Carrying Cases:
Saddlebag designs for laptop cases offer camouflage and convenience

While criss-crossing the globe with a laptop in tow, one quickly comes to appreciate a well built and well designed computer carrying case. Is the shoulder strap comfortable? Is there proper room for the power supply, an extra battery and a small tool kit? Is there room for paper files, floppy disks and a modem cable?

Fortunately, there are many carrying case designs to choose from, for the desirable features in a case are fairly subjective. Roadnews.com recently requested two carrying cases from manufacturers for evaluation. Both met our criteria for a good case: Comfortable to carry and lots of room for file folders and computer paraphernalia.

The two cases also met another of our key requirements, that they not look like laptop carrying cases. We firmly believe that a case's design should not scream "steal me" to every thief in the airport. This means cases should not look like computer cases. While one can't claim that these bags look like regular pieces of carry-on baggage, these cases are hard to recognize as computer cases.

Both cases can be described as saddlebags, as they are half of what a cowboy would swing across the back of his horse in the Wild, Wild West. The bags are taller than they are wide, with a handle on top that lets you carry the bag just like any other piece of carry-on luggage. Both cases also come equipped with back-pack straps concealed in a back compartment. These straps let you swing the case securely and comfortably onto your back for those long treks down airport corridors.

Here's a run down on each case:

Kensington Saddle Bag

The Kensington bag appears to be the better made of the two and offers a number of features that go beyond those offered by the other bag we reviewed. Access to this bag is from the top, where a large flap, which is held down in front by a large plastic clip, swings up and out of the way.

Once open, you have access to two main compartments. The rear one is well padded to hold your computer. A larger compartment to the front contains three separators that you can use to organize business papers, files, magazines and so on. Or if you prefer, these separators are easily removed, leaving you with one large compartment suitable for peripherals or even a quick change of clothes.

On the front, but still protected under the front flap, is a zippered compartment where you can hold all your small stuff. Here you find five sub-compartments suitable for a spare battery, cell phone, floppies, phone wires and adapters, and assorted tools.

Kensington also throws in a shoulder strap for the bag, providing a third method to carry the bag. The bag weighs 3 lbs 7 oz. (1.68 kg) and normally retails in the US for about US$90. The bag is available with fake-leather trim in either tan or black. Take the black, as the tan will dirty quickly.

Targus Convertible Backpac

Targus uses the same saddlebag design, but takes a different approach. Instead of a large front flap, the Targus bag has separate zippered compartments. The main compartment completely unzips on three sides, giving you unhindered access to your computer, as well as smaller inner compartments that hold floppies and more.

A second compartment is separated into three permanent file sections that take folders, papers and the like. On the front of the bag is a large compartment that closes with Velcro, quite similar to the front pouches found on more traditional carrying cases. This compartment will easily hold a charger, spare batteries, and an external drive.

The Targus bag, weighing in at 3.25 lbs, comes in black, blue or green and normally retails at about US$70. It is also available in black leather at an additional price.

Recommendations:

We believe that the Kensington bag is better built and better designed. The hardware and zippers are of better quality and the compartments offer more flexibility. While it does sell for about $20 more, we believe it is worth the extra money.

Contact:

Targus, 6180 Valley View, Buena Park, CA 90620, USA, 714/523-5429, Fax: 714/523-0153, Web site: http://www.targus.com. Targus also has 11 other offices around the world.

Kensington MicroWare Ltd, 2855 Campus Drive, San Mateo, CA 94403, USA, 800/535-4242 (US & Canada), 415/572-2700, Fax: 415/572-9675, Email: info@kensington.com, Web site: http://www.kensington.com. Kensington bags are available from major computer retailers, computer catalogs and large office supply stores.

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