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.

Mobile Computing News, Reviews, & Tips

News: Acer Notebooks at Best Buy

Acer, a Taiwanese PC maker that primarily sells notebooks in the U.S., recently began offering its portables for sale at Best Buy. The most expensive of the five notebooks Acer is selling at Best Buy is the Acer Aspire AS5610-4537. The notebook runs on an Intel Core Duo processor and costs $850.

News: Lenovo Recalls 208,000 Batteries

After discovering a new problem with some of its notebook batteries, Lenovo--which was part of last summer's big notebook battery recall--is now recalling an additional 208,000 notebook batteries worldwide, the company said. Lenovo recalled the batteries after five customers reported that their batteries overheated after they had dropped or bumped the notebooks. The battery defect caused minor eye irritation for one user and damaged the property and computers of the others, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Tip: Avoid Pricey 411 Calls by Texting Google

The next time you're about to spend $1.50 calling your cell phone provider's 411 service, don't. If you've got a keyboard-enabled cell phone that can send and receive text messages, you've got a much cheaper alternative. Send a text message to GOOGL (46645) with the business or resident's name, city, and state. Within a minute (or less, in my experience), you'll receive the requested address and phone number in a reply. Given that many wireless providers charge just 10 cents per text message, or less if you have a package, it's a much cheaper way of getting the 411 on the go.

Cyrus Farivar, from whom I gleamed this choice tip, offers others in his PC World article, "Six Things You Never Knew Your Cell Phone Could Do."

Suggestion Box

Is there a particularly cool mobile computing product or service I've missed? Got a spare story idea in your back pocket? Tell me about it. However, I regret that I'm unable to respond to tech-support questions, due to the volume of e-mail I receive.

Contributing Editor James A. Martin offers tools, tips, and product recommendations to help you make the most of computing on the go. Martin is also author of the Traveler 2.0 blog. Sign up to have the Mobile Computing Newsletter e-mailed to you each week.

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