We're not the first publication to fall in love with Tom Bihn's Checkpoint Flyer briefcase. The costly laptop carrier is lightweight, well-thought-out, and extremely easy to use. Plus, it meets the TSA guidelines for bags that will let you zip through airport security without removing your laptop. Our greatest concern about the Checkpoint Flyer is its premium price; not every user can afford to spend $220 on a laptop bag. But like the best premium luggage, the bag's modular design and sturdy construction make it a long-term investment. If you travel frequently and the cost is within your means, we recommend the Checkpoint Flyer.
The TSA's new laptop-bag guidelines suggest a butterfly, trifold, or sleeve-style case that keeps your laptop separate from other travel detritus so that a security screener can get a good look at it as it goes through the X-ray. The briefcase-style Checkpoint Flyer represents a variation on the trifold design. Its front panel attaches to the bottom of the bag via two large plastic buckles; you unlatch these buckles and lift up the front panel to reveal the laptop compartment, which unfolds downward. (These step-by-step pictures at ZDNet show exactly how it unfolds.)
The benefits of this design are threefold: First, the laptop is still rather protected by the bag's front flap. Second, unlike a messenger-style bag, the front panel does not have to be opened in order to reach the rest of the bag's contents. The only times you have to unclip the front panel are when you're going through a checkpoint or removing your laptop. And third, the laptop sleeve itself can be detached from the bag, letting you trim down and carry just your laptop; you can also easily swap in a larger or smaller sleeve, so you don't have to change bags if you buy a laptop in a different size.
We had a hearty skepticism about whether the bag could actually breeze through a checkpoint--after all, an individual TSA agent can still ask you to remove your laptop for any reason--but were pleasantly surprised when we cruised through the checkpoints at both ends of a recent trip. We were even more pleased that the bag had plenty of room for our 13-inch laptop, camera and other peripherals, cell phone, power cords, and notepad--basically everything we needed for an overnight business trip.