August 16, 2006 4:00 AM PDT

Tough gear for tough travel woes

Makers of tough-to-break, but often pricy, laptop computers and consumer electronics could get an unexpected boost from new carry-on luggage restrictions on flights to and from the United Kingdom.

Last week, British aviation officials, in response to what investigators say was a foiled terrorist plot, announced tough new regulations that temporarily barred travelers from carrying computers or other types of consumer electronics on airplanes. The stringent carry-on rules were eased Tuesday, but current restrictions on luggage size still make it tough on travelers.

While regulators in the U.S. have not yet gone that far, the new rules do raise prickly issues for anyone who would even think of carrying a cell phone on a plane: Would anyone in their right mind let baggage handlers get their hands on something as expensive and fragile as a laptop computer?

Probably not. But if you don't have a choice, there are some options, ranging from tough computers to luggage.

"What we have been seeing are more durable products, or products with more durable features," said Richard Shim, an analyst at IDC, citing the example of a Lenovo ThinkPad television spot that depicts a man dropping a laptop in a coffee shop. "The commercial market has been demanding it, and gradually the consumer market will as well, as we move to a more mobile computing environment," he said.

tough laptops

Travelers with a few thousand dollars to burn can get a so-called ruggedized computer from the likes of Panasonic, which was one of the first to tackle the rugged market with its Toughbook in 1998. More recently, the PocketPC has gone rugged. Even bumper-adorned iPod shells are available.

Many of these notebooks are built with reinforced frames to make them more solid, hard drives with more cushioning around them, magnesium-alloy cases (for drop resistance) and water-resistant keyboards, Shim said.

Smaller gadgets, too, are appearing in hardier incarnations. MP3 player manufacturers, for example, have rolled out water-resistant, skip-proof models--but they're designed for the gym, not the cargo hold. Toughened-up tech equipment, too, has been used in initiatives to wire the developing world.

Or travelers could get a suitcase designed to protect a computer, with options ranging from OtterBox's relatively normal-looking " turtleshells" to more hardcore buoyant laptop cases. Luggage manufacturer Targus also sells wheel-equipped overnight bags with padded laptop compartments inside for consumers who anticipate the need to stash their computers in their carry-on bags while traveling.

Indeed, it could be luggage makers, not tech-gear makers, who see a windfall from the new regulations.

Clarification: This story has been updated to reflect that the stringent carry-on rules set by British aviation officials last week were temporary and have been somewhat eased this week.

See more CNET content tagged:
Richard Shim, mobile computing, traveler, consumer electronics, electronics


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This is all completely wrong
There is no restriction on anyone taking a laptop or MP3 player on to aircraft, but you are not allowed to carry any liquids. Miss McCarthy ought perhaps to check her facts:

<a class="jive-link-external" href="" target="_newWindow"></a>
Posted by Satorial Chap (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
A McCarthy never lets FACTS get in their way.
Remember Senator McCarthy and the Red Scare? And you should definitely take a look at the current New York Representative McCarthy who got elected on a "crazed blackman attacking whities" scare.
Posted by kamwmail-cnet1 (292 comments )
Link Flag
Check again...
Actually, airlines with flights from the UK to the US were NOT allowing electronics of any kind to be brought into the passenger cabins. This policy may have since been modified...
Posted by tayl0044 (12 comments )
Link Flag
Let's try for accuracy next time!
Just today I looked at the TSB's website regarding forbidden items and there is no suggestion that cellphones have been banned unless you have one that runs on a liquid acid battery.
Posted by kantan (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
ruggedness might not matter if battery problems continue
Remember the oxygen-generating canisters that caught fire and brought down
a plane in the Everglades several years ago? A Dell laptop with a Sony
battery could present a similar hazard, leading to an eventual ba.
Posted by Jackson Cracker (272 comments )
Reply Link Flag
ruggedness might not matter if battery problems continue
Remember the oxygen-generating canisters that caught fire and brought down
a plane in the Everglades several years ago? A Dell laptop with a Sony
battery could present a similar hazard, leading to an eventual ban.
Posted by Jackson Cracker (272 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Laptops No More
Soon to be - No Laptops in Carry on or Checked Bags

Lithium-ion batteries used in most laptops today contain liquid and the liquid is flammable.

With the new TSA restrictions on liquids and gels in carry on luggage, laptops would not be permitted.

Flammable liquids in checked baggage has long been forbidden.

On logical conclusion would be that the burden carried by todays road warriors will soon be reduced.
Posted by TCribbe (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Dell as hot as hell
I really don't get this. If Sony's batteries are used by so many laptop manufacturers, then why is it that only Dell is having this issue. I haven't heard any news of Sony having problems with their laptops. Perhaps it has something to do with how Dells use the battery?
Posted by maverick_nick (205 comments )
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