Air travel--while a requirement of modern life for many--has become, at best, a barely tolerable experience that tests the patience of even the zen-like commuter. The chokepoint most likely to raise one's blood pressure is the infamous security checkpoint, with its required shedding of shoes and belts, and, of course, the oft-repeated admonition to remove one's laptop from its case.
Hoping to spare you at least a few seconds of frustration, the TSA has helpfully provided laptop-case makers with some official guidelines for creating laptop cases that can go through the X-ray machine with a laptop still inside. One of the first examples we've seen is the $99 Targus Zip-Thru Corporate Traveler.
The basic concept is to allow the X-ray machine to get a clear view of the laptop, without anything else in the way, such as keys, power adapters, or iPods. Like other bags modeled on the TSA guidelines, the Targus Zip-Thru unzips into two distinct halves: one for your laptop (and nothing but), and one for everything else you carry. A third zipper sits between the two compartments; when unzipped, the bag splits open butterfly style, so it can lay flat on the X-ray machine's conveyor belt.
Zipped up, the Targus looks much like any other 15-inch, laptop shoulder bag. It measures 16.9 inches wide by 6.5 inches deep by 13.9 inches tall, and is made of standard ballistic nylon. The rear compartment is very well padded, and should provide more than adequate protection for a laptop, but because only a computer is allowed in that compartment, everything else will have to fit in the front half of the bag.
That front half is a bit on the narrow side, and large laptop power bricks will be cramped. It's perfect, however, for papers, magazines, and other flat objects. On the front face of the bag is a smaller, deeper pocket, with slots for pens, business cards, and bulkier items such as MP3 players or handheld game consoles.
The Targus Zip-Thru is solidly built, and the middle zipper used to lay the case flat is easy to use, even on a crowded airport security line. Anyone interested in investing in one of these checkpoint-friendly bags, however, should note one major caveat: the TSA says that an individual agent can still ask you to remove your laptop for any reason, and we suspect that many TSA agents will be unfamiliar with the new bag designs and force you to do just that.