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Kensington Contour Balance Roller

July 15th, 2008
A roller bag designed for women who need to pack their laptop.

While there are many purse-type computer bags marketed to women, I haven't found many wheeled mobile bags. Kensington has filled this gap with a mildly affordable roller bag that is lighter and specially designed for a womanís needs.

The only obvious womanish-detail is the flower-like print that graces the lining of the outside and inner pockets. The lining in the outer pockets is black and white, to match the bag color and stitching detail, while the inner lining is blue and white. Other thoughtful details include long curved zipper pulls, so that you can grab them without breaking a nail, and a gently curved style bag for easier carrying.

Inside Lining Pattern

The Contour Balance Roller uses a nylon-like microfiber material that seems durable and water-resistant, yet soft. The lining lends itself to doubling as a diaper bag, although I wouldn't recommend storing your computer with dirty diapers.

The lighter weight (5.3 lbs) makes wrangling your 15" laptop easier, especially if it isn't your only piece of luggage. Plenty of pockets for spare batteries, mice, or other peripherals grace the inside larger pockets. I've used the bag for weekend getaways and it fits spare clothing, equipment, and a laptop well.

Toting the Bag

The curved back makes handle toting easier, because it doesn't hit your legs or body. Unfortunately, the integrated fabric handles are uncomfortable to grasp and could use a padded wrap. Magnets imbedded in the two handles are supposed to keep the them together, but they didnít work for me. The telescoping handle seems barely strong enough for its singular duty. It wobbles quite a bit and even collapsed on me a couple of times. The almost hidden robust wheels were easy to drag around, even on uneven surfaces, like a pebbled walkway.

Gentle Curve for Easier Handling

Pockets Galore

The handy magnetic collapsible bottle holder on one side is a great detail. When in use, it securely hugs a liquid bottle, but when empty, it collapses against the bag so it is never in the way. There are a variety of pockets that make the bag hard to visualize. First, there are three large zipper pockets, all with dual zippers; another great feature. One thin divided pocket seems best for magazines or thin items, the second large pocket houses your laptop with about another inch wide space available for thicker items. This pocket includes bottom padding. The third large area includes the stem of the telescoping handle, which I describe in detail below.

In addition to the three large pockets are two open pockets by the handles. The handles are not sewn-in, but continuous material, so they will not rip off. Another smaller outside zippered pocket is handy for carrying pens, passport, ticket, or other items you may need to access quickly. The computer pocket concerns me. The padded pocket has one Velcro closing tab on the top, which means itís open and accessible when the outer zipper is undone. This outer pocket doesnít unzip all the way, so thereís no danger of it flopping open, but I prefer a closed top over my laptop. I prefer to put my laptop in a sleeve inside a bag when traveling, but this pocket is not big enough to hold my 15" PowerBook in any sleeve. The padding is not thick enough to prevent disaster if you accidentally step on the bag, but does cushion against knocking the bag over and from other contents in the bag.

Nicely Designed Bag for Women

The other feature that disappointed me is that the stem of the handle sits inside its own nylon pocket with no padding around it. Netted and elasticized pockets sit on each side of it, while two more similar pockets sit across from it. You canít really put anything too fragile in that side of the bag because the bottom isnít padded either. This reduces the usefulness of the large pocket. Bottom and handle padding are really needed in this large pocket.

While the Contour Balance Roller isn't the best made roller, it contains every detail most women might need. There are few roller bags below the $125 price point. I don't expect this bag to survive weekly airline trips, but for the occasional traveler, it fits the bill. Although the bag has some issues, I think itís worthy of consideration because it is easy to roll around, light, and includes design elements not found in other bags.
Lightweight. Lots of pockets. Double-pull zippers designed so they wonít break your nails. Hidden and robust wheels. Bag stands on its own. Thick plastic outer lining on the bottom. Doesnít look like a computer bag. Designed to accommodate the smaller build of a woman. Cons
Telescope handle pole inside the bag isnít wrapped to protect other contents. Handle wobbled quite a bit. Computer padding isnít very thick. Top of computer pocket not covered. Hand straps need a padded wrap. A number of exposed or loose threads.