It's pretty rare to see someone walking down the street with just a laptop tucked under her arm--that's why we have laptop cases after all. Unfortunately, with countless makes and models available, choosing the right case is almost as confusing as buying a laptop in the first place. For fans of the traditional black nylon laptop case--the kind seen in airports and coffee shops around the world, the $99 Solo Smart Strap stands above the competition because of one feature--a retractable strap.
The retractable shoulder strap is such an ingenious concept, we're surprised it isn't standard equipment on every laptop bag. Put the bag over your shoulder and the strap automatically deploys to a comfortable length--you can pull it out further if needed. When you slip the bag off, the strap automatically retracts into slots on the left and right sides of the bag's top panel. An added bonus was the built-in shock absorption we got when walking with a laptop in the bag, as the strap moved in and out of its housing.
Measuring 17 inches wide by 12 inches high by 6 inches deep, the Solo Smart Strap is a bulky laptop case and will likely be the only bag you carry--so make sure everything you need fits inside. From the outside, it certainly looks as if a 17-inch desktop replacement would fit, but the interior laptop pocket is heavily padded on all four sides, so a 15.4-inch mainstream laptop fits snugly inside. Smaller laptops could fit as well, but they'd be swimming around the padded laptop pocket, so we'd stick with a 15.4-inch model.
There are plenty of pockets and storage areas inside the case. The front pocket has accordion-style folds and three compartments, plus an additional slim zippered pocket on the outside face. On the right side is a Velcro-closed mobile phone pocket. The main laptop section has a Velcro strap to hold your system in place and several small pockets on the inside front wall. Behind the laptop section is another pair of zippers that opens a rear accordion pocket, with three compartments that can all hold letter-size pages. Finally, the rear face has a pass-through for the extending handle of your suitcase and a small pocket suitable for holding something like a boarding pass.