After a few stops and starts, the Getac A770 proved a powerful and rugged notebook. Unfortunately I had to return the unit a few times to get it right.

The first unit had an annoying screen flicker, and when I tried to take advantage of the Getac's option to switch the CD-ROM with an included floppy drive, the system didn't recognize the floppy. The company said they found no problem with the first unit but sent a second.

This one wouldn't wake from sleep or standby mode. Every time it dozed off, I had to hold the power button for several seconds to turn the unit off, do the same to turn it back on and wait for it to reboot. I also had trouble with the infrared port, which didn't keep a connection long enough to send files.

After going back and forth with tech support by e-mail and phone, I sent the second unit back for repair. The company replaced the broken parts and had it back to me in two weeks. This time, the Getac returned fully functional -- minus the adapter cable to charge the battery.

Geared toward users in emergency services, public safety, law enforcement, field maintenance and the military, the 14.3-pound A770 offers plenty of processing power (1.4/1.6 GHz Pentium M), a lovely display, and options to add oodles of features -- such as a touchscreen and/or sunlight readable display; additional ports, drives and batteries; and wireless capability. The Getac's lack of reliability, however, gave me pause when considered for such fields as law enforcement and emergency services.

Also a disadvantage for officials who need information to perform lifesaving duties -- tech support is not available 24 hours a day, and it's a long-distance call if you don't operate in the 949 area code. Tech support is also available via e-mail, but I didn't find that a realistic solution for complicated problems.

Now, if you are willing to deal with the above shortcomings, you will get what you pay for in toughness. The A770 is every bit as rugged as it claims.

The unit withstood the 3-foot drop touted by the company, and then some. One overzealous coworker -- using the finally functional unit while walking -- dropped the notebook open-faced from approximately 4.5 feet. Then he proceeded to accidentally trip over it, stepping on the keyboard. The unit was unscathed.

It also took a steady stream of water to the keyboard with little consequence. The screen fogged momentarily as the sun heated the water droplets, and the pointing device had trouble deciding which direction to go with drops of water competing with my finger on the touchpad. Once the water was wiped away, the unit was back to business as usual.

Though the Getac delivered on the third try, it carries a steep price tag. I found one retailer selling the standard unit for $4,700, but most were selling it for $5,090. Adding options drives the price up considerably, as will long-distance calls to tech support.

Specifications

o12.1"/13.3"/14.1" TFT XGA LCD display

oIntel Pentium M Processor 1.4 GHz/1.6 GHz

oSwappable for CD-ROM, DVD-ROM, Combo and DVD-RW Combo, FDD, Bay 1 battery, 2nd HDD

oTwo 200-pin PC2100 DDR SODIMM socket for memory expansion

oStandard: 256 MB; Max: 1 GB

oLithium-ion primary start battery for five hours, bay 1 lithium-Ion smart battery, bay 2 lithium-ion smart battery

oWaterproof rubber keyboard

oWaterproof touchpad

Rating: 2 out of 5

Emily Montandon  |  Staff Writer/Copy Editor