The $50 Targus 15.4-inch messenger occupies a middle ground between basic-black, business-oriented laptop bags and wildly colorful--and more expensive--Timbuk2 messenger bags. Though its broad exterior panels are colored drab olive, gray, and black, flashes of road-sign yellow on the top flap, mellowed by an overlay of black mesh, keep the Targus 15.4-inch messenger from looking stuffy. (A colleague described its look as "hip, but not so hip you'd need a visible tattoo to pull it off.") The bag also has a lot of features we like, including organizer pockets, a padded laptop compartment, and a comfortable strap. Unfortunately, one of the Velcro closures on our review unit came unstitched after just one weekend trip, which raises some questions in our mind about the bag's long-term durability. Still, that flaw would be covered by the manufacturer's warranty, and the bag seems otherwise sturdily constructed--given its $50 price tag, we're mostly willing to overlook the issue.
Colorful fabrics aside, Targus keeps the exterior of its 15.4-inch messenger simple. A zippered pocket on the front flap is large enough to hold a paperback or keep travel documents within easy reach, while a much larger pocket on the back panel accommodates a newspaper or other reading material. The back pocket fastens shut via a small square of Velcro; on our bag, the Velcro's grip was so powerful that it pulled out the stitching. The flaw is covered under Targus' lifetime product warranty, but to get it fixed we'd have to ship it back to the company--on our dime. Mesh pockets on each side of the bag keep beverages and umbrellas within easy reach--the pockets comfortably accommodated large-size bottles, including our 24-ounce Camelbak bottle. The chest strap attaches to the bag above the two mesh pockets; metal loops add strength. There's also a padded carry handle, though it's so thin and small we suspect it will be used only to hoist the bag on and off a desk or table.
A wide strip of Velcro--this one felt securely attached--holds the bag's front flap closed. Peeling open the flap of the Targus 15.4-inch messenger bag reveals fabric "wings" at the corners where the flap meets the bag--an especially thoughtful feature that keeps your stuff contained and shields it from the elements when the bag is closed. Inside, a slender front compartment contains some basic organizer features: two pen loops, a clip for your keys, a cell phone pocket (too narrow for our Treo 650), a larger mesh pocket for miscellany, and two easily accessible slots for holding business cards and IDs. We wish this front pocket had a zipper along the sides so we could more easily access its contents; nevertheless we liked having the organization features. The bag's main compartment includes a mesh file pocket to corral loose papers or other odds and ends as well as an open area big enough to hold a few notepads or your laptop accessories. At the back, a yellow, padded compartment provides substantial insulation for your laptop; a thin strap at the top holds your laptop in place. Also at the back: a scratch-resistant pouch for an MP3 player. While we appreciate this feature, we're not sure about its placement on the front of the laptop sleeve. On the one hand, it is protected from, say, key scratches, and it would be difficult for pickpockets to reach. On the other hand, it intrudes on the main compartment space and is difficult to reach for the purposes of changing tracks or adjusting volume. If you listen to music while walking to school or work, your MP3 player will likely end up in some other pocket rather than this one.
We stuffed the Targus 15.4-inch messenger bag with the 15.4-inch Fujitsu LifeBook A6030 and its power cable, plus two spiral notebooks, a thick file folder, and a paperback book. With these few objects, the interior of the bag felt comfortably full; as we discovered when we tried to add a thick book to the mix, the Targus 15.4-inch messenger doesn't offer much give once the bag is mostly full. Carrying the bag, both on one shoulder and messenger-style, was quite comfortable, thanks to the adjustable-length straps, which featured a moveable shoulder pad. With the exception of the faulty Velcro closure mentioned above, the Targus 15.4-inch messenger seemed sturdily constructed and ready to stand up to the demands of business or campus life.