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16 fantastic computer bags – TechCrunch

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Give the gift of organization this year. Bags are often ignored but are a critical part of anyone’s mobile gear. They’re the outward representations of our techie styles, and we put far too little thought into where we keep our most prized possessions. Here’s a collection of bags TechCrunch reviewed over the last year. You’ll find waxed canvas bags, camera backpacks, trail-ready commuter bags and bags designed with women in mind.

WP Standard built the leather messenger bag you want

At $295 the bag is priced accordingly for the fantastic material and build. It’s a great bag to carry a few things and it will always be noticed. I have yet to see a bag as beautiful as the Vintage Leather Messenger Bag. If more space is needed, WP Standard now has a larger option that looks equally as good in the $310 Large Messenger Bag though I haven’t seen the bag in person yet.

Read the full review here.


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Pad & Quill Heritage Satchel is a modern leather classic

This is a solid bag that I completely recommend. It’s a great size, able to hold most everything I threw at it while not being too big to carry even when lightly packed. After a few months with the bag, it’s aged nicely and is starting to feel like a well-worn pair of denim jeans. The leather is still delicious and seems durable enough to withstand a person’s daily grind.

Read the full review here.

The Bitcoin Genesis Block backpack will centralize your belongings

Unlike the blockchain, this backpack will centralize your stuff in a fairly large, fairly standard backpack. There is little unique about the backpack itself – it’s a solid piece made of 100% polyester and includes ergonomically designed straps and a secret pocket – but it is printed with the Bitcoin Genesis Block including a headline about UK bank bailouts. In short, it’s Merkle tree-riffic.

Read the full review here.

Chrome’s Vega Transit Brief makes your work vibe less uncool

The Vega isn’t Chrome’s most inspired design ever, but it isn’t supposed to be. If you want to show up to a meeting looking pro but still cool, like yeah you looked over the slides from the call but you drink shitty beer after work because you’re legit not because you can’t afford some triple-hopped bullshit, the Vega is probably for you. For anyone looking for a well-made bag that’s not too loud to carry to and from work meetings that happens to turn into a damn backpack, Chrome’s Vega Transit Brief is a great fit.

Read the full review here.

Chrome’s BLCKCHRM Bravo 2.0 backpack is a burly, stylish beast

It’s hard to overstate how good-looking this bag is. Like quality leather, the Hypalon breaks in with wear, picking up surface marks that fade into a kind of weathered patina over time. Between that material, the all-black mini Chrome buckle chest strap and central black leather panel, it’s a very sleek, sexy looking bag. Still, for anyone who digs the Bravo 2.0’s vibe but is wary of its heavy construction, the regular edition Bravo 2.0 might be a better choice. But if you like your packs fancy, serious and black on black on black, well, you know what to do.

Read the full review here.


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Filson 24-Hour Tin Briefcase

This bag has a large main compartment with a padded laptop area that will hold a 15-incher easily, and a couple of pockets on the inside to isolate toothbrushes and pens and the like. On the outside is a pair of good-sized zippered pockets that open wide to allow access from either the top or side; inside those are organizer strips and sub-pockets for pens and so on.

Read the full review here.

Croots England Vintage Canvas Laptop

There isn’t a heck of a lot of room in there but this is definitely meant to be a daily driver briefcase and not an overnight bag — a “personal item” on the plane perhaps but I would take the Filson or ONA over it for space reasons. However as a bag to take to work the cafe, or the bookstore it’s a great option and a striking one. The Flight Bag is a slightly more expansive and unique option.

Read the full review here.

S-Zone $30 waxed canvas bag

To balance out the admittedly very expensive bags in this review I decided to grab a cheap one off Amazon as well. As I expected, it isn’t up to the quality level of the others, but for $30 it’s a bargain. If you want to experience how waxed canvas evolves and wears, an inexpensive bag like this is a great way to try it out.

Read the full review here.

WP Standard’s Rucksack goes the distance

This bag assumes that you’re OK with thick, heavy leather and that you’re willing to forgo a lot of the bells and whistles you get with more modern styles. That said, it has a great classic look and it’s very usable. I suspect this bag would last decades longer than anything you could buy at Office Depot and it would look good doing it. At $275 it’s a bit steep but you’re paying for years – if not decades – of regular use and abuse. It’s worth the investment.

Read the full review here.


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The Nomadic NF-02 keeps everything in its right place

Nomadic is a solid backpack. It’s small, light, and still holds up to abuse. I’m a big fan of the entire Nomadic line and it’s great to see this piece available in the US. It’s well worth a look if you’re looking for a compact carrier for your laptop, accessories, and notebooks.

Read the full review here.

Chrome’s Yalta 2.0 is a roomy rolltop that keeps up

Compared to some of Chrome’s more heavy-duty bags and other less-technical packs, the Yalta is a likable middle ground. The pack isn’t as rain resistant as a bag made out of fully waterproof material and the laptop sleeve could use some structure, but it carries a fair amount and it’s got a nice slender profile that looks and feels good. The Yalta doesn’t really have any quirks or tricks beyond the strange side-zip compartment, and that makes it a good fit for anyone who needs a good-looking, weather resistant mid-sized rolltop backpack for work and what comes before and after.

Read the full review here.

Mission Workshop’s Radian rolltop starts simple but grows piece by piece

In the end I think the Radian is the best option for anyone looking at Mission Workshop bags who wants a modular option, but unless you plan on swapping out pieces a lot, I’m not personally convinced that it’s better than their all-in-one bags like the Rambler and Vandal. By all means take a look at putting a Radian system together, but don’t neglect to check if any of the pre-built ones fit your needs as well.

Read the full review here.

Why I still love the Peak Design Everyday Backpack

Like I said several months ago, the bag is best described as smart and solid. It’s a confident design with just enough pockets and storage options. The bag features one, large pocket that makes up most of the bag. Foldable dividers allow the wearer to customize the bag as needed. And quickly, too. These dividers fold in several ways, allowing the bag to hold, say, a large telephoto lens or several smaller lens.

Read the full review here.


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P.MAI’s women’s leather laptop bag is luxury packed with utility

By designing a bag for women that blends a luxury aesthetic with comfortable utility, the P.MAI bag quickly rose to the the “Most Wished for” laptop backpack on Amazon last holiday season. Premium materials and quality design don’t come cheap. Still, the $450 price-tag may keep this one on the wish-list for now.

Read the full review here.

Timbuk2’s Launch featherweight daypack is tough and tiny

If you’re a longtime Timbuk2 fan know that the pack both looks and feels different from most of Timbuk2’s classic designs, and unfortunately doesn’t come in the bright, playful tri-color look that some of its classic messengers do. Still, if you’re into more natural, subdued tones and really don’t want your day-to-day pack to weigh you down unnecessarily, Timbuk2’s Launch is totally worth a look.

Read the full review here.

Osprey Momentum 32 is ready for muddy trails

The Osprey Momentum 32 impresses. I used it during a muddy week at Beaumont Scout Reservation and it performed flawlessly as a rugged, bike-ready backpack. It stood tall in the miserable rain and insufferable heat that engulfed northern Ohio during the camping trip. If it can withstand these conditions, it can withstand an urban commute.

Read the full review here.

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Australia also wants Google to unbundle search from Android

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Enlarge / Let’s see, you landed on my “Google Ads” space, and with three houses… that will be $1,400.

Ron Amadeo / Hasbro

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is the latest government regulatory body to take issue with how Google does business. As Reuters reports, the ACCC wants Google to show a “choice screen” to Android users, allowing them to pick a default search engine other than Google Search. It also wants to limit Google’s ability to pay Apple and other vendors to be the default search engine on other platforms.

ACCC Chair Rod Sims explained the commission’s reasoning in a statement:

We are concerned that Google’s dominance and its ability to use its financial resources to fund arrangements to be the default search engine on many devices and other means through which consumers access search, such as browsers, is harming competition and consumers. Google pays billions of dollars each year for these placements, which illustrates how being the default search engine is extremely valuable to Google’s business model.

Market research firm Kantar says Android has a 60 percent share of the smartphone market, while on iOS and macOS, Google pays Apple an estimated $15 billion per year to be the default search on Safari. Google also pays Mozilla $400 million per year to remain the default on Firefox. Google has a 94 percent share of the Australian search engine market.

Google’s closest search competitor is Microsoft’s Bing, which has something like 2.5 percent market share worldwide. That’s despite being the default search engine on Windows, the world’s second most popular operating system. Google recently told an EU court that “Google” is the #1 search query on Bing, claiming that stat as evidence that users are choosing Google rather than being forced into using it.

Google has already gone through a similar Android unbundling change in the EU, which saw the company add ballot screens for the default search engine and default browser. The EU also shut down some provisions of Google’s standard “Mobile Application Distribution Agreement” (MADA) that OEMs needed to sign in order to license the Google apps. One change means that Google can’t force an “all-or-nothing” bundling of Google’s apps, so if an OEM wants a single app (like, say, the Play Store), it does not have to include every default Google app on its devices.

Android's EU search ballot.
Enlarge / Android’s EU search ballot.

Google

The EU also said that Google can’t restrict OEMs from forking Android. Previously, using the Android codebase in ways Google didn’t approve of would get an OEM kicked out of the Google Play ecosystem. South Korea also took issue with Google’s Android fork restrictions and fined the company $177 million, one of South Korea’s biggest fines ever.

Android’s business model doesn’t charge OEMs directly; instead, it generates revenue for Google through end-user Play Store purchases, Google Search queries, and Google ad impressions. These three areas are such moneymakers that not only can they completely fund Android development, but Google also offers a revenue-share program for Android OEMs, offering incentives like a kickback for each user’s search revenue.

Google’s response to all these changes was to start charging OEMs for Android if they went along with it. In the EU, OEMs can stick with Google’s preferred terms and the old revenue deals, or they can change things up by paying as much as $40 per device and potentially missing out on revenue-sharing deals.

The ACCC’s move isn’t a requirement yet—for now, it’s a potential measure that the regulator will put out for industry consultation in 2022.

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Raspberry Pi Zero 2 W: 5x faster than the original for $5 more

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Enlarge / The Raspberry Pi Zero 2 W.

The diminutive Raspberry Pi Zero is getting its first upgrade in nearly five years. Today, Raspberry Pi founder Eben Upton announced the Raspberry Pi Zero 2 W, a new $15 product that puts the processor from the Raspberry Pi 3 into a board the exact same size as the original Zero.

The new board swaps the old Zero’s 1 GHz single-core ARM11 processor for a quad-core Cortex A53-based Broadcom BCM2710A1 processor, also clocked at 1 GHz—the same processor used in the original Raspberry Pi 3 released back in 2016, albeit clocked slightly lower. This is a substantial increase in power and capability for the Pi Zero, going from one core to four and from 32 bits to 64.

Upton said that the performance increase over the original Zero “varies across workloads” but that for multithreaded tasks like those simulated by sysbench, “it is almost exactly five times faster.” Heat dissipation is provided by “thick internal copper layers” in the board, which should help prevent thermal throttling without the use of additional fans or heatsinks.

The Pi Zero 2 W should fit most cases and other accessories designed for the original model.
Enlarge / The Pi Zero 2 W should fit most cases and other accessories designed for the original model.

But the Pi Zero 2 W is still a low-powered, miniature version of the Pi, which means there’s just not a lot of physical space for other upgrades. The Zero 2 W still uses 512MB of RAM, 2.4 GHz 802.11n Wi-Fi with Bluetooth 4.2, and a single HDMI port along with two micro-USB ports (one for power, one for data) and a microSD card slot. Because it still uses the same Zero form factor, it should fit all existing cases and accessories made for the original Pi Zero.

Upton said that the company hopes to ship about 200,000 Pi Zero 2 W boards in the remainder of 2021 and an additional 250,000 in the first half of 2022. These numbers are being limited somewhat by ongoing chip shortages, which prompted a rare price increase for the flagship Raspberry Pi 4 model earlier this month.

The original Pi Zero W and the Wi-Fi-less Pi Zero will continue to be manufactured and sold for their original prices of $10 and $5, respectively.

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Review: Bigger screen and better lighting make for a nearly perfect Kindle Paperwhite

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Enlarge / The 11th-generation Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition.

Andrew Cunningham

It’s the most reliable upgrade in tech: take a thing that was already good, and make the screen bigger.

From laptops to TVs to phones to game consoles to tablets to watches, the time-honored tradition of making the screen bigger has resulted in some excellent upgrades, at least as long as making the screen bigger doesn’t screw up anything else.

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite (11th gen, 2021)

(Ars Technica may earn compensation for sales from links on this post through affiliate programs.)

And that’s Amazon’s playbook with the $140 11th-generation Kindle Paperwhite. Next to the 10th-generation model, the designs look nearly identical, but the new one has a larger screen enabled in part by slimmer borders around the top and sides.

But just because the bigger screen is the most noticeable thing about the new Paperwhite doesn’t mean it’s the only thing. It now has a USB-C port for charging, replacing the aging micro-USB port. Performance is improved in small but noticeable ways. Its frontlight adds more LEDs, so the illumination looks smoother and more uniform, and it also picks up the auto-brightness sensor and warm light features from the $250 Kindle Oasis.

All of that comes together in a $140 e-reader that is the best Kindle—and, by extension, the best e-reader—that you can currently buy.

Bigger screen with a better frontlight

The new Paperwhite (left) has a 6.8-inch screen, which looks and feels much larger than the old model's 6-inch display (right).

The new Paperwhite (left) has a 6.8-inch screen, which looks and feels much larger than the old model’s 6-inch display (right).

Andrew Cunningham

The headline feature of the new Paperwhite is its 6.8-inch screen, a big step up from the old Paperwhite’s (and the standard Kindle’s) 6-inch display. It doesn’t change the Kindle’s user interface much, but it does mean a lot more words per page when you’re using the same font sizes, margins, and spacing.

The space for the larger screen mostly comes out of the Kindle’s top and side bezels, which are much slimmer than before (though the bottom bezel is a little thicker than before, likely to ensure that you still have plenty of room for your thumbs while you’re holding the device). Even with the bezel tweaks, the new Kindle is taller and wider than the old one, but not so much that it feels harder to hold for extended periods. The design of the 11th-generation Paperwhite and the 10th-gen Paperwhite are otherwise identical, with bezels that are flush with the display and the same soft-touch plastic back.

The new Paperwhite also gets an upgraded frontlight that makes it a lot more like the more-expensive Kindle Oasis. The frontlight now uses 17 LEDs, up from five in the last-gen Paperwhite and four in the standard Kindle. And it now has a warmlight option that can shift the display’s color temperature from the standard cool blue to a warm orangey-yellow.

Two separate sliders control backlight brightness and the light’s color temperature. Even if you don’t care for the yellow display effect that most phones/tablets/computers offer now, turning the display warmth up a few ticks takes the harsh edge off of the bluish Kindle frontlight and makes the display a lot more pleasant to look at. A built-in auto-brightness sensor also helps with this.

The Kindle Oasis has still-more LEDs in its 7-inch screen—25, instead of 17—but the Paperwhite’s screen is so bright and evenly lit that I doubt I could tell the difference even with the two devices next to each other.

Better performance (with one serious bug)

Amazon claims the new Paperwhite has “20% faster page turns,” and while I didn’t measure anything with a stopwatch, the 11th-gen Paperwhite did feel more consistently responsive than 10th- and 7th-gen models I normally use. That’s true not just for page turns, but also for navigating menus, highlighting passages, and typing out quick notes. The new Paperwhite is still occasionally prone to the kinds of random, inexplicable minor hangups and hitches that all Kindles I’ve used have sometimes suffered from, but those pauses take less time to resolve themselves than they do on the older models.

That said, I can consistently get the new Kindle to totally lock up by rapidly adjusting the backlight and warmth sliders and then opening a book—almost as though giving the screen too many inputs in too short a time makes it stop responding entirely. The frontlight will still turn on and off, but the display won’t refresh or respond to input until the device has been hard rebooted.

I suspect that this is a bug that can be resolved with a software update, and it’s not something you’ll run into if you’re not tweaking the settings a bunch in a short period of time. But it’s something to be aware of—I’ve contacted Amazon to see whether this is a known issue and if a fix is coming.

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