DT Research LT330 review: Rugged convertible laptop optimized for field workers

While we often think of remote work during the global pandemic as the opportunity to work from home and away from the offices, there are first responders, law enforcement, military, and field workers who spend the majority of their time working out in the field. These type of workers need reliable hardware that is capable of withstanding the elements while also being able to provide service for extended periods of time.

DT Research designs and manufacturers rugged computing solutions and for the past month we have spent time with the LT330 13.3-inch rugged convertible laptop. While I work as a professional engineer in an office most of the time, I also spend time in shipyards where dust, sand, water, and other conditions warrant a more rugged computing device. The LT330 is built for this kind of work and offers the ability to rotate the display to the back for tablet use, which is great for times when crawling in tanks or other tight spaces out in the field.

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Specifications

The key specifications for the LT330 are as follows, with options for a full HD camera, GNSS module, and 4G LTE modem if desired. There are also two night vision screen options for those who perform work in the wee hours.

  • Processor: Intel Core i5-10210U or i7-10710U (tested i7)
  • Display: 13.3-inch 1920 x 1080 pixels resolution capacitive touch sunlight readable
  • Operating system: Windows 10 IoT Enterprise
  • RAM: 8GB to 64GB (tested 16GB)
  • Storage: 256 GB to 4TB (tested 1TB)
  • Wireless technology: 802.11 a/b/g/n/ax WiFi, Bluetooth 5.1
  • Durability: IP65 and MIL-STD-810G certified
  • Ports: USB 3.0 (2), USB Type C, Ethernet, HDMI, COM, audio jack, smart card/CAC reader, Kensington lock
  • Battery: Hot-swappable 5400mAh (8000 mAh option available)
  • Dimensions: 351 x 280 x 43 mm and 3.4 kg (7.5 pounds)

The LT330 also has antimicrobial enclosures to inhibit the spread of microorganisms on teh surface of the device, which is an important consideration today.

Hardware

When I first opened the shipping box and took out the DT Research LT330, my first impression was that the laptop was built to take a beating. I pulled it out with the cool retractable long carrying handle that has silicone on one side and lets you easily carry around the laptop. Each corner is reinforced with silicone bumpers to ensure the laptop can survive bumps and bruises. It is clearly not a light laptop, but it is more important to have something that works in any environment than something that is sleek and breakable.

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The retractable carrying handle is positioned below the trackpad and mouse buttons, on the front of the laptop. Speakers and a couple of indicator lights are also found here on the front. The mouse buttons are long and easy to manipulate. The trackpad is a decent size and positioned just off to the left of the center. Directional arrows and page keys are found on the right side of the keyboard so the trackpad lines up well with the QWERTY keyboard.

The backlit keyboard, red lighting, is well designed with good key spacing and tactile response. The laptop enclosures is constructed of plastics and magnesium-aluminum alloy materials.

There are large bezels around the 13.3-inch display, but that’s understandable for a convertible and rugged device. On the left side of the display is the power button with a quick display dimming button, also programmable, on the right side. This is handy for quickly shifting the display into a low-light environmental condition. There are also capacitive touch brightness controls down in the lower right bezel. Two programmable buttons are available in the bezel area on the lower left side. The display supports up to 1000 nits and is extremely bright. I used it outside in direct full sunlight and was able to maintain my productivity with the laptop.

The display is a touchscreen display so you can manipulate objects with your finger. It also supports pen input so if you have a compatible stylus then you can use it in tablet pen with handwriting. My Surface Pen did not work on the laptop so I was unable to test pen input during my time with the laptop.

You can keep pushing the display back all of the way until it rests on the back of the laptop. In this mode you can use it as large, chunky tablet. You can also stop the display movement in any position so you can use it in “tent” configuration or any angle that works for your project needs from closed to fully open. The hinges supporting this display movement are substantial and should last you for years of use. There is also a locking lever on the front of the laptop so you can secure the display down onto the keyboard and carry it safely around with you to the job site.

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Ethernet, USB-C, and the two USB-A 3.0 ports are found on the left side with the charging port and Kensington lock port. COM, HDMI, and the audio jack openings are positioned under a silicone dust cover on the right side. The smart card/CAC reader is also found on the right side, near the front of the laptop.

The two large removable batteries are on the bottom near the front with locking buttons to quickly remove a battery and swap it out on the go. Larger rubber feet are present to prevent the laptop from sliding around and to keep it safe from damage.

Software

The laptop runs Microsoft Windows 10 IoT Enterprise and software security is a priority with Device Guard and Lock Down support. DT Research also has some proprietary security aspects, such as automatic Bluetooth and WiFi functions for defined conditions and NIST BIOS setup for DoD security protocols. The Control Center software allows the administrator the access to setup the laptop for deployment.

Software is provided on the laptop to customize the programmable buttons found on the laptop in various areas, called Button Manager. A fairly stock Windows experience is provided with no silly games, extra utilities, or miscellaneous applications installed out of the box.

Daily usage experiences and conclusion

While I use a sleek Surface Pro 6 for my daily office and train commute, having a rugged laptop designed to withstand the rigors of a shipyard is appreciated. DT Research provides three LT300 series 360 convertible laptops with available options to customize the specifications for your exact working needs.

The batteries lasted for a couple of days and the ability to swap them out quickly is fantastic. I’ve spent days working on marine salvage cases in the past so the ability to just keep going with limited access to A/C power is a significant benefit for those working in emergency or remote situations.

The display is very visible outside and the touchscreen is very responsive. While the trackpad is fine, I personally prefer touching the display to more quickly interact with Windows applications. The ability to rotate the display to the back is useful for spaces where you do not have room to open up into full laptop mode and set the computer down on a surface. DT Research provides a rugged laptop that won’t let you down and provides all of the connectivity and security you could ask for.

Pricing is dependent on exactly which options you select and your local reseller should be contacted for the configuration. Various enterprise provides, such as CDW have some specific preselected options. For comparison purposes, CDW offers an i7 with 8GB of RAM and 521GB of internal storage for $2,299.99. I tested the i7 with 16GB of RAM and 1TB of internal storage.

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