A New Spin on Laptop Bags

At the beginning of its maiden around-the-world voyage, the Queen Mary 2 left Fort Lauderdale en route to San Francisco. The largest cruise ship in the world, the QM2 had to sail all the way around South America because it was too big to squeeze through the Panama Canal.

I know just how she felt.

Laden with gadgets, food, reading material, ear plugs, eye shades, DVDs, a bottle of water, germ-killing hand gel, chewing gum, and, for all I know, a boulder from Stonehenge, I frequently struggle to maneuver my wheeled bag through the narrow aisle of an airplane coach cabin. Finally, after rolling over countless toes, I pick up the bag and lug it.

There are worse fates to befall a traveler. Nonetheless, I've often wondered why some company hadn't invented a wheeled laptop bag designed to easily glide down those clogged coach cabin arteries. Turns out, such a bag exists. Recently, I tested one of the first, Samsonsite's iMobile 360. Here's what I found.

The Backstory

Samsonite's latest notebook bag, the Spinner iMobile 360 (also called the Spinner Mobile Office) is part of a new generation of wheeled bags with four wheels instead of the customary two. With wheels that can spin 360 degrees, spinners are designed to be pushed or pulled in any direction with little effort--even sideways down a skinny airplane aisle. I've found the Samsonite bag online starting at $90.

As of this writing, only one other manufacturer, Tutto, was offering spinner notebook bags on eBags.com, one of the largest luggage retailers on the Internet. Tutto offered two versions: the Deluxe Small Office on Wheels ($130) and the Deluxe Regular Office on Wheels ($150). I haven't had the opportunity to test these bags.

The Reality Check

So, does the Samsonite bag live up to its marketing hype?

On a recent cross-country trip, I rolled the bag sideways down coach cabin airplane aisles--behind me and in front of me. Overall, I found rolling the bag sideways down the aisle wasn't particularly easy. While the bag easily fit through the narrow aisle when dragged sideways, it was still easier to simply pick it up and carry it.

The four wheels did make it noticeably easier to change direction when pulling the bag along airport corridors, however. With traditional two-wheeled bags, I often find myself picking it up in order to aim it a different direction. With the Samsonite bag, though, just twist your wrist and the wheels pivot.

But there are some disadvantages to consider:

  • Because the Samsonite bag easily changes directions, you can quickly lose control of it on a slope or steep grade. A video on my blog, Traveler 2.0, illustrates what I mean.
  • The Samsonite bag is 17 inches wide--nearly the same width as some coach cabin aisles. That makes dragging it sideways, or carrying it by its handle, inevitable.
  • The main compartment, though roomy, must be fully unzipped in order to access its contents. Once fully unzipped, the bag opens wide, which makes it subject to toppling over. Also, I found it difficult at times to zip the bag back up. The zippers frequently caught on the interior flaps of material that enable the bag to open up so widely.
  • The main compartment contains built-in file separators. While that's handy if you're carrying files, it's wasted space if you aren't.
  • The telescoping handle was sometimes difficult to pull up or retract. Also, I wish there was an exterior pocket for a water bottle.

Is This Your Bag?

In general, I liked the easy maneuverability of the Samsonite bag, and the price is reasonable. If you're in the market for a new wheeled laptop bag at a good price, consider adding it to your list. Otherwise, I don't think the Samsonite bag's benefits are compelling enough to warrant giving up your two-wheeled bag, particularly if you're happy with it.

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