Checked bag fees provide $25 worth of reasons to pack light. If you can carry onto the airplane all you’ll need for your next trip, you’ll not only save money, you’ll be assured the bag will arrive when you do. A new study from the aviation technology company, SITA shows that six and a half of every 1,000 checked bags fail to arrive at their proper destination so the odds are with us. Still, on my last few trips, I squandered more than an hour waiting for my stuff at the claim carousel.
Either of the suitcases I carried with me, one on a trip to Italy, the other to Australia, and both on United, could have fit in the overhead bins. That’s the first reason I’m enthusiastic about the two I’m reviewing here. As for the Lenovo Yoga 900 laptop, well that’s a travel-unfriendly product, I’ll save for last.
After raving about the ECBC knapsack last year, the company let me test drive its 22 inch Falcon Wheeled Duffle. My month-long trip to some out of the way places in Australia required clothing for several different climates and activities and a small stash of gifts for folks I would be seeing with during my stay. Super capacious, I had no trouble getting everything in. The large zipper pull made it easy to close without breaking fingers in the process.
I did a direct comparison of the ECBC with a similarly-sized Pacsafe wheeled carry-on. The Toursafe EXP 21 model is also roomy and equally easy to close with large tabs on the zip pulls. Where it differs from the Falcon is that it is designed for travelers worried about pilfering or theft. When closed, the Pacsafe zipper tabs lock together and slide over a bar that then gets covered by a fabric panel. No one is easily going to get into the compartments on this bag. The locking tabs also prevent the inadvertent sliding open of the zipper, which I noticed on my ECBC Falcon. Since it only happened once, I can’t say for sure, it might have been traveler error.
On the downside, it takes longer to reopen the Pacsafe once you’ve closed it up if you then remember you need something stashed inside. I also found the Toursafe’s flaccid side panels made it more difficult to pack than the ECBC, which had a more rigid case-like structure.
Both bags have a large, padded exterior pocket (locking on the Toursafe, TSA friendly on the ECBC) for placing laptops, tablets and other gear for working-from-the-road. Toursafe includes a cable lock so you can leave the bag unattended but locked up. How brilliant is that? The ECBC includes a 5V/1A portable charger in a self-pocket so you can give your gizmos a charge while they’re packed.
Both bags are two-wheeled, not four, and rolled surprisingly easily considering how much I had in them, on all kinds of terrain. Both come in colors other than black, separating them visually on the claim belt. But then again, we’re not checking these bags are we?
On my trips I tucked my Lenovo Yoga 900 laptop into the front pocket. This is a solution I like as it takes the weight off my back and puts it on wheels.
But the laptop! Oh my!
For years I’ve been working and traveling with a Lenovo computer. My affection and appreciation for this rough-and-tumble laptop with the stamina and features suitable to using it full time as a desktop reached its zenith with the X220, a laptop with an ingenious hinge that enabled me to use it as a tablet for reading documents, or working in confined spaces, like on an airplane.
The slim and stylish Yoga 900, I have now doubles down on that convertibility with fancy watch band-inspired, stainless steel hinges, weighs considerably less with a wider and more beautiful monitor. I’ve grown accustomed to its ginormous 213 gigabytes of storage and the intel Core i7 processor that really makes doing anything on the computer rapid quick.
But like the hunky boyfriend who is irresistible in the early stages, my shiny Yoga lost its luster quickly.
I’ll gloss over the fact that the first Yoga 900 that arrived was infected with a terrible virus that caused it to freeze at the most inopportune times. The machine was quickly replaced with apologies from the PR folks at Lenovo.
Other issues are, unfortunately, built into the design.
It has a scant three USB slots, one of which is used for the power cord, so when working in the office it has effectively only two slots which are gone once I turn the laptop into a desktop and add the auxiliary keyboard, mouse and printer.
The solution to the shortage of USB ports would be a docking station but Lenovo doesn’t offer one. Which makes it even more curious that one usb slot is dedicated for the power supply. And this leads to the oddest design decision of all.
Lenovo has redesigned the power pack creating a wide, heavy, 2 pronged brick that can be used to charge any portable device. The problem is the size and weight of it. It is so wide that it eats the outlet space on either side. It is so heavy, it often falls onto the floor if plugged into a wall outlet. I’ve taken to traveling with strapping tape so I can tape the brick into position over the outlet.
The silver matte cover and black textured interior are easy on the eyes as is the beveled sides. Again form separates from function, it is extremely difficult to pry the two sides apart. Opening one’s laptop should not be a test of manual dexterity.
All of this I have learned to deal with but I’ve had the laptop for six months now and the keyboard continues to flummox. While some reviewers love it, I cannot get away from the double and triple letters it inserts every seeentence. (Intentional, but seeee what I mean?) The touch screen also seems to have a mind of its own.
So why review a dud product? Over the past decade, I’ve raved about Lenovo for offering the best and sturdiest laptops for road warriors. Regrettably, that’s changed. Either of the suitcases above are a good choice for carrying the laptop you settle on, but my advice is to steer away from the Yoga 900.
Author of The New York Times bestseller, The Crash Detectives, I am also a journalist, public speaker and broadcaster specializing in aviation and travel.