full marks to Dell for this innovation, which I will be looking for on the spec sheets of future Dell purchases, because this will be a must-have feature, especially for servers.

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