A nylon laptop bag with an innovative strap system. (March 2nd, 2009)
Product Manufacturer: Solo, Reg. Trademark of U.S. Luggage LLC.
Price: $120 US
- Spacious. Well constructed, Retractable shoulder strap. Plenty of room for accessories and files.
- Shoulder strap can't be adjusted. MacBook didn’t fit properly, and had to use a sleeve also.
The Solo Smart Strap Laptop Portfolio, while not designed specifically for the Mac, is a worthy accessory. Laptop bags have to balance style and function. The Solo sacrifices style for functionality and looks like a ubiquitous black nylon laptop bag.
What makes this an atypical bag is the Smart Strap, a shoulder strap that retracts. The strap creates a clean look and the design prevents it from getting trapped in a car door or tripped over on the floor. In daily use, the Smart Strap is helpful, but can be annoying. The strap easily retracted when not in use. However, unlike other shoulder straps, the strap is not adjustable to my body type and I thought the bag uncomfortable to carry for long periods of time, because I could not adjust the weight distribution on my hips. This became an issue while traveling and carrying other items. Over the long term, like a seat belt, the retraction may become less reliable. The Smart Strap's top padding and handles are made of vinyl that may be subject to cracks and tears over time. The Smart Strap Laptop Portfolio dimensions are 17" x 13" x 5.5"and it weighs 4.6 lbs. It fits in an overhead bin, but when full may not fit under most airline seats. The case is spacious enough to accommodate both my briefcase and a laptop sleeve.
The double zippered middle compartment, 14" x 10" x 1.75", includes a padded raised pocket designed for a 15.4" laptop, which left my 15" MacBook with a bit too much room. The MacBook dislodges during transport and sometimes threw me slightly off balance. Using an external sleeve to pad the inside of the middle compartment solved the shuffling problem. A mesh pocket inside the compartment left room for a MacBook charger, headphones, and a portable drive. This middle compartment is padded on both sides and the top to protect against side impact. There is no padding on the bottom, but presumably, if the laptop were kept in the internal pocket, it wouldn't suffer from a direct bottom impact.
The double zippered back compartment has three accordion pockets inside that accommodates up to five inches worth of items and still seal properly. A full outer pocket that Solo calls a Ride Along, expands to about an inch to hold a small amount of paper and also has a top and bottom zipper to act as a pass through to insert into a luggage wheelie.
The front compartment also has double zippers and folds out to hold pens, an iPod or mobile phone, business and credit cards, a keychain clip, as well as a mesh compartment for additional accessories. I put my charger, iPhone, iPod, and headphones easily in this compartment. A final smaller front compartment holds extra items such as a paperback novel or a boarding pass. This pocket has no padding, so avoid putting any delicate electronics in here. I kept my hand sanitizer and sunglasses case in that area.
Other than the retractors on the Smart Strap, the bag is solid and seems built to last a long time. The nylon teeth zippers have metal pulls in both directions, giving access easy on any side. The sewn-in zippers do not have water resistant runners, but water did leak in when spilled directly on top. Most internal compartments are double stitched to protect against wear and tear. The Smart Strap Laptop Portfolio has vinyl-padded handles, in addition to the strap. These handles have single-stitched vinyl overlays that will most likely crack over time.
If you need to carry more than your laptop on a daily basis, the Solo Smart Strap Laptop Portfolio serves as a standard briefcase while still protecting your laptop. Travelers who carry a large number of bags might want to opt for the adjustable shoulder strap as well as a smaller bag that would fit under the seat. For daily professional use, the Smart Strap Laptop Portfolio is an excellent laptop case, which I recommend with limited reservation.
Edited by Ilene Hoffman, Reviews Editor