The Durabook Z14I is a 14-inch fully rugged laptop built like a tank. A robust system built for first responders and military and field use, the Z14I (starts at $3,599; $4,615 as tested) is built to withstand harsh environments. Its MIL-STD 810H, MIL-STD-461G, and IP65 certification mean it can resist rain, dust, heat, cold, and drops of up to six feet. Pair this with myriad ports and customization options, and you have an impressive package. But make no mistake: This laptop is meant for specific, extreme situations, and its indifferent performance per dollar reflects the priorities of this space.
made to curse
The Z14I may look like a ferocious behemoth at first glance, but its heavy, utilitarian design quickly grows on you. The aluminum-magnesium chassis helps keep the weight under 8 pounds, though it’s a lot heavier than other rugged laptops we’ve seen, like the 5.8-pound DuraBook S15AB or the 5.25-pound Getac S410. At 1.9 by 14 by 11 inches (HWD), it’s also a lot heavier. Our review unit comes equipped with an Intel Core i7-1165G7 processor, Intel Iris Xe integrated graphics, 16GB of RAM, and 1TB of solid-state storage. If that doesn’t meet your needs, the system comes in a variety of different flavors, with CPU options up to a Core i7-1185G7 and an optional Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 GPU.
The Z14I is a fanless machine, a rare Core i7 laptop that uses a passive thermal cooling solution instead of a spinning fan or fan. Heat pipes handle thermal dissipation themselves, minimizing potential damage from dust or other hazards. But the lack of an active cooling solution can hinder CPU performance, as you’ll see a little later in the review in our performance tests.
While the DuraBook’s computing performance isn’t inspiring, its exterior features steal the show. The flexible rubberized handle provides ample support while carrying the machine, while the extra-thick rubber corners ensure that it will do more damage than it hits against. This notebook makes even indestructible units like the Dell Latitude 7424 Rugged Xtreme relatively unassuming. Unlike many rugged laptops we’ve seen that have MIL-STD 810G certification, the Z14I is MIL-STD 810H certified. H is the key part—it is the successor to the MIL-STD 810G standard, and includes both major and minor modifications to durability test methods.
MIL-STD, also known as MIL-SPEC, is how the US Department of Defense measures equipment to achieve a baseline standard for durability. MIL-STD 810 deals with consumer electronics and includes testing for a wide range of adverse environmental conditions, including temperature extremes or even such things as it might take a pill. We hope you never find yourself on the battlefield, but if you do, you’ll want your laptop to be MIL-STD certified. (Learn more about device certification.)
With that in mind, we wanted to see if the rugged laptop could hold itself under pressure, so we ran a drop and splash test to see if those certifications held any weight. A device certified IP65 should be able to withstand an estimated 15 minutes of water from any angle without issue, which is what the Z14I did. The Z14I also claims it can resist a drop of up to 6 feet – that also held up to the test, but while the DuraBook still intended to survive both a 6-foot drop and a waist-high drop worked, the chassis showed some visible marks, developing a small hairline crack on the bottom after the high fall. That said, the sheer operational survival of a hard surface near the range of its rated drop height is all that any user could ask for.
On the bottom of the DuraBook, you’ll find an expansion slot that can be outfitted with a variety of modules to provide additional storage expansion, a VGA port for legacy displays, and even custom military-grade connectors. Laptops can be turned into servers to fit any number of specific situations.
For security options, you can use a TPM 2.0 Trusted Platform Module that provides hardware-based key generation for encryption. You’ll also find lockable latches on the doors covering the I/O ports, a Kensington lock slot, and optional fingerprint support for fast and secure logins.
a panoply of ports
The Z14I comes equipped with a 14-inch Full HD (1,920-by-1,080-pixel) touch screen that offers plenty of real estate, even if it’s crammed between massive black bezels. A heavy privacy slot at the top of the screen hides the 2-megapixel webcam. This Durabook won’t win any beauty pageants, but it still has a distinctive look that isn’t necessarily obnoxious. The screen also gets incredibly bright, promising up to 1,000 nits of brightness while maintaining readability. In my eyes, though, picture quality was never particularly sharp, and overall the screen had a blurry quality that washed out images and videos. (It may well be down to the special touch layer on the panel.)
The waterproof chiclet keyboard delivers solid feedback, though it feels a little too small for my taste. Keyboard space can be sacrificed to make room for all the ports. Otherwise, the keyboard is fairly standard, with two programmable buttons sitting next to the power button and status indicator.
The touchpad is small but responsive. Its buttons are clicky and satisfying too. If the touchpad isn’t a good fit for you, the 10-point multitouch screen offers four touch modes (glove, finger, stylus, water) and comes with a stylus pen. To the south of the touchpad, you’ll find two integrated speakers located next to the carrying handle. The sound is loud, but not very clear. We were also surprised to find that the chassis vibrates at high volumes.
Your typical 14-inch laptop comes with a few handy I/O ports on each side, but like we said the Z14I is anything but distinctive. On the right, you’ll find an audio jack, a USB 2.0 port, USB 3.2 Gen 1 and Gen 2 Type-A ports, a USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C port, and a Thunderbolt 4 port. You will also see the battery compartment here.
On the left is a SIM card slot for mobile broadband; a flash card reader that supports SD (Secure Digital), SDXC, and mini-SD (with adapter) devices; a smartcard reader; an RF signal switch; and an optical disc drive. It also has a storage compartment, which houses the system’s main boot drive.
The rear panel hosts the rest of the ports (yes, there are more), including HDMI and VGA video outputs, an AC adapter connector, security lock slots, twin Ethernet jacks, and an RS-232 port for serial peripherals.
Testing the Z14I Durabook: Strengths First, Performance Second
To see how the DuraBook stacked up against the competition, we ran the machine and four competitors through rigorous CPU, GPU, battery, and display tests. For comparison, we chose the 14-inch Getac S410 G4 and two rugged 2-in-1s, the Panasonic ToughBook 55 Mk2 and Panasonic ToughBook G2. Finally, there’s the semi-rugged Acer Enduro Urban N3. All have similar specifications, shown below.
The first test in our benchmark suite is PCMark 10, a UL performance test that simulates a variety of Windows tasks to deliver an overall performance score for Office workflows. A score above 4,000 indicates excellent productivity for apps like Microsoft Office. All laptops in this group performed similarly, but the Acer Enduro stood out from the pack to claim the top prize, leaving the Z14I in fourth place.
PCMark 10 also has a Full System Drive Storage Test that measures program load times and the throughput of a laptop’s boot drive. Durabook left the field behind.
Next are three CPU-focused benchmarks. Handbrake 1.4 is an open-source tool used to convert video files in various resolutions and formats; We use the timing system as they convert 12-minute clips of 4K video to 1080p resolution. Cinebench is another multi-core test that exercises all the cores and threads of the processor while providing a detailed image. Geekbench 5.4 is a stress test that simulates various real-world applications. The Acer and Panasonic ToughBook 55 did well here, with the DuraBook in the middle of the pack.
In our final productivity test, we run workstation maker Puget Systems’ PugetBench for Photoshop through a series of exercises to measure a PC’s content-creation and multimedia chops using both CPU- and GPU-accelerated functions. Adobe Photoshop puts 22. The Z14I once again fell behind.
Overall, the Z14I underperformed in our productivity test, notably trailing the Acer Enduro which uses the same CPU. One possible reason is its fanless design; The DuraBook made a conscious decision to reduce performance by using a passive cooling system instead of an active one.
Chances are, you won’t buy a sturdy laptop just for playing games, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider its graphics capabilities. Neither of these machines has a dedicated GPU; Instead, they rely on integrated graphics that are generally suitable for simple and casual games at modest resolutions and frame rates. For this, we test all non-gaming laptops with two benchmarks, 3DMark and GFXBench 5.0. The first is DirectX 12 Benchmark which provides several sub-tests; We use two, one more demanding than the other. The Z14I again landed in the middle, outperforming Getac and Acer.
The second part of our graphics is GFXBench 5.0, a simulator that stress-tests both low- and high-level routines. We ran two subtests, the 1440p Aztec Ruins and the 1080p Car Chase, rendered off-screen to accommodate the different display resolutions. DuraBook was a poor performer in both, finishing fourth again. Still, it managed an average of 68 frames per second in the Car Chase test. (See our deep dive into the suitability of integrated graphics for recent games.)
Display and Battery Test
In our final series of tests, we turn our attention to the display’s brightness and color coverage and the laptop’s battery life. For last, we charge the system fully, then disable Wi-Fi and keyboard backlighting, while watching locally stored 720p video with screen brightness set to 50% and audio volume set to 100% . The Durabook rates the Z14I’s unplugged life at 16 hours, but our system trails both Panasonics, after 10 and a quarter.
We measure the coverage of three popular color spaces or palettes, sRGB (Internet), Adobe RGB (photo and design), and DCI-P3 (video and cinema), with screen brightness from Datacolor’s SpyderX Elite display calibrator and software also use. in nits. The muddy picture quality I mentioned was reflected here, as the Z14I posted poor scores across all three color gamuts, though none of these rugged systems performed excellently (they’re not content creation workstations). , Finally). It did get quite bright though, approaching 1,000 nits, which is in keeping with its intended use in the great outdoors, where a dim screen is easily drowned out by sunlight.
A rugged model that stuns landing
The Durabook Z14I isn’t a great performer, but a rough and tough laptop rarely should be. It has decent performance, and its bountiful ports, along with customization and expansion options, add to its appeal. The Getac S410 may be a better option for those looking for a rugged portable without spending a lot of money, and enthusiasts may find a lightweight option between semi-rugged and convertible systems, but the Z14I fills an attractive niche.