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Computerized Investing > June 15, 2013

TravelPro Crew 9 Business Brief

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by Wayne A. Thorp, CFA

$260

Checkpoint-friendly laptop briefcase.

Last September, I reviewed the TravelPro Crew 9 20-inch Expandable Business Plus Rollaboard. After nearly 20 years of being an American Traveler loyalist, this rollaboard has become my go-to piece of luggage for weekend and extended trips. Recently, the company sent me another piece of the Crew 9 collection: the Business Brief. The Business Brief is designed for business travelers, with a bit more capacity and pockets than the booq Cobra brief I reviewed last summer. Since I don’t have any trips planned, however, I’ve been using the Business Brief as my every day briefcase the last couple of weeks.

Look & Design

The Crew 9 line of luggage comes in either black or titanium gray. The bag is made of 2000d twisted nylon fabric with Duraguard coating. Add in the solid silver hardware and the Business Brief definitely has the look of a well-crafted bag. The black model I reviewed looks like any of a number of briefcases on the market today. I am not looking for something pretty, so the understated look works for me.

The Business Brief measures 12.5 inches by 16.75 inches by 6 inches (height by length by width) and weighs 3.5 pounds. This makes the brief slightly shorter than the booq Cobra, but over an inch wider. It’s also almost two pounds lighter, something worth remembering if you typically pack your briefcase to capacity or are racing to make a connecting flight at the airport.

The brief has an abundance of pockets, which is both a blessing and a curse. On its front, the brief has a business organizer with three pen slots; two mesh pockets for power adapters, cords or other accessories; a keychain clip; and an interior zipper pocket.

Working your way toward the back of the brief, the next pocket is a “tablet pouch,” which is perfectly sized for a full-sized tablet, such as my iPad or Google Nexus 10. It also can hold my Microsoft Surface Pro as well as a 15-inch Ultrabook. This space has two zipper pockets that run the full height of the bag. The pocket also has two dividers, which are perfect for keeping files organized. I can’t recall ever seeing this in a briefcase bag, and it’s something that I really like, especially since I am always carrying papers and folders back and forth.

Lastly, the “rear” pocket is checkpoint-friendly in that it unzips around the entire perimeter of the bag to allow you to fully unfold the pocket from the bag so you can pass the bag through a security scanner without having to remove your laptop from the brief. For someone who travels a lot, this is an extremely convenient feature. The exterior portion of the pocket is a foam-padded laptop sleeve with an elastic Velcro strap to keep your computer from sliding out. It is just big enough to accommodate my 15.6-inch Dell notebook, so you shouldn’t have a problem toting your own notebook computer. The paranoid side of me would prefer a bit more padding for the laptop sleeve, but I feel confident that the bag would be able to withstand most of what life can throw at it. The interior portion of the pocket is a mesh zipper pocket, which is perfect for carrying power adapters and other accessories for your laptop.

Lastly, on the back of the bag is a nylon strap for you to pass through your trolley luggage handle. If you have roller luggage, this little strap can save your shoulder from a lot of wear and tear.

Perhaps my only real complaint against the Crew 9 Business Brief is the shoulder strap. It has solid hardware with metal clasps so you can remove it from the bag. However, the padding is a little lacking. For a bag of this quality and price, I would prefer a shoulder strap with a bit more padding, especially when I have the bag packed to capacity.

Functionality

After using the Business Brief these last couple of weeks, I’ve come to realize this is a lot of bag. I do carry a lot of things to and from the office, but even then I feel like I don’t use the bag to its full potential. For everyday use, I would have to give the nod to the booq Cobra, just because the Business Brief is a bit of overkill with all of its pockets. This, however, comes with two caveats: the Business Brief weighs roughly 35% less than the booq Cobra. In addition, the Crew 9 Business Brief’s zipper glides effortlessly, something I can’t say about the booq Cobra. The Business Brief’s collection of pockets, ultimately, may be its undoing for those looking for an everyday professional briefcase.

While I haven’t yet had the opportunity to travel with the Crew 9 Business Brief, I am very confident that this is where the bag proves its true worth. This only makes sense, seeing that it is made by a luggage company! This is a bag for people who are traveling with a laptop, tablet, power adapters, accessories and files.

Crew 9 Collection

It’s worth mentioning that TravelPro’s Crew 9 collection has 14 pieces in all, including rollaboards, spinners, totes, garment bags and a backpack.

Price

Don’t be scared off by the suggested retail prices of TravelPro pieces, as it’s doubtful that you will find a retailer selling at MSRP (manufacturer’s suggested retail price). On Amazon.com, you will find the Business Brief around $110. This means the booq Cobra costs more than twice as much, although I do think it’s worth it. Given its storage capacity and construction, I think the TravelPro Crew 9 Business Brief is a tremendous value.

Overall

After using the TravelPro Crew 9 Business Brief, I think it may be a bit much as a “daily” bag. I carry a lot of things between my office and home and back again—files, books, laptop, tablet, etc., etc.—and the Business Brief can certainly accommodate pretty much anything I want to transport. But, its collection of pockets and zippers can be a little overwhelming. If you aren’t scared off by this, this is a well-constructed bag that is very reasonably priced.

For road warriors, I think the TravelPro Crew 9 Business Brief is an excellent choice. Its checkpoint-friendly design and wealth of storage space lets you carry pretty much anything you need.

Pros

  • Plenty of storage capacity
  • Rugged construction
  • Pass-through strap on back
  • TSA checkpoint-friendly

Cons

  • Shoulder strap under-padded
  • Suggested retail price high, but very reasonable from online retailers
  • May have too many pockets for an everyday briefcase

TravelPro Crew 9 Business Brief
$260 (Currently $110.49 from Amazon.com)

Wayne A. Thorp, CFA is a vice president and senior financial analyst at AAII and editor of Computerized Investing. Follow him on Twitter at @WayneTAAII.


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