Big UrbanBackpack lets laptop users vary how they carry


July 19, 1999

Last year, when we got a load of Brenthaven's roomy Expandable Topload carrying case, we were impressed by its portability, high style, and laptop protection (rated by Mobile Computing as the best in the business). Brenthaven has done it again with its latest, the $295 UrbanBackpack.

The idea for the UrbanBackpack was to provide a serious business bag that can easily make the transition from corporate to casual. The boxy (13.5 inches by 15.5 inches by 10 inches), 4.7-pound nylon bag can be carried in three ways. A padded handle on the top lets you carry it like a soft briefcase. For longer treks, you can attach shoulder straps and carry your computer gear backpack-style. If you'd rather heft the bag onto one shoulder, a clip-on strap is included. A "wheelie strap" lets you piggyback your bag to other wheeled luggage.

Brenthaven bags are noted for excellent design and meticulous construction, and the UrbanBackpack is no exception. It's made of nearly indestructible ballistic nylon, with large, self-repairing zippers and die-cast zinc hardware.

The UrbanBackpack has plenty of storage space. A center pocket holds a laptop safely in an inner sleeve. Another zippered pocket has space for file folders, papers, and other flat business fodder, while a third zippered section contains many pockets and pouches for disks, cell phone, PalmPilot, pens and so forth. A zippered pocket on the outside offers quick access to plane tickets.

Brenthaven was formed 25 years ago, creating expedition bags for extreme outdoor conditions. The company has turned its attention to the urban environment, and we city slickers are better equipped because of it.

Information: 800-803-7225 or

-- Gareth Branwyn

New Sharp minidisc player sounds as good as a CD player

Sharp's latest MiniDisc player and recorder, the MT-821 ($399), uses a slightly different design than its predecessors. Its clamshell case (as opposed to a front loader) makes it smaller and lighter (6.2 oz., with rechargeable battery) than previous models.

The MT-821 comes with full recording and editing features, album and song titling, random and loop play and a full-featured remote control that plugs into the earphones jack.

It has a standard cable for linking to your CD player or your computer's sound card to record MP3 files. The MT-821 records 74 minutes of music in stereo, but can also be set to record voice in monaural for twice as long. The rechargeable battery runs for more than 10 hours and has an add-on alkaline battery holder.

I haven't tried every MD recorder, but the MT-821 is comparable in size, features and price to the latest from Sony, and it's better than recent offerings from Aiwa and Kenwood.

Since the MiniDisc was introduced, people have been complaining about the technology's compressed audio. On the MT-821, I can hear no difference between an MD and a standard compact disc.

Information: 800-BESHARP or

-- Nate Heasley

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