Offbeat Laptop Bags

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Laptop bags may seem boring to some. But the reality is, some new and veteran models are anything but. This week: a look at some of the more interesting laptop bags.

The Bullet-Resistant Backpack

Yes, you read that right: a bullet-resistant backpack. From MJ Safety Solutions, the backpack is undoubtedly the most unusual bag I've seen recently.

After the tragedies of Columbine and other school shootings, the $195 backpack's inventors came up with this product, designed for students and anyone who fears gun or knife violence. There are two models, both with padded computer compartments. The makers claim that the bullet and knife protection panel adds only 20 ounces to the backpack's weight. Go to Traveler 2.0 for a video demonstration.

The Solar-Powered Bag

Here's something for the Al Gore on your holiday list: a backpack with solar panels that can charge handheld devices (but not laptops).

The Voltaic solar bags include several backpack models ($199 to $249) and a messenger-style bag ($229). Each contains three waterproof solar panels and delivers 4 watts of solar power. One hour in direct sun will power over three hours of iPod play time, the company claims.

The bags also include a lithium-ion battery pack, which stores surplus power so it's there when you need it. You can also charge the battery pack using an AC adaptor. Each bag comes with 11 adaptors for popular cell phones and other devices. And the company says the bags are primarily made of--Al Gore, are you sitting down?--recycled soda bottles. The three panels add a total of 12 ounces to each bag.

The Pulp Fiction Bag

For the ladies, MobileEdge sells something cloyingly called the Cutebug laptop bag ($90). The cool thing about these messenger-style bags: They feature vintage pulp fiction-inspired designs. The "Bright Promises" bag holds laptops with up to a 15.4-inch screen, while the "Kisses and More Kisses" bag holds laptops with up to a 14.1-inch screen.

Other Options

Interested in more-conventional laptop bags? I can recommend the following:

  • CODi Sling-Pak ($148). Stylish, single-strap backpack features a built-in padded sleeve. The company says the bag protects laptops with up to 15.4-inch screens--but laptops of that size protrude outside the protected compartment, so I'd recommend this for owners of 14-inch and smaller models instead.
  • Briggs & Riley 20" Carry-On Computer Upright ($325). I love Briggs & Riley bags for their durability and lifetime guarantees. This wheeled bag, which I've used and recommend, includes a laptop compartment plus space for one or two days' worth of clothing and toiletries.
  • Waterfield Design's Cargo Bag ($169 to $249; prices vary based on design choices). For years, I've been a fan of this San Francisco-based company's messenger-style bag, which you can configure with an airplane seatbelt closure. Padded laptop sleeves cost $38 to $55 extra.

For More Information

What's Your Bag?

Do you own an offbeat, cool laptop bag that you love? If so, tell me about it.

Mobile Computing News, Reviews & Tips

3G iPhone Coming Soon? In a recent meeting, AT&T's chief executive officer Randall Stephenson said a 3G Apple iPhone will be available next year. No further specifics, regarding price and availability, were announced. Might Steve Jobs announce something at the January Macworld show--the iPhone's one-year anniversary?

Google Maps Location Service--Without GPS. Google launched a location service for mobile users that doesn't require your cell phone to have GPS. The beta service, Google Maps with My Location, locates users without GPS-enabled phones based on their location to nearby cell towers. Though the location isn't as precise as GPS, it will still enable you to search more accurately for nearby businesses. The software is a free download and runs on RIM BlackBerrys, and Windows Mobile- and Symbian-based phones. Samsung Blackjack, Moto Q, and Palm Treo users are out of luck, though, as those devices don't support the programming interface Google requires to find cell towers.

Holiday Gift Guide. Still looking for techie gifts? Check out our Holiday Gift Guide, with reviews of and buying advice for laptops, digital cameras, digital camcorders, portable media players, smart phones, and GPS devices.

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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