NB: This article is a continuation of our TCritic series, where reviewers from across the industry cast their eye across products, services and software. The author is Timothy O'Neil-Dunne, of T2impact.
Tech accessorizer Incase has recently announced the EO Travel, a new line of luggage targeting the short-term, gadget-heavy traveler. The suitcase line features many features for the tech-toting traveler, such as an expandable waist and specially-made slots for their devices.
Incase markets the new line as "custom built for a new generation whose approach to travel is defined by simplicity and connectivity. Built to carry-on, this five-piece collection caters to the evolving traveler who relies on personal technology for business, pleasure and inspiration. Each EO Travel bag combines smart organization and dependable protection to make the travel experience easier, safer and more efficient."
THE PRODUCT: The Incase EO Travel Roller ($249.99)
The EO Travel Roller is a midsize carry-on for a short trip or long weekend. It's one in a series of on-board luggage recently announced by Incase that includes a hardshell roller, a rolling brief, a backpack, and a duffel bag.
THE PROMISE: "An onboard luggage piece with space for a 3-day trip"
The product is supposed to be a combined luggage for a 3 day trip. They are selling the convenience of an onboard luggage piece that also safely totes travelers' most sensitive gadgets.
Convenience and size
Several problems on this front. The case is designed to be a "convertible" case, i.e. a combined suitcase and laptop bag. It kinda works. But the compromises don't always meet the fitness for purpose. I can see this as a female single carry on bag so they don't have to dump the handbag in order to meet the 2 bag US carry-on limit.
For the famous RyanAir and European single bag limit – it should work. Probably doesn't work for someone like myself who is frequently away on longer, sometimes multi-week trips.
THE HOOK: "Expandable and durable"
The Incase EO Roller is supposed to have several killer features:
Expandable: Theoretically you can carry a Mac laptop and an iPad.
Durable: The suitcase has waterproof exterior, but is on one side only.
In my opinion – this hook is the not strong enough to be compelling.
THE FEATURES: "Tech pockets and weather resistant"
- Padded sleeve fits up to 17" MacBook Pro.
- Slip pocket for iPad.
- Main compartment expands 35%.
- Custom wheels for a smooth ride.
- Triple-coated weather-resistant front panel.
One major thing it is missing for business travelers is the ability to attach a second bag to it - the piggy back hook that allows for a variable amount of carry-ons.
THE TRUTH: "Some nice features and lots of compromise"
It has some nice features – but they are spoiled by some compromises. Specifically:
- The inconsistency of top loading vs bottom loading.
- The recessed pouch on the bottom was a mistake – it should be on the top.
- Maneuverability leave a lot to be desired. Its too heavy for such a small case.
- Getting the hang of this new luggage's quirks meant that I had a bit of a hard time at the security lanes.
Based on the assumption of what the price is officially from the website – assumed price is $249.99. If the discounts are normally down to $150-199 then its reasonable. At $250 its a bit pricey for a weekender-type bag.
Mobility + Size
Its quite heavy – I think they could make it a lot lighter. A suitcase of this type could be a lot lighter with the use of different materials.
The suitcase capacity is also not big enough. Although I tend to travel for longer periods of time so my judgement is colored in that light. The case itself could be about 1-2 inches longer.
I also don't like the two steep bars intruding into the suitcase area. Expanded, the case can work for a 3 night or, at a stretch, for a guy on a 4-night trip. But then it would have issues of fitting into the overhead bins, so it's best to stick to the designed-for 3 day trip.
Could do better. Now this could be just me but I found myself not using the features in a simple order. Too much fussing with the zippers and pockets made usage more aggravating than necessary. However I think I could get used to this after having some time to acclimate to a new suitcase.
These are over all quite good. The iPad2 case was a surprise – not sure it works for an iPad 1 definitely does work for an iPad 2 and 3.
I tested this on two trips via four airports, including a connection. It seems to work well. The feel seems to be good. Wheels should be further out – they are too close together makes for unwieldy when you are dashing through the airport.
The suitcase's material looks like it wouldn't survive a trip in the hold if it went as checked baggage - say if all of the overheads were full and you were forced to check the bag. This is a pet peeve of mine – that designers think they design for carry-on only. That does not always happen and I think this will have issues with Velcro touching it.
I also wouldn't like to see what happens when it gets wet!
Fitness for purpose
I define fitness for purpose as a weekender combined replacement for a dedicated laptop bag and suitcase. It's good for perhaps 2nights. Not more without the expander which would lead to unwieldy compromises.
Dragging it round the house with the Expander full was even less maneuverable. I would like to see a version of the 22 inch that I use from Swiss Army – which remains my preferred suitcase of choice. (I am eyeing a Briggs and Reilly as a replacement.)
If this is a true production quality version – I would say the zippers need to be a bit stronger. I didn't try the "destruct test" but I suspect the zippers might not be quite as robust. Just a suspicion.
The laptop functions are in need of a redesign. If the bag is laid out on its front then the protection is not enough, as it can be easily flipped and potentially damage the laptop – I think this will be a problem.
The pouch for a laptop and an iPad (since we all carry these now) needs an extra restraint if you have 2 devices. The pouch also needs to accommodate papers better.
My laptop bag is pretty bulky and I see others are mostly looking like the same. It needs a place for a label. Again, the material does not seem like it would survive a trip in the hold. I have used Incase products (covers for iPhones etc) so I was happy to see this came from them.
However, the thing they are known for - durability - was a bit of a disappointment.
THE TCRITIC TAKE: "Good first step with room for improvement"
Incase is expanding outside its usual space of providing cases for handheld devices and tablets. This whole series is basically a first generation product from the company. It is a good take and a good first effort but not quite good enough in my opinion.
They could have done a lot better.
One example of this is the weather proofing on one side of the case but not on the other main side and the external sides. It just seems that they assumed that the rain and weather only affects the side when the luggage is in motion. The case itself is not balanced automatically to leave the top side exposed.
The use of felt-like fabric cloth is a really bad idea, especially because Velcro loves this stuff and the amount of Velcro that is in baggage handling is quite amazing. With the external fabric being cloth, it will also absorb a lot of moisture and other liquid like stuff – such as spilled coffee.
Appearance-wise, it looks good. Wheels are great but they need to be wider apart. It should be more stable when walking fast. The case is too heavy and could really be much lighter for the intended carry-on purpose.
The emotional hook of appealing as a combi-type case is compelling, but only if that was the way it was marketed. The combined-value aspect isn't featured as a value, so it doesn't quite come across.
For females who have to dispose of one extra bag to comply with carry-on requirements, this is an issue. The design looks masculine so unlikely it will have feminine "curb appeal". For males, it has a value of making a small bag for a trip without the need for an additional bag.
THE RATING: "Middle of the road"