Question...We have a laptop in our engine for mapping, and connected to dispatch via CAD...Current laptop is 3 years old, and is now DOA....Processor went out of it...

My questions is, is there a laptop out there that is 'better' than others, for being left on all the time?  This one was a dell.

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Your department may want to take a look at the Panasonic Toughbook Series. These are laptops developed for use in rugged, harsh conditions. They cost a little bit more, but they are built to withstand abuse. And as we all know, if it can withstand us firefighters, it can pretty much withstand anything.

We had Panasonic Toughbooks in all our apparatus. Every single one of them died after 2 to 3 years. Must be all the vibration and heat, etc. We currently have no laptops in any of our apparatus. Don't know when they will be replaced.

Just a different thought on the issue:

   What about using a ipad or similar with out or with a cell connection? You could keep them outside the truck (ie... we have a desk next to our truck with personnel flashlights on charge.) and most of them wake up very fast. In addition you gain a camcorder and camera for record keeping. The cost of the ipad and cell service would probably work out to about equal over the 3 year life of a toughbook.

Excellent idea. One of our lieutenants carries an ipad everywhere and swears by it for mapping. The first issue I thought of as I read your comment was theft prevention. Guess you could lock them down.

I just hinted to my wife I want one for Christmas. Fingers crossed.

We use the Toughbook CF-29 with Verizon air cards connected to external antennas due to dead spots in cell coverage. We've used them now for 10 years. Had some hard drives crash and a couple of times they had to have Windows re-installed. Overall they worked alright. We're probably going to end up with the CF-31 Toughbooks by the spring. They are designed to handle the vibrations and sun exposure while in the vehicle. It really sucks though that they run $3,200-$4,000 each brand new.

I've heard some local agencies are adding I-pads in addition to having a MDC/MDT. I personally don't know about using them exclusively, but I haven't done any research on I-pad capabilities as CAD computers. I'm also more of an android fan personally. I don't like the proprietary nature of Apple.

The adage of "you get what you pay for" especially applies to computers for apparatus. This is being sent on a CF 30 Toughbook that we have used for the last several years.  

Drop an I-pad, or other notebook and let me know how that works out for you. Drop a Toughbook, and keep going. Most of the 42 fire departments, the 3000 + law enforcement units, and the 100 + units from the Fire Marshals office use Toughbooks in my county. There might be a reason.

Look at the specifications on the various laptops, especially the shock figures. There's not much of anything that compares to the specs of the TB. Anything built by man can fail. But like any other tool, one can pry with a screw driver, but that is not what they are meant for. Using a tool which is designed for the job will work out better than making due.

For the toughbook crowd:

   TB 31 - $3,145.83 for 13 inch screen all mil specd for drops and vibration

   ToughPAD FZ-A1- $1,519.02 for 10 inch screen all mil specd for drops and vibration ( android powered)

Both are Panasonic products built to toughbook standards so that becomes a moot point. Prices were gathered at  for easy comparision.

Some of us have been using laptops in the trucks for awhile and have gotten so used to them that's all we can see. What I was trying to point out is that with the advent of the tablets we have the ability to get more out of the equipment we purchase.

With a tablet and the right set of apps we could do so much more. With the advent of Active911 (and similar apps) all dispatch info is sent to my cell phone along with CAD updates so not much to check on there. Android tablets all run google maps so directions and a top down scene photo is only a click away. Wiser and DOT hazmat books are free apps freeing up even more space in the cab. Now add in photo and video capability of the scene, the ability to easily carry the tablet out of the truck so all of the information stays with you, if your doing patient care the pcr can be completed while you are there, need to send a 12 lead for cath lab notification (most tablets are bluetooth capable). All of that can be accomplished by carrying a much smaller tablet that does all the same work a laptop does.

With budgets being what budgets are wouldn't it make sense to use the things we buy? We pay for the extra hardware to connect our laptops to the net, a tablet can do that internally. We pay for extra ports, CD drive and a big hard drive that we never use! With Oldman's example of 3100 units plus an unkown amount of fire vehicles imagine what you could do with a savings of  $1,600 per unit.



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