Review: Be-Ez Travel Bag
Pros: A simple multi-CD case sized travel container for the iPod and multiple standard accessories, with water-resistant and damage-resilient ballistic nylon on the outside. Includes free demo software.
Cons: Potential iPod scratch damage due to so-so design of interior compartment, pricey and not as well-designed overall as other options at comparable prices.
Because it doesn’t appear to have achieved significant U.S. distribution yet, we’ve held off on reviewing French firm Be-Ez’s Travel Bag for iPod (est. retail price: $49.95), a black ballistic nylon, vinyl and neoprene carrying case that may interest some iLounge readers. We briefly review it here for those who might be interested in tracking one down.
From the outside, the Travel Bag looks like a 5.5” x 5.5” x 2” rounded-off box - basically the dimensions of a ten-disc CD holder, only significantly more resilient (and water resistant) because of its use of heavy ballistic nylon material. A fabric carrying strap is on one of the case’s outer edges, accompanied by a translucent plastic Be-Ez logo, while a zipper permits the case to open into two halves, revealing a black nylon interior with five pockets made from stretchable neoprene. Three of the pockets are roughly the right medium size for cables and/or Apple’s Dock and iPod power cube, while one of the pockets is larger-sized and positioned to hold an iPod, and the remaining thimble-sized pocket can either cover an iPod Remote control or sheathe your ear buds.
Though it may have been released earlier in Asia and Europe, the Travel Bag appeared over here late in the 3G iPod’s life cycle - essentially when it had already been replaced by the fourth-generation iPod. With 3G-centric packaging, it was unclear whether Be-Ez intended the case to be used with other iPods, but the company’s web site now touts the Travel Bag as compatible with every iPod released to date, including the iPod mini.
This compatibility is achieved by the aforementioned large neoprene pocket, which isn’t ideally designed to hold any particular iPod, but does a fair enough job with any. A full-sized iPod fits in and finds its controls completely covered and top screen half entirely exposed; an iPod mini has roughly the same experience, but finds the neoprene baggy rather than taut and grippy. Because the second half of the case includes Velcro and elastic straps to hold cables and other items loosely in place, which then fold over and on top of the partially-exposed iPod, the user needs to take care that any iPod placed inside isn’t exposed to screen-scratching materials when the case is closed.
Similarly, the usefulness of the other neoprene pockets will depend on what you place in them. For example, you can in fact fit the various components of an iPod photo inside the case, and the case will close, but each item’s plastic face is likely to protrude from its pocket and risk scratching or being scratched by other items inside. From a design standpoint, the interior is less thoughtfully constructed than even Monster’s earlier iCase, which we criticized for offering some impractical pockets, though unlike that product, the generic nature of the Travel Bag’s interior does make it a bit more versatile.
As a brief aside, Be-Ez packs in a free CD-ROM called Ask the DJ iPod Edition with every Travel Bag purchase. Ask the DJ automatically indexes your iPod’s MP3 and AAC format music to create playlist mixes based on beats-per-minute analysis - a cool feature that some people might find useful - and plays the tracks automatically on your computer. Though a surprising freebie for a travel pack, it’s not unwelcome - except for PC users, who will be put off to discover that it’s only Mac-compatible, and those Mac users who were expecting the program’s full version. The iPod Edition doesn’t let you export the DJ mixes to audio files or play music from your computer’s library - only the iPod’s.
For our money, Handstands’ iPak (iLounge rating: A-) and STM’s Cocoon (iLounge rating: A) remain better overall travel options for the iPod, with interior components better designed to house and protect your choice of iPods, as well as separate them from potential damage by accessories. The iPak in particular is a better match for travelers who need to carry all of their major iPod accessories, so long as they needn’t do so in one housing. But Be-Ez’s option isn’t without its charm or appeal - we just think that it’s only likely to be appreciated by a relatively small group of people.
Jeremy Horwitz is Editor-in-Chief of iLounge.