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Travel-Testing TSA-Friendly Laptop Computer Bags

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Skooba bagGadget aficionado Phil Baker tests two travel cases that purport to be TSA-friendly …

I’ve been trying out two of the new computer cases from Skooba and Swiss Army that let you leave your computer inside while passing through security.

While on first appearance they look quite similar, after testing them out, one is near-perfect and the other is flawed.
First, did they work?

Yes, both were readily accepted as I passed through airline checkpoints in several cities, most on the West Coast. One screener came over to me to get a closer look at the bag, saying mine was the first he saw.

Both cases are well made of similar materials, ballistic nylon and both have a fold-away compartment for isolating the computer. They each fold from the rest of the bag allowing the computer to be clearly seen without any nearby obstructions. But that’s where the similarity ends.

The Checkthrough bag from Skooba ($140) and the Trevi from Swiss Army ($259) are each 6.5 inches thick. But the Checkthrough has nearly twice the capacity for other stuff. That’s because the foldaway computer compartment on the Trevi is 2.5 inches thick, much larger than it needs to be, while the Checkthrough’s is about an inch. That leaves much less room in the rest of the bag for other contents.

Swiss Army Trevi laptop bag The Trevi’s main compartment is only 2 inches thick while the Checkthrough is 4 inches.

Checkthrough’s computer compartment has padding on both sides and zips closed while Trevi’s has padding only on one and uses a single plastic snap to close it. As a result, the computer flops around in the Trevi while being better protected in the Checkthrough.

Checkthrough’s huge main compartment with two walls of elastic and mesh pockets that let you store your cameras, phones, GPS devices, music players, and chargers of all sizes and shapes. When zipped open you get a clear view of your items. Behind the rear wall is a deep compartment for carrying papers, books, and even a bulky DSLR camera.

In comparison, the Trevi’s 2-inch front compartment has separators that limit the thickness of what you can carry. Its wide front pocket has an excellent array of padded pockets, the same as found on its other models, but their sized for phones, music players, and similar sized devices and cannot accommodate bulkier items. Both have a band of fabric on the rear that lets you slip the bag onto the handle of a wheeled bag.

The Checkthrough’s ability to carry bulky objects while having a superior pocket arrangement would make it a top choice, even if it had no check-through capability. But with it, makes it one of the most intelligently-designed computer cases I’ve seen in a long while.

And at $140 list and as low as $99 street, it’s a real bargain.

By Phil Baker for PeterGreenberg.com. Read Phil’s blog at www.philipgbaker.com.

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