Lexie Barnes Echo
When it comes to laptop bags, there are two camps: those who want to carry not only their laptop but a host of other materials (such as books, files, a digital camera, wallet, and keys) in one bag, and those who want a simple carrier for their laptop, cords, and maybe a few files. The Lexie Barnes Echo, with its simple, minimalist design, will infuriate those in the first camp while precisely meeting the needs of those in the second. While many business-oriented laptop bags, such as the Mobile Edge Milano, incorporate organizer pockets for phone, business cards, pens, and other accoutrements of modern work, the Lexie Barnes Echo provides only three large pockets. On the front, a roomy, single-zippered compartment holds your cords and accessories; in the middle, a double zipper opens onto a lightly padded pocket for your laptop; on the back, a slim pocket gives you easy access to a file folder, magazine, or newspaper.
Simplistic as it seems, the $90 Echo 13 we tested was highly functional for carrying just the basics we needed to transplant our office to the local Wi-Fi cafe: A 12-inch laptop (we could have carried our 13-inch MacBook, which also fits, instead), power cord, phone, wallet, spiral notebook, and keys fit comfortably inside. The bag seemed stuffed, though, when we tried to add a book and a digital camera to the mix, ruling it out (for us at least) as the sole carry-on for a business trip. We liked the sturdy, briefcase-style handles at the top of the bag that are padded with the same material as the bag's exterior; an adjustable nylon shoulder strap includes a nonslip pad (also wrapped in the same material as the bag's exterior) that stayed in firmly in place during our use.
The bag feels sturdy and well-made, but the biggest strength of the Echo line--which includes bags in 13-inch, 15-inch, and 17-inch sizes--is really its style. Buyers can choose from among three floral patterns for the bags' exterior; our review unit featured the surprisingly attractive Viona, an olive background with a retro coral-and-pink design that, while fun, might not fit in at the most buttoned-down workplaces. The interior pockets were lined with nylon in a complementary shade of orange, a feature that had the added benefit of making it easy to see nearly everything inside the bag. Material is water-resistant (it feels somewhat similar to oilcloth) and very lightweight. In fact, between the minimal carrying capacity and the bag's naturally light weight, we could hardly believe we were carrying our laptop--making the Echo an excellent choice for pedestrian or transit commuters and anyone who doesn't need a laptop bag to also serve as a briefcase.