There are times when we have to look outside of just the straight Android devices and look at some tools that help us enhance our Android experiences. This happens especially when there are certain situations in which we need a little something extra as the solution. For example, carrying different devices at once can sometimes pose a problem when you don't have an easy way of stashing them on the go. Having a phone and a tablet together can be extremely useful, but even when on the road, problems arise. What happens when you run out of battery on either – or worse, all – devices you have in hand?
Luckily, Timbuk2 has a solution to for both of these situations that quite often happen together. Their answer – the Power Commute bag. Essentially, it is a new version of their already extremely popular Commute line of messenger bags, in which the main features are a slew of useful pockets (a mainstay in any Timbuk2 product) and the inclusion of a zippered back flap that holds a laptop and folds down for TSA compliant scanning. However, in the Power Commute Timbuk2 has gone the extra mile to help people on their busy commutes. When you run out of power, a power brick included with the Power Commute will help us Android users enjoy our phones, tablets, and phablets on the go for longer.
Disclosure – I am a firm believer in looking at the big picture; in this case, it is about looking at accessories and tools that help to enhance the Android experience. Full disclosure – I am a big Timbuk2 fan and this Power Commute bag, so this is a fun review for me to do because of how useful it has been for me. Real world example? I brought this bag with me to CES and its usefulness helped it become a hit with my fellow Android Authorities – it was eventually dubbed the “most thoughtful bag ever.” This is one of those times when an accessory proves so useful or is so cool that we just have to do a feature on it.
So, read on to learn more about what just might be your next commuting bag. This written review will go through the general features of the Power Commute, but the video found at the end of this review is an even better look at how I typically use the bag. Technically speaking, it is also a look into a common work day for me. (Watch until the end for a quick gag reel!)
If you have used a Timbuk2 bag in the past, there is a chance that this one will feel incredibly familiar. For that matter, the same goes if you have ever used a messenger bag in general. There is a long, adjustable strap connected to the two sides of the bag, which is closed by a flap that goes over the front and is both velcroed and further kept shut by two snap clips. On the side is a pocket made for a water bottle – a thoughtful addition by the San Francisco based company. Timbuk2 bags are know for their signature ‘shouts' that occur when removing the front flap and the Velcro makes their typical sound.
The inside of the main compartment has a lot of space for a vast number of books, devices, or pretty much anything that you can think to stuff in there. It is big enough to hold pretty much any insert made by either Timbuk2 or a third-party – in my case, my trusty Snoop Camera Insert is the one I use. More often than not, my messenger bags double as either laptop carriers or reliable camera bags. This insert easily slides in and out, even leaving some room for extra things.
Also inside are a couple mesh pockets on either side, one of which can be used for anything and the other catered particularly for the Joey T1 power brick. But more on that later. The inner front side has a number of pockets including ones for pens and pencils, as well as a pouch in the middle. On the outer front side has two pockets for, surprise surprise, cell phones (or at least they fit perfectly) as well as a zipped pocket above it.
Finally, there is a side pocket that filters behind the cell phone holders that is a little special. It is under the Velcro lines, making it easy to access even when the front flap is closed. This is a great feature because of its easy accessibility – you can reach anything within without having to remove the bag from around your shoulder. Imagine being at an airport and putting your passport or boarding passes in there. You can easily get them out without fumbling into the main compartment of your bag.
Which brings us to the back end. Didn't I tell you this bag was feature-packed? Unzip the compartment on the back and you find three different pockets, one that folds out and holds a laptop and two on the main body. The main body pockets can hold more books if that is what you need, but I typically use them for my tablets. The Nexus 10 and 7 devices fit perfectly here. The flap that comes out is a feature of Commute bags, as having the laptop separate from the main body allows it to be easily scanned by TSA machines. This makes your TSA experience less of a hassle, as you no longer have to take your laptop completely from the bag and instead just have to unzip the back and unfold it out. The Power Commute can hold laptops of up to 15 inches, but be aware that this measurement actually means for a Macbook (boo).
First off, the strap is removable by two metal clips, allowing for the bag to be used like a suitcase by holding the sturdy hand strap on the top. However, the shoulder strap is quite comfortable as it comes with a Velcro cushion that takes up about a third of the length.
As it is with just about any bag, overloading it will put a strain on you due to the weight. After a long day on the show floor at CES, my shoulder was definitely killing me. However, under optimal load, the bag is really very comfortable and just feels like an extension of yourself when in transit.
A quick look on the back shows that there is some mesh fabric that comes out from the back flap. The top is open, while the bottom has Velcro that keeps it shut. Again, Timbuk2 thinks of everything as this opening can be used to put your bag on the handle of any rolling luggage. There – your airline/train/blimp commute just got easier, too.
Finally, we come to the main reason why we're looking at the Timbuk2 Power Commute – is included power brick. Bundled with this messenger bag is the Joey T1, a portable charger that can power or charge your devices when they run out of juice. It sits in a specific pocket on the side of the inner compartment and features a smaller module for connecting a full USB that goes out to the device you are charging, three green lights to show you how much charge is left, and finally a micro-USB port.
The micro-USB port is essentially why the power brick is called the Joey. In order to charge itself, the Joey needs to use power cord of any applicable device – in our case, pretty much every Android device uses a micro-USB to charge, so just apply that to the Joey. When charging the Joey, you can still connect your phone through the full USB port using the already included cord, effectively powering both at once.
As far as capacity goes on the Joey T1, it admittedly isn't as large as some other portable chargers out there. At 3700 mAh, it is capable of charging a phone up to two and a half times and a full-sized tablet almost once. Timbuk2 has stated that after much testing, they found this capacity as most ideal for a typical commute. The Joey is capable of thousands and thousands of recharges, and since it can power a device while charging itself, it isn't that difficult to plug it in for a time before you go out on your trip.
The cord included with the Joey T1 is long enough to reach all around the bag – I have it pass around the camera insert and connect to my phone found in one of the front pockets. However, if you have any devices that have to go in the back, there is a small slit that the cord can pass through from the front and reach them. Technically you can keep part of the back zipper open so that you can pass the cord out of the bag, while it is on your shoulder, and connect it to you phone/tablet/phablet, but I have never done this – I just charge my device while stowed inside.
By now, it should be obvious how much I like this bag. It is incredibly versatile and virtually any situation that you throw at it will be handled with ease. Got a lot of luggage and having something around your shoulder bothers you? The flap on the back can put the Power Commute atop one of your roller luggage Need a small boost in power after your device gave you the low battery warning? The Joey T1 can help you out. Have a lot of stuff to bring around with you? The large compartment and slots under the zipper on the back should be able to hold anything you need. Heck, don't have anywhere to put your water bottle? There's a pocket for that, too!
Here's where the party slows down a little – the price. At $199, the Power Commute comes at a hefty price. However, with a lifetime warranty to compliment the wonderful workmanship put into this bag, you are sure to have a quality companion to all of your devices, books, and other carry-arounds for pretty much the rest of your life. I have owned another Timbuk2 bag for over 5 years and it has never missed a beat.
That being said, the cons of the price on this bag come from its lack of customization Timbuk2 is known for custom bags and the slew of options available – but the Power Commute only comes in the gunmetal black, grey, and green combination. Custom regular Commute bags start at $149, making the Joey T1 a $50 premium. Prepackaged Commute bags are around $119, which makes the Joey T1 cost more. It's hard to put a price on the Joey T1, as the Power Commute is pretty much the only place to find it. Assess for yourself if it is worth the higher priced package overall.