Jun 23, 2005

Hardware torture tests

Source: DIGIT
Written By Michael Cahlin

How much “wear-&-tear” can a product take before it gives up the ghost? To find out, we chucked several vital hardware tools around until they broke.

Over the years, my notebooks, digital cameras, music players, and mobile phones have hit the floor more often than a wrestler. I have accidentally lost a digital camera at sea, dry-cleaned an SD Card, and run over a cell phone, all without really trying.

Which raises the question: Just how reliable are the tech products we depend on every day? Can a notebook survive a 6-foot drop? Will your USB memory key still work after taking a spin in a washing machine? Will an iPod sing after it’s been dropped in the sand? I set out to get some rough answers to these tough questions. I collected a variety of widely used mobile products – including a notebook computer, a digital camera, a cell phone, a smart phone, an MP3 player, a USB memory key, and an SD media card – and put them through informal, simulated accidents to see how much maltreatment these electronic gadgets could withstand.

I dropped a few onto the floor, spilled liquid on them, and generally banged them around. I even drove my car over a few. None of my tests were entirely scientific, but in some cases I really pushed the limits, subjecting the products to the kind of abuse that could only be expected to destroy them. In most of those cases, I got my wish. Please don’t think badly of me – I did it in the name of curiosity (and maybe a little payback for all the times my tech products have failed me).

For the most part, the products I tested were stronger and more durable than they looked. But without exception, each would have fared even better had it been inside some kind of protective case or covering. And while you can’t always prevent accidents, you can prepare for them.

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