Gadgets That Can Battle the Elements
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There's always that moment of irrational hope just as disaster strikes a personal electronic device. Maybe your cell phone will be the first ever to survive an accidental bath, or perhaps your laptop, tumbling off the table, won't shatter. The good news? If your device has a high Ingress Protection (IP) rating, it just might tough it out. The IP uses a two-digit system: The first digit (from 0 to 6) measures protection against solid objects like hands, wires and dust; the second (from 0 to 8) measures the level of protection against liquids, from condensation to total immersion. The rough-and-tumble devices showcased here didn't just earn passing grades--they weathered our own real-world trials with flying colors.
Mophie Juice Pack Powerstation Pro ($100)
Road warriors need backup mobile power to charge devices quickly when operating off the grid. Mophie's 6,000 mAh portable battery does this well. Compatible with a wide array of USB devices, the IP65-rated energy brick can withstand dust and sprays of water, and its rugged, rubber edging both covers ports and shields the device from impacts. After being carelessly dropped onto the ground a few times, the juice pack still worked, recharging a smartphone battery in less than an hour.
Pantech Element ($400)
The curves on this 8-inch Android tablet make it easy to grab--a great feature for retrieving it from the bath. With an IP57 rating, the Element survived a soaking just fine (it even continued to play video while underwater). Hooked into AT&T's LTE wireless network, the device can be used anywhere, including in the rain while waiting for a cab. Haptic feedback adds to the tablet's tactile experience: There's a slight vibration when keys are typed, which is helpful for fingers that are numb from cold. The 16 GB of onboard storage is expandable through a microSD slot.
Splash of Genius
Sony Xperia Advance ($320)
This slim Android smartphone doesn't need a protective case. To prove it, we put its IP67 rating to the test, drowning it in the sink for two minutes, then pulling it out and using it while still wet. The 3.5-inch, scratch-resistant touchscreen responded just fine to pruned, soaking-wet fingers. With its 5 megapixel camera and 8 GB of onboard storage (upgradable to 32 GB via microSD card), it's a go-to phone for those who make their living in and around water or snow.
Getac X500 (from $4,999)
Scored at IP65, this 16-inch laptop can fight off dust, splashes of water and, with its magnesium-alloy case, maybe even a few battlefield foes as well. Meeting U.S. military standards, this Windows 7 device has an array of options, including GPS, fingerprint scanner and night-vision display; it also has several great standard features, such as a shock-protected hard drive and a display that's readable in sunlight. It functions in temperatures ranging from minus 4 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Bummer: At 11.68 pounds, portability is an issue.