Solo's Netbook bag is compact, comfortable, and TSA-approved, which means you can zip through airport security without removing your laptop from the bag. While it's a well-crafted Netbook bag, I must back up and question the very idea of a Netbook bag. I thought the appeal of a Netbook was that it was so small and lightweight that you could toss into your backpack or briefcase or regular carry-on bag and hardly know it's there, nestled among your essential travel items. Because with a Netbook stashed in one side of this Solo bag and a power adapter stuffed in the other, you have little room left; nothing more than a cell phone, iPod, and thin stack of business cards will fit. If you have arrived at the conclusion that you need a dedicated travel bag to protect your Netbook, the $45 bag will do a fine job of it. Otherwise, you're better off buying a bag for your primary laptop--Netbooks are best used as second systems--and having the Netbook piggyback on that or go it alone.
While CNET editor and podcaster Jeff Bakalar said the Solo reminded him of his man purse, I think it more closely resembles a camera or camcorder bag. It measures roughly 8 inches tall by 11 inches wide by 5 inches deep. It's made of a tough, Samsonite-like material that feels like it'll withstand regular travel abuse. The bag is black with subtle green highlights. A detachable, adjustable shoulder strap is included, though given its compact dimensions, we think you're more likely to simple carry the bag by its comfortable, padded handle.
The Transportation Security Administration's new laptop-bag guidelines suggest a butterfly, trifold, or sleeve-style case that keeps your laptop separate from other travel detritus so that a security screener can get a good look at it as it goes through the X-ray. The Solo bag features two separate compartments. When you unclip the front buckle, you can remove a Velcro strap on the bottom to free the bottom half of the buckle strap from the front compartment, which allows you to butterfly the bag open. In this position, you can lay the bag flat on the X-ray belt, with the laptop in one compartment by itself. I traveled through LaGuardia checkpoint security with the bag and the Averatec Buddy without incident.
The back compartment of the Solo Netbook Mini case is meant for your Netbook; there's no internal pockets that might be stuffed with items that would obscure the X-ray's view of your Netbook. In truth, you can fit up to an 11-inch laptop in this bag. We easily slipped in the 11-inch Lenovo IdeaPad U110, but a 13-inch MacBook proved to be much too wide.
The front compartment is divided into two equal halves. The back half has two pockets with a stretchy ribbon along the top that will keep your BlackBerry or iPhone secured. On the outside of the front of the bag are two thin, shallow pockets.
Between the two sides of the Solo Netbook Mini case is a long pocket that runs the width of the bag, which is accessed via a side zipper. It's convenient that you can get to it without having to open the bag's main flap and probably the best place to stash your cell phone for quick retrieval, though we do wish the bag had a zippered pocket on the front flap for such an item.
Given the bag's dimensions, there isn't room for a magazine, and definitely not a newspaper. And you might be able to squeeze in a small, thin paperback, but probably nothing more than a James Patterson-size thriller. The Solo Netbook Mini Instant-Messenger Laptop Case is about as well built a Netbook bag that we can imagine; we just can't imagine anyone needs a Netbook bag in the first place.