The Modern Patrol Car: Tablet vs Laptop

Posted by | Date:

It’s that time of year again. Just a few days until Thanksgiving and then the holiday shopping madness kicks into high gear. On Friday, ambitious shoppers all over the country will be looking for deals, trying to determine what to buy for their friends and family, and figuring out where to find the best products for the least amount of money. Choices, choices, choices!

Well, it isn’t just holiday shoppers who should be making informed buying decisions. Whether you’ve had Mobile Data Terminals (MDTs) in your patrol cars for years or you are just entering the era of computer-based Law Enforcement, you have many choices when it comes to which device to use.

For years, the rugged laptop has been the MDT of choice for patrol cars. The Panasonic Toughbook family has enjoyed the largest share of this market. In many industries, Law Enforcement among them, purchasing decisions are often made based on the premise that what we bought previously is the correct product for our current and future needs. As Police Departments purchase equipment to replace aging MDTs, many buy laptops because that is what they have always used. However, I would encourage your department to make an informed purchasing decision by considering the following list of questions:

    1. What will we use it for?
    2. Does it run our software?
    3. Will it survive our environments?
    4. Can our IT staff maintain it?
    5. Can we afford it?

I propose examining why you have MDTs in your patrol cars and what their purposes are. For instance, I like to ask, “Do you plan to take the MDT out of the car?” A parallel question I ask is, “How often will you take the MDT out of the car?” If you are replacing MDTs, review these questions as they relate to your experiences. The vast majority of answers I hear from my Law Enforcement customers is that the only reason they remove MDTs from cars is for repair.

If this is true for you, I would recommend that you consider a tablet computer. Using patrol car tablet computers can be advantageous over using laptops for several reasons.

      1. You can install most tablets without a dock. This is an immediate savings, as a dock can cost anywhere from $100 to over $1000 depending on whether you need port replication.
      2. Because of its more permanent mounting, a tablet requires greater effort to remove, which decreases the chance of having it stolen. Its form factor is also less useful in the consumer market, thus lowering its appeal to theives.
      3. Tablets do not have integrated keyboards, so failure rates are lower. Instead you can use a separate, low-cost keyboard, allowing yourself to keep spares on-hand.
      4. There is a lower likelihood that someone will spill liquid on a tablet since it is mounted vertically. The laptop is a large target for spills.
RT-12i Tablet by PatrolPC

If you are buying your first MDTs or just refreshing some of your patrol car computers, take some time to consider using rugged tablets instead of laptops. One such tablet is the RT-12i from PatrolPC (download specification here), but we’d be glad to hear from you about your unique requirements so we can help you find the ideal solution. Questions? Contact us today!