(Before I get started with this review, a note of caution about one of my other gizmos. My Sony PRS-500 eBook reader has developed some kind of display problem; the leftmost inch of the screen no longer updates. I checked around online and the going price for this repair appears to be about $250. That's on a gizmo that sells for $279 on Amazon right now. Not a good deal. I'll check with Sony and update this information if I get a better price.)
I've been carrying around a cheap nylon briefcase I bought at the Apple Company Store about ten years ago. I bought it because it had a front pocket the perfect size for my Newton-- which I'm pretty sure was a coincidence.
It started wearing out right away. The zippers, in particular, were fragile. Over the years, one by one, the coils tore loose or started popping open when the zippers were closed. But like a favorite old pair of tennis shoes, I long resisted the idea of replacing the bag.
Eventually, I couldn't ignore the problems any longer.
That was about three years ago.
I've spent those years looking for a suitable replacement. I wanted a briefcase the right size, with the right features, sturdy but not heavy, padded in the right places but not everywhere. Somehow, out of the hundreds of cases out there, I just didn't find anything I liked. It seemed to me that staying with my ratty old bag remained my best option.
But recently I noticed that Victorinox makes briefcases. Apparently they've been doing this for several years, but I had no idea. I guess I wasn't searching all that diligently.
I'm the kind of guy who carries a Swiss Army knife around, although the current one is actually a Wenger lockblade knife I got as a gift a long time ago. I've always appreciated how Victorinox has leveraged its right to the Swiss Army brand into other areas... and about five years ago, I bought a Victorinox padded shoulder strap to replace the original strap from that old Apple bag when one of its clips broke. They're really excellent straps, and I suppose I shouldn't have been so surprised that Victorinox made bags, too.
Anyway, on their website I was able to narrow down my choices to a couple of the larger models without roller wheels. I found smaller versions of the same bags in a local luggage store, and that was enough to let me pick one. I got the Trevi 17 model instead of the Parliament model because I didn't much like the extra weight and bulk of the Parliament's removable laptop case.
Otherwise the two bags were virtually identical. The Trevi 17 has one large compartment set up for a laptop, with a build-in padded sleeve and some smaller open-topped pouches for spare batteries, cables, etc. This compartment is deep enough to accept a very beefy 17" laptop; my MacBook Pro is almost too thin for the velcro strap to work properly.
I got the 17" model of the briefcase instead of the regular Trevi model, which is designed for 15" laptops like mine, because the 17" model is significantly larger overall-- about the same size as my old bag, which seemed just about right to me.
The Trevi 17's other large compartment is set up with the common "file folder" arrangement to help keep papers segregated. It's also expandable; a zipper that spirals around the whole body of the case lets it open up another 2.5". That makes room in the pocket for a spare shirt on a business trip. Or a metropolitan phone book, or whatever else you want to carry...
Then there are miscellaneous other pockets-- an open-topped sleeve on the back that can be opened up at the bottom to slide it over a rolling suitcase's handle; a couple of extra zippers outside of that sleeve; a water-bottle pocket on the side of the case that Victorinox seems unduly proud of because it can be concealed behind a zipper; and the usual "pocket of pockets" for pens, business cards, iPods, and the usual collection of small things we all carry around.
Having transferred all my stuff over, I've figured out some things about this new bag:
- The iPod pocket is the perfect size for a full-size iPod... which means it's too small for a full-size iPod in a silicone-rubber sheath. I had one of those on mine, so that had to go.
- The battery / cable pockets in the computer compartment are the perfect size to carry a boxed DVD or the Sony Reader (this is when I noticed the problem with mine). They'll also hold a Newton, but that doesn't matter much to me anymore...
- The bottom of the laptop sleeve isn't actually very well padded. I fitted a piece of foam into mine.
- The pen & pencil slots aren't deep enough for a full-size fountain pen or laser pointer. Bad design.
- The built-in business-card holder has enough extra room to hold a business-card holder, but mine-- a promotional item from MSI Computer that I got at an NVIDIA press event ages ago-- is a little too large for the purpose.
- That velcro strap that barely engages when the laptop is in the sleeve? It's all too eager to stick together when the laptop is out.
- The slot on the back for the handle of a rolling suitcase? I gave that a try. It indexes the briefcase to the suitcase at at the bottom of the slot, but provides no control at the top so the briefcase can wobble around alarmingly. An seven-inch length of nylon strapping at the top of the slot, across the base of the handle there, would solve that problem. So now I have a little sewing project.
No doubt I'll find other small things to complain about, but generally I'm very happy with this case so far. And I'll bet big bucks that the zippers will outlast the ones on the old bag.
(Previous Gizmo Reports: The Option GT Max 3.6 Express for AT&T, Sennheiser's HD-280 headphones, and Monster Power's Outlets To Go.)