The Brenthaven II-XF x-ray-friendly Shoulder Case is in many ways a fine shoulder bag for discerning frequent travelers who want to breeze through airport security without having to remove their laptop on every trip through the metal detectors. The bag follows the contemporary x-ray-friendly design concept, which separates the laptop portion of the bag from everything else you need to carry. When you get to the security checkpoint, you pull a zipper in the middle that joins the two halves, and then splay the bag open on the conveyer belt. I've been using this bag for more than a month, but decided to hold off on my review until after the Thanksgiving holiday to see if it really was more convenient, and to see if it could hold up to an intense, long weekend of holiday traveling.
The bag is well-designed and organized. There are some nice features for consummate travelers, and plenty of flourishes that give the bag a luxury feel. On the back of the bag, instead of a magazine pouch you'll find a loop that lets you slide the bag onto the extending handle of a small rolling suitcase. The loop was placed too high on the bag to be helpful on the shorter extending grip of my large, checked luggage, but on the longer handle of a rolling bag it fit nicely and held the Brenthaven II-XF in place.
When it's time to carry the Brenthaven, the shoulder strap clips onto metal hooks that are cattycorner on opposite ends of the top of the bag. This lets the bag sit closer to your hips and keep a lower profile, useful if you're navigating crowds. Unfortunately, the included shoulder strap was one of the biggest drawbacks I found with the Brenthaven II-XF.
Wearing the bag on my right, whether I had the strap slung over my right shoulder or crossing my chest to my left shoulder, I could never find a comfortable position for that strap. The strap looks like it will be ergonomic, with a crescent of padding that should conform to your shoulder. In fact, I found the strap never curved comfortably, and the bottom edge of the crescent would cut into my shoulder uncomfortably. The strap is nicely padded, but not elastic. Some elasticity might have helped considerably. On short sprints through the airport, the strap was fine, but carrying the bag, fully laden, for a full day was not a pleasant experience.
The laptop portion of the case was well padded. Perhaps it used too much padding, as the case was a bit more bulky than some other shoulder laptop cases I've used. Because the x-ray friendly design essentially joins two discrete cases together in the middle, I was expecting some extra bulk. But if you start loading the case with thick accessories, snacks for a flight and other items that don't lay flat, the case will start to bulge. Still, even stuffed to the brim the Brenthaven II-XF had no problem fitting under the airline seat in front of me, with some foot room to spare.
Ahead of the padded laptop sleeve, there is a second top-loading storage compartment with three large pockets. Into this space I stuffed an iPad, a smaller Samsung Galaxy Tab, and the bulky charging cable for my laptop, as well as a few other battery chargers and cords. Everything fit nicely, though I would have liked some more divider options here, or perhaps some built-in cable management.
Up front, you'll find two small zip pockets, as well as a larger accessory pouch. One of the nicest touches on the Brenthaven II-XF is the padding on some of these pouches. The top-most pocket, and a couple interior pockets in the larger front pouch, have a lining that feels like suede. It made me feel much more comfortable stuffing delicate items, like my sunglasses, touchscreen phone and point-and-shoot camera, into these pockets. The sueded pockets have a nice, luxurious feel.
All of the key organizing features are present in that front pouch. There's a key fob to keep your car keys handy at the end of your trip. There are slots for pens, with a handy gulley pocket where the bottom tips of the pens sit to keep them in place, and perhaps even offer some protection from a leaking disaster. There is a business card holder near the top, and I was able to stuff about 20 cards in there for easy access.