Review: Victorinox Empire Laptop Bag

Modern air travel is tough for geeks: The more gadgets you carry, the harder it is to get through security without a cavity search. Victorinox is helping eliminate such embarrassments with the Empire, a TSA-pleasing, laptop-schlepping messenger bag.

As you might suspect, the bag’s killer feature is the laptop pouch. To appease the TSA’s new, somewhat less draconian carry-on guidelines (e.g., notebooks can stay in bags if the garment lies flat), the Empire’s static-free laptop compartment zips in half. This won’t always guarantee a fast pass, since some airports are stricter than others. But little bonuses like mesh vents increase the visibility of the notebook inside, making for faster visual inspections. Overall, converting the bag from its normal state to “X-ray ready” is easy enough, though the large pouch and single velcro strap were too big for anything smaller than a 12-inch screen, like a netbook.

The rest of the Empire’s pockets are a mixed bag. The main catch-all pocket is just that — a surprisingly featureless bucket where our magazines, headphones, granola bars and documents intermingled like coeds on spring break.

We would have liked a little more order in the biggest pouch, but we can’t really blame the bag for our pack-rat tendencies. The fact that bag offers so much real estate is its silver lining.

Even with a few snags, the surprisingly sturdy design ultimately elevates the Empire far above its mushy messenger competitors. Though this build quality and convenience doesn’t come cheap, it’s still the smartest, most elegant way to let the TSA check your tech.

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