Laptop cases are traditional, briefcase-style bags, though many also come with a shoulder strap. You can pay as little as $20 for a basic case or upwards of several hundred dollars. For high-fashion totes, the sky's the limit. Of the dozens of case models receiving professional reviews, two stand out: the Targus CityGear TopLoad Case (*Est. $60 and up) and the compact Tom Binh Cadet Laptop Bag (*Est. $170), which can hold up to 15-inch laptops. Here's how they compare.
Reviewers of the Tom Bihn Cadet Laptop Bag praise its extra-heavyweight ballistic nylon, durable, water-resistant zippers and poke-and-tear resistant interiors. The CityGear is well constructed, with durable stitching and nylon, but a couple of users complain that the handle is attached with grommets to a plastic strip, which can break if you consistently overload the bag. Both the Targus CityGear TopLoad Case and the Tom Bihn Cadet Laptop Bag score well on durability, but reviewers call the Tom Bihn nearly bombproof. Some reviews are written after years of use, with authors claiming the bag looks exactly as it did coming out of the box. The Tom Bihn Cadet wins the durability category.
The Targus CityGear TopLoad Case is surprisingly comfortable for its size. In part, that's because the bag is itself lightweight, so unless you overfill it, it's light on the shoulder or in your hands. The Tom Bihn Cadet is exceedingly comfortable to carry due to the simple, padded handles, reviews say. The bag itself is also padded and comfortable on the hip. Reviews are split on the optional Absolute Shoulder Strap (*Est. $30), with some saying it was the most comfortable they had ever used, and others saying there are better choices. How comfortable a laptop bag is has a lot to do with how much stuff you pack into it, but according to reviews both the Targus CityGear TopLoad Case and Tom Bihn Cadet Laptop Bag are quite comfortable overall, if mildly flawed under heavy load for long distances. They garner equal comfort scores.
The Targus CityGear TopLoad Case is a basic black laptop bag: cleanly made of black nylon, neither attention-getting nor offensive. Yellow highlights add a whimsical touch, but may be out of place in formal settings. The Tom Bihn Cadet Laptop Bag isn't groundbreaking either, but its classic styling and retro logo and details suggest an earlier time, with one reviewer saying it wouldn't look out of place in the hands of James Bond. Neither bag gets a perfect score in this category; there are totes with fewer features or higher price tags whose entire reason for existing is their stylish lines. But among those bags receiving high rankings for utility as well as looks, the Tom Bihn Cadet Laptop Bag wins accolades – and this comparison – for its classic, slightly retro styling.
Both the Targus CityGear TopLoad Case and the Tom Bihn Cadet Laptop Bag come with limited lifetime warranties -- restricted to manufacturing defects rather than the holes you made when you accidentally ran over the bag with your SUV. While both bags rarely require return or replacement, those few customers who weigh in say customer service is extremely helpful. This category is a tie, with both bags earning perfect scores.
While reviewers rave about the features and quality design of the Tom Bihn Cadet Laptop Bag, the one thing they ding is the price: an estimated $170. That in itself may not be a problem, but the bag is quite small; reviews say that if you want to drop this kind of coin on a bag, you'll be very limited in the types of laptops you can stow in it. The Targus CityGear TopLoad Case, on the other hand, squeezes in solid construction and many thoughtful features at a very reasonable price for the category: an estimated $60 for the 16-inch size. It also includes a shoulder strap as standard, while the Tom Bihn charges up to $30 for an optional strap. That gives the Targus the edge in this category.
Both the Targus CityGear TopLoad Case and the Tom Bihn Cadet Laptop Bag are well loved by reviewers, receiving high marks for their features, durability and design. They are tied in a number of categories, including comfort and warranty. But the wider margin on value puts the Targus CityGear over the top: the price difference between the two bags means you could almost buy three of the Targus model for one of the Tom Bihn, with no assurance that your next laptop would fit. Either bag is a solid choice, but the Targus CityGear TopLoad Case is best-reviewed in the top-load case category.