Written by 6:00 am Feature, FSM Technology

Hands-On Review: Durabook S15 Rugged Laptop

Kris Oldland, Editor-in-Chief, gives his honest thoughts on the Durabook S15 rugged laptop in this hands-on review….

When we get asked to review a device suitable for use within a field service environment, we don’t just look at the specs. We spend time with the device, get our ‘hands-on’ the device, and see how it operates in the day-to-day. In doing so, we can look beyond the technical specs and evaluate how the device might work in different potential field service roles in the real world.

If you’re looking for a pure tech-based review, you will find plenty of them on the internet, and while we, of course, take the specs of a device into account, we are more concerned about how devices will be used in the field.

In these reviews, we take that ‘hands-on’ experience and align it with the more traditional review so you, as a field service management professional, get not only a good understanding of where the strengths are of each device we review but also an honest appraisal of how the specifications laid out on the manufacturer’s website translate into the actual day to day usage.

And so now, onto the device, which this time around is Durabook’s S15 rugged laptop.

What the manufacturers say:

Two things are immediately apparent when the Durabook S15 Rugged Laptop is taken out of the box.

Firstly, its identity as a rugged laptop remains pronounced. The external build immediately communicates durability – a vital characteristic for any device intended for field service. Meanwhile, the magnesium-alloy chassis both adds to the sense of robustness and imparts a sense of reliability and sturdiness. This laptop is built to withstand the rigors of demanding environments.

However, the second immediate observation is that while still unmistakably a rugged device, the S15 is far removed from the cumbersome form factor we might think of when it comes to rugged computing. Admittedly, the form factors of such devices from all the major players in the space have been becoming increasingly less bulky over the years. However, with the S15, Durabook has raised the benchmark again and produced the sleekest device in its class.

Indeed, the S15’s weight and dimensions are well-balanced from the initial moment of handling the device. It’s a comfortable device to hold, which is impressive as this has been achieved without compromising its protective, rugged features. The design is admittedly pragmatic, favoring function and protection over aesthetics, but this is precisely what one would expect from a device in this category. That said, the surface textures and grip areas are thoughtfully designed, ensuring the laptop stays securely in hand while moving around in the field.

This blend of protection and accessibility is a critical factor in the S15’s design ethos and is seen all across the S15. Many simple yet essential functional elements, such as the laptop’s port covers, reflect this. They are robust and provide ample protection against dust and impacts, yet they open easily, offering convenient access to the laptop’s extensive connectivity options. When reviewing a device for our hands-on series, the small details can often cause minor frustrations, but the S15 reflects a well-thought-out design approach that encompasses every aspect of its form.

At the initial boot-up, the response is swift, showcasing the efficiency of the Intel Alder Lake processors and the optimized Windows operating system. Of course, such immediate responsiveness is promising in the field service sector, where, ultimately, our end goal is reducing every second of non-productive time.

Processing power:

The Durabook S15 rugged laptop offers robust processor options to handle various demanding tasks in the field. The laptop is available with Intel’s 12th generation Alder Lake processors, including the Intel Core i5 and Core i7 options. With their innovative hybrid architecture, these processors provide a blend of performance and efficiency, pushing the boundaries of CPU performance.

The model we reviewed was the top-tier option, the Intel Core i7 variant, packed with impressive capabilities. It can reach high speeds and has a significant cache size, making it ideal for multitasking, running data-intensive applications, and handling complex computational tasks. This processor ensures that the Durabook S15 can smoothly operate resource-heavy software and manage challenging field service operations.

The S15 indeed sits within that category of rugged devices, pushing the current status quo of what is possible for a field-based device…

Indeed, as devices we empower our engineers within the field become more powerful, the software solutions we can utilize can become a whole new way of thinking regarding service design. While that in and of itself is a topic outside of the scope of this review, suffice it to say that the S15 indeed sits within that category of rugged devices, pushing the current status quo of what is possible for a field-based device.

Of course, not every field service role will require such heavy-lifting capabilities under the hood. So, for those with more moderate processing needs, the Durabook S15’s Intel Core i5 option is a powerful yet balanced choice. It provides reliable performance, from routine data processing to running specialized field service software. This processor strikes a good balance between power and value, making it suitable for more standard field service requirements.

With these processor options, the Durabook S15 can tackle different workloads efficiently. Whether for high-load applications like CAD, on-site data analytics, or more standard field service tasks, the S15’s processing power can handle it adeptly. Of course, the choice between the i7 and i5 processors would depend on the specific demands and intensity of the fieldwork.

Operating system:

The Durabook S15 is equipped with Windows 11 Pro 64-bit, offering users a modern and secure operating system. Windows 11 provides an intuitive and refreshed interface, improved performance for multitasking, and a host of new features to enhance productivity. The OS also offers robust security features to protect user data. Its seamless integration with Microsoft’s cloud services facilitates efficient file synchronization and remote data access. It is advantageous for field service professionals handling large files and requiring reliable data management in various environments.

Additionally, Windows 11 excels in mobile device management (MDM), simplifying the deployment and management of devices in the field. This MDM capability ensures that IT departments can efficiently manage updates and security policies remotely, keeping field devices synchronized and secure, thereby supporting seamless field service operations and data handling.

Importantly, with Windows 11, the S15 is well-positioned as a future-ready device for field service tasks.


The Durabook S15 rugged laptop offers an excellent range of connectivity options, which is crucial for field service professionals who need reliable and versatile communication capabilities.

Wireless communication is facilitated by the Intel Wi-Fi 6E AX211 module, providing dependable high-speed internet access. This Wi-Fi standard supports efficient data transfer and online resource accessibility, even in areas with crowded wireless networks, ensuring that field service professionals remain connected.

Alongside this, the S15 also includes 4G compatibility for mobile connection, which is, of course, essential for field service technicians who need connectivity in the field. For those who need an even faster connection, there is also a 5G option available. 

Additionally, the laptop features an RJ45 gigabit Ethernet jack for secure and fast wired connections, which is essential for environments where wireless connectivity may be inconsistent.

The Durabook S15 offers options like GPS for accurate location tracking and navigation for those needing additional connectivity. This is especially useful for field service technicians who travel to different sites and require precise location information.

In conclusion, the S15’s connectivity suite is designed to support efficient communication and data handling across diverse operational environments.

The Ins & Outs:

The Durabook S15 rugged laptop offers a variety of inputs and outputs designed to meet the diverse connectivity needs of field service professionals.

The laptop includes essential ports such as USB 3.2 Gen2 Type-A and Type-C for high-speed data transfer and peripheral connectivity. It also features a Thunderbolt 4 port, which supports fast data transfer and connects with multiple peripherals.

The S15 is equipped with a standard audio in/out combo jack, allowing for the connection of headphones or external speakers. Additionally, the laptop has a Micro SD card reader that can handle micro SDXC cards, providing expandable storage for extra data or software resources.

As mentioned in the previous section, the S15 offers an RJ45 gigabit (with options for two ports) Ethernet jack, and it also comes with features particularly useful in specific field service environments, such as an HDMI port, a 15-pin VGA port, up to 2x serial port RS-232 ports available and options for POGO docking, smart card reader, enhancing its versatility in connecting to various external devices and displays.

The design of the S15 ensures that these ports are well-integrated and secured, adding to the device’s ruggedness without making it feel cluttered. This thoughtful design is crucial for maintaining the laptop’s durability and resistance to environmental elements like dust and water.


The Durabook S15 rugged laptop is engineered to endure the most challenging field conditions, boasting impressive rugged qualifications that assure its durability and reliability in demanding environments.

The laptop meets the MIL-STD-810H military standard, indicating its resilience against various environmental stresses, including drops, shocks, vibrations, and extreme temperatures. This certification confirms the S15’s capability to withstand harsh field conditions, protecting critical data and functionality.

Moreover, the Durabook S15 features a robust construction with reinforced corners, enabling it to endure accidental drops, a crucial aspect of field service work. The laptop is certified as IP5X, meaning that it is reasonably protected from dust ingress to the degree that dust couldn’t interfere with the regular operation of the device. Effectively, this certification ensures safeguarding the S15 against dust and moisture, which is essential for use in diverse environments.

As mentioned in the opening section of this review, the S15 is a sleek device by rugged standards and is, in fact, the lightest and thinnest device in its class. Yet, it still holds these strong, rugged credentials, partly due to the S15’s design, which incorporates features like a magnesium-alloy chassis, which adds to its ruggedness while maintaining a manageable weight. Its port covers also enhance protection against environmental elements, ensuring the laptop’s longevity in the field.

Durabook’s propriety DynaVue technology offers an incredibly high contrast ratio, designed to eliminate internal reflections that enhance viewing clarity from different angles and in bright sunshine or low light conditions

Finally, the S15 has an optional 1000 nits DynaVue sunlight-readable display. Durabook’s propriety DynaVue technology offers an incredibly high contrast ratio, designed to eliminate internal reflections that enhance viewing clarity from different angles and in bright sunshine or low light conditions. Combined with the dust above ingress standards, this makes the S15 a good option for arid, dry, and bright areas.

These rugged features make the Durabook S15 a reliable choice for demanding field environments, offering durability, protection against environmental challenges, and uninterrupted operation.

Battery Life:

Battery life is a critical factor for field service professionals, and the Durabook S15 rugged laptop recognizes this with its substantial battery system designed for extended, uninterrupted use.

Thanks to the Li-lon 7.4V, 7600mAh battery, the S15 boasts a 12-hour battery life (tested using the MobileMark 2014 battery life benchmark in standard conditions and verified in our testing) that should be sufficient for most field service needs, allowing professionals to work through their tasks without the constant need to recharge. This aligns with the expectation of minimal downtime and maximal productivity, essential in field environments.

However, as we all know, field service work can often go way beyond the standard, with hostile environments potentially impacting life, or days in the field can be longer than anticipated. For situations with even longer battery life, the S15 provides options for an optional bridge battery for swapping without turning off the complete system. This flexibility is invaluable for field service professionals who may find themselves in locations where power sources are scarce or working long shifts that stretch beyond the average workday.

The S15’s bridge battery allows for a 5-minute swap time, so even if the battery drains without the engineer realizing it, there is enough time to get to the van, swap to a fresh battery, and continue the job. Workers can carry a charged spare and quickly exchange it when necessary, ensuring continuous operation without shutting it down for charging.

Another nice feature that shows an understanding of their customer’s often global footprints is that the S15’s power adapter accommodates a wide range of voltage inputs, ensuring it can be charged in various regions without additional converters. This global charging capability ensures that the S15 is reliable for field service professionals worldwide, providing the necessary power flexibility and resilience for demanding tasks and extended field use.

With these battery features, the Durabook S15 is a laptop that can sustain long and demanding work periods, vital for field service efficiency and productivity.

Potential Use Cases:

As always in the Field Service News Hands-On review series, having gotten to know the device, we will outline some potential field service roles which the Durabook S15 rugged laptop is especially suited for:

IT and Network Technicians: With its array of connectivity options, including Thunderbolt 4 and Ethernet ports, IT professionals can use the S15 for network diagnostics and on-site server maintenance.

Telecommunications Field Workers: The laptop’s robust build and connectivity features, such as optional GPS, are ideal for telecom engineers who install, test, and repair cellular and broadband networks.

Industrial Machinery Technicians: The S15’s sturdy construction and processing capabilities make it fit for technicians who oversee machinery diagnostics, programming, and operation in industrial settings.

Construction Managers: For those overseeing construction projects, the S15’s sunlight-readable display and long battery life allow on-site project management and design consultation.

Field Scientists: Environmental scientists and researchers can leverage the S15’s ruggedness and battery life for data collection and analysis in remote locations.

These specific roles benefit from the S15’s tailored features to handle the demanding tasks and environments of field services but the laptop is one that could be suitable for many field service roles. 


In conclusion, the Durabook S15 rugged laptop emerges as a formidable ally for field service professionals.

It fuses a MIL-STD-810H-certified durable build with high-performance Intel processors, offering resilience and computing power to handle complex, resource-intensive tasks. Its wide array of connectivity options ensures seamless communication and data exchange, which is vital in remote and challenging environments.

The laptop’s extended battery life, with options for further extension, promises sustained operation critical for lengthy field tasks. This battery assurance, combined with the laptop’s robustness and processing prowess, positions the S15 as a tool designed for the diverse demands of field service work.

As we now expect from any device from Durabook, the S15 is not just a laptop; it’s a reliable partner for those who operate in the tough world of field service, where performance, connectivity, and endurance are not just desired but essential for success.

Further Learning:

  • Find the manufacturer’s information on this rugged laptop here
  • Read our recent review of Durabook’s R8 rugged tablet here 
  • Watch video: What do the technical specs in a rugged device mean here
  • Watch video: The questions you should be asking of a rugged manufacturer here
  • Watch video: Why Total Cost of Ownership is about far more than just the device here