I've spent most of my summer working at the computer Helpdesk on campus. Doing inventory work during the first couple of weeks was absolutely horrendous, so I was glad to get a desk job position later on. We have a good deal of downtime here, so it's always convenient to bring a laptop in. I started looking around for a backpack to keep my new Dell Inspiron laptop in, as the 14-inch notebook moved around a little too much in the laptop pouch of my old Nike Messenger for my comfort.
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Targus is pretty much a household name when it comes to laptop storage, so I decided to check them out first. I haven't exactly had very satisfactory experiences with brands like Jansport or Nike, though to be fair, laptop accessories aren't their main markets anyway. I went with Targus because of their reputation, and the fact that they have products for many different budget ranges.
That said, I'd had my eye on the cheaper version of this pack, the Targus Groove laptop backpack. I decided against it, despite the overwhelmingly positive reviews on Amazon.com. To be sure, it appears to be a high-quality backpack; it's just that the reviews suggested that it didn't have a whole lot of space left in it after the laptop was actually put in. As I'm planning to take two political science courses next semester, as well as a particularly vicious econometrics course, I would be needing space for a laptop and a fair number of books, and this seemed to suit my requirements.
First impressions: looks-wise, it's perfectly satisfactory. While it's easily more attractive than the Groove pack, it's subtle black/grey shade isn't likely to let on to the fact that there's a pricey laptop inside. Indeed, the Targus logo is rather inconspicuous as well, adding to its low-key cred.
Exterior Dimensions: 15" x 9.5" x 18.75" (38.10 x 24.13 x 47.63cm)
Interior Dimensions: 14.2" x 2" x 11.6" (36.07 x 5.08 x 29.46cm)
If, like me, you're new to purchasing backpacks, you'll have no idea of what the above figures mean, especially since backpacks can have multiple compartments and pockets, giving you no firm idea of what might fit and what might not. Well, right now, I can fit in the following:
14" laptop (Wide-screen-compatible pouch) (maximum screen size supported: 15.4")
AC power supply
1 liter water bottle in the side pocket
1 Change of clothes (a pair of jeans, a t-shirt, boxer shorts, socks)
1 three-ring binder (300-400 pages)
2 hardcover books, average height (850 pages, 500 pages)
2 hardcover textbooks, about 1.5x the width and height of the books above (each around 600 pages)
There are 3 main compartments, so as shown above, capacity won't be problem for most people. A couple of qualifiers though; the change of clothes would fit best if neatly folded, and put in the area outside the laptop compartment, as there isn't really space for much else there. That's because the protective padding (and there's a lot of it) takes up a good bit of volume. You can actually fit a couple of extra regular-sized books in the second compartment (the largest one) if you put one on top of another. Some useful extras include the CD/DVD sleeve (8 disc capacity) in the laptop compartment area, and the removeable cell phone pocket attached to the right shoulder strap.
The bag is about 3.6 pounds empty, which might seem hefty, but when spread across two shoulders, it's pretty much negligible for me. I prefer the peace of mind of knowing that its weight is mostly comprised of padded protection. Of course, carrying every single item of gear I've described above isn't recommended for daily use, but comes in handy if you're catching a flight (the pack will fit plenty of clothing) or are in the process of moving into the library on the eve of exam week. With a laptop, water bottle, binder, and a couple of books in there, it doesn't feel heavy at all, especially after you get used to the no-load weight. The padded shoulder straps are really comfortable, though I'm slightly disappointed that they're not connected to the pack itself with steel rings, like the Groove packs are. It doesn't pose a problem though, since the pack seems to support weight very well. Another plus: while it's supposed to be a 'large' pack, it doesn't look too bulky once filled.
This is the one time that the stock photos of the product at online retailers gave me a good idea of what to expect. If they're not detailed enough for you, I've added some of my own to help you out. Just select the link, copy it and paste it into a browser window to see the image.
I'm happy with my purchase. It's definitely a great starting point for freshmen heading off to college this fall. The protection this provides for laptops is amazing, and the extra features and capacity are great bonuses.
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