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Timbuk2 Power Commute Laptop Messenger review: Power Commute makes recharging easy, stylish

Timbuk2's upgrade to its popular Messenger Commute bag gives it a smart rechargeable battery pack that automatically detects the right power level for your device. It's a must-have, if a bit pricey.

Seth Rosenblatt Former Senior Writer / News
Senior writer Seth Rosenblatt covered Google and security for CNET News, with occasional forays into tech and pop culture. Formerly a CNET Reviews senior editor for software, he has written about nearly every category of software and app available.
Seth Rosenblatt
4 min read

Few things can be more frustrating than when your phone battery dies just as you're looking up directions or you're in the middle of an important call. Timbuk2's Power Commute Messenger bag solves that problem with a clever battery brick, while dressing it up in one of the best bag designs on the market.


Timbuk2 Power Commute Laptop Messenger

The Good

The <b>Timbuk2 Power Commute Messenger</b> bag's battery pack charges your phones, tablets, and cameras on the fly and in a stylish package.

The Bad

The famous Timbuk2 design is restricted here to one size and color, and with the power brick, it's not cheap.

The Bottom Line

If you're looking for stylish bag with a plethora of pockets that can also recharge your devices on the go, Timbuk2's Power Commute Messenger is exactly what you want.

If you're not familiar with Timbuk2 bags personally, you've almost definitely seen them around. The swirl logo and the three-panel design have been in use nearly from the company's founding in 1989 and have helped create an iconic look for their wares. The Power Commute stands 19.7 inches wide at the top, 16.3 inches wide at the bottom, 12.8 inches tall, and 5.9 inches deep. It weighs in at 2.7 pounds.

Get juice on the go from Timbuk2 (pictures)

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It's made of the same kind of ballistic fabric from which the majority of Timbuk2 bags are made, but unlike many Timbuk2 bags, you can't customize the Power Commute. It's only available in black and gunmetal gray, with algae green highlights that give it a "dark energy" look.

What sets the Power Commute apart is the included Joey T1 battery pack. Joey is a company specializing in battery packs, and it sells exclusively to other businesses. There's no easy way to buy the T1 on its own. It charges by plugging it into a wall outlet overnight, using your device's own charging cable, and can provide around two full charges for a standard smartphone.

The Joey T1 also performs a "rapid charge," so that a phone with 5 percent battery left can be brought back up to 30 percent in around 20 minutes or so. I found it more effective to charge a device that way, and then recharge it again as necessary, rather than waiting to bring it up to a full charge.

James Martin/CNET

What's great about how the T1 integrates with the Power Commute is that the T1 has a snakelike extension that houses the connection USB ports. You never have to remove the T1 brick itself from its weather-resistant pouch because the cable is long enough to reach nearly every other compartment of the bag. There's even a slot for it to go to the laptop compartment, so you can recharge larger devices without exposing the cable to the elements.

To have it recharge your phone, tablet, GPS, camera, or other device, simply plug said device into the T1. The T1's firmware will automatically detect the proper level to discharge so that it doesn't fry your device's electronics. The Power Commute works with most major devices that charge via USB or Micro-USB. There's no buttons to push, no settings to fiddle with, and only the one cable is necessary to connect the T1 to the wall or to your device, which makes it extremely easy to use.

The Joey T1 is also designed to be weather-resistant, and Timbuk2 says that it can be taken to any electronics recycling center when it reaches the end of its life. Recycling information is included in a pamphlet when you buy the bag.

James Martin/CNET

As befits a Timbuk2 bag, the Power Commute comes with more than just the T1. The TSA-compliant laptop compartment will fit most 15-inch laptops; there's a removable strap and handle so you can convert it from messenger bag to briefcase; and it has dedicated pockets for tablets, laptop power bricks, cables, and other miscellaneous tech debris.

This bag is seriously replete with pockets. Before you even get into the bag, you've got a bucketload of pockets. There's two faux-fur-lined sleeves, then a horizontally zippered pocket with a built-in keychain, and a second external pocket with a vertical zipper. Finally, there's an unzippered, open-air pocket. Inside the bag, there're slots for pens, two open-top pockets, and one with a Velcro flap. The T1 pocket is indicated by a lightning bolt icon, and there's also a mesh pocket.

There's a simple, bag-width Velcro-secured pocket toward the back, and then you have to flip the bag over to get at the laptop and tablet compartments. There's even an exterior pouch on the back, with an open top and a Velcro-sealed bottom for easy access -- or potentially, easy loss.

James Martin/CNET

Bottom line: if you've got a lot of random gear, chances are each piece can get a cubby-hole all its own in the Power Commute. There's enough pockets to help you get organized, but the main space is open enough so that you can haphazardly throw in whatever you want.

The Power Commute is also compatible with many of Timbuk2's ancillary accessories. We tested it with the Snoop camera bag insert and a thicker shoulder strap. It worked well with both. In fact, we loaded it up with a Canon 5D Mark II, three lenses, a beastly Lenovo ThinkPad T400, a Samsung Chromebook, and a Nexus 7. The bag was jammed tight, but it did hold it all, and still felt comfortable -- if heavy -- on the shoulder.

Besides the lack of customizability, one of the few drawbacks to the bag is that it's not cheap. The Power Commute and its backpack sibling, the Power Q, each retails for $199, about $50 more than their similarly sized, Joey-free cousins.

That price isn't outrageous, and I found it well worth the money to have the peace of mind of knowing that a nearly dead phone was no big deal.