Checking Your Laptop as Luggage

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2006-08-17 Print this article Print

Opinion: New air travel safety concerns have made it more likely that you'll have to send your laptop as checked luggage.

The threat was terrorism, so it's understandable why passengers on some trans-Atlantic flights suddenly found themselves trying to find a way to stash their electronics, including their laptop computers, iPods, cell phones and BlackBerry devices, into their checked luggage.

Some of those items, such as cell phones, will travel fine there, but others, notably your laptop computer, aren't designed to handle the stress of luggage handlers and baggage sorting machines.

Your chances of getting your laptop back intact aren't exactly great.

Unfortunately, whether due to security concerns, or simply concerns that your laptop might decide to spontaneously combust in the overhead luggage compartment, there's a reasonable likelihood that at some point, you'll need to check your laptop with the rest of your luggage when you fly.

But what to buy? I asked someone who should know, David Sebens, the vice president of marketing for Zero Halliburton, the makers of those legendary aluminum cases you see in the spy movies.

"What you need is a lockable, hard case," Sebens said. He said that it's possible that a semi-rigid or soft case could work.

"It should have high-density, high-impact foam so you could drop it from a height of 4 to 6 feet," he added.

"The durability of the case is really important," Sebens said.

"You'd look for a reliable manufacturer, for component strength, warranty and quality of construction," he said.

Sebens said that while everyone is worried about weight in luggage, when you're looking for protection, that may not be the best idea.

"Some strong materials weigh more than a less-durable combination of materials," he said.

Sebens said that if a company were going to try to select a standard case, independent testing should be a critical part of the selection process.

In order to get a little more insight on these cases in the real world, I went over to PhotoCraft, which is where I buy my camera gear.

There I talked with company vice president Eldar Tariverdi, who seemed to have a lot of good ideas on how to protect expensive, fragile stuff, including my laptop.

Tariverdi suggested some case manufacturers that he thought would meet my needs.

I borrowed cases from three well-known vendors of protective shipping cases to see just how well they would work.

In the process, I took the cases out to Washington Dulles International Airport for trial runs, and to ask the Skycaps and baggage handlers what they thought.

By the time I finished, it became clear that ruggedness and utility win out if you want maximum protection for your gadgets.

Read the full story on eWEEK.com: Checking Your Laptop as Luggage

Wayne Rash Wayne Rash is a Senior Analyst for eWEEK Labs and runs the magazine's Washington Bureau. Prior to joining eWEEK as a Senior Writer on wireless technology, he was a Senior Contributing Editor and previously a Senior Analyst in the InfoWorld Test Center. He was also a reviewer for Federal Computer Week and Information Security Magazine. Previously, he ran the reviews and events departments at CMP's InternetWeek.

He is a retired naval officer, a former principal at American Management Systems and a long-time columnist for Byte Magazine. He is a regular contributor to Plane & Pilot Magazine and The Washington Post.

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