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Let's make this clear: the $100 Kensington Contour Roller is not for amateurs. Designed to hold a 17-inch laptop with all its attendant cords, accessories, and work files, this bulky laptop bag weighs 7.4 pounds on its own--as heavy as many desktop-replacement laptops. Fortunately, you rarely have to carry the bag by its shoulder strap; its quiet wheels and telescoping handle let you pull it behind you, suitcase-style. Similar to the Traveler bag from the same line, the Contour Roller also includes plenty of organizer pockets to keep sundries contained while on the road. While its many pockets and features may be overkill for the occasional commuter, the Kensington Contour Roller will appeal to hard-core road warriors who travel with desktop-replacement laptops.
Made of ballistic nylon and measuring 17.5 inches wide by 13 inches deep by 9.5 inches thick, the dark gray Contour Roller is sized more like a carry-on suitcase than a laptop bag. In fact, it's too thick to store under a standard airplane seat, though it would fit in an overhead bin. In exchange for the bulky design and casual fabric, however, you do get a massive amount of space to carry all your stuff. On the front of the bag, a double zipper opens to reveal organizer pockets for your MP3 player, smart phone, flash drive, pens, business cards, and discs; there's also a hook for keys, plus several small, zippered pockets for valuables. A narrow zipper pocket above the front flap keeps your boarding pass within easy reach. On one side of the bag, a Velcro panel opens to create a handy holder for a water bottle or an umbrella.
The bulk of the Contour Roller comprises two compartments, each with a double zipper that opens halfway down the sides of the bag; though this does keep contents secure, we'd have liked the zippers to travel a little further down for easier access to the bag's deep interior. The first compartment offers two subsections, each large enough to hold a stuffed legal file or thick book. The second compartment contains a removable laptop sleeve (attached to the interior via a zipper) with a Velcro strap that holds your laptop securely in place. The sleeve's soft lining and thick padding reassured us that our laptop would be well protected. Even with a thick laptop in the sleeve, this compartment contains enough room for additional files, books, or spiral notebooks.
A double zipper on the back of the Contour Roller opens to reveal the area where the telescoping handle attaches to the bag. Within this compartment, three roomy zipper pouches keep your power brick, cables, and other accessories contained and out of the way. As with other Kensington bags, the Contour Roller's telescoping handle opens directly onto this compartment, potentially exposing its contents to the elements. Nevertheless, the accessory pouches should provide enough protection for shuttling from the airport to the hotel. We like the handy Velcro strap on the back of the bag, which slips over a suitcase handle to attach the laptop bag on top of a larger rolling suitcase.
We loaded up the Kensington Contour Roller with all our requisite electronics (17-inch laptop, camera, phone, MP3 player) and cords, plus a travel mouse, a thick journal, two full file folders, and a magazine. All these objects easily fit into the bag, with room for two extra books we picked up at the library. Though the stuffed Contour Roller was both unwieldy and heavy, we were able to carry it down a flight of stairs without discomfort, thanks in large part to the plastic handle on top of the bag. We really like that one handle tucks into the other, creating a comfortable grip that's not likely to pinch your hand. The Contour Roller also includes a detachable shoulder strap with sturdy metal clasps that seem unlikely to bend or break over time. Though the bag's contoured shape is designed to transfer the weight of the bag away from your shoulder and closer to your natural center of gravity, we can't recommend carrying a desktop replacement on your shoulder for longer than it takes to traverse a flight of stairs.
The best way to transport the Kensington Contour Roller is, of course, by pulling it behind you. The telescoping handle feels sturdily constructed, and the T-shaped, rubberized grip makes it easy to keep a firm hold on the bag. We pulled our stuffed Contour Roller across uneven tiled walkways and city sidewalks; we also dragged it behind us up and down stairs and over a curb. The Contour Roller proved remarkably stable, and it didn't even flop over when going down stairs. We were likewise pleased with the bag's almost-silent wheels, as we rolled through a quiet library without distracting a single patron.
While the Contour Roller's price is a bit higher than that of other laptop bags, $100 is still a little less than we'd expect to pay for a similarly constructed compact suitcase. That price also includes a lifetime warranty on defects in material and workmanship. If you frequently travel with your desktop-replacement laptop and a large number of books or files, the Kensington Contour Roller will likely be worth the cost.