The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of outdoor gear

Samsonite Silhouette Sphere 2 21 Review

Editors' Choice Award
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Price:  $230 List | $179.00 at Amazon
Pros:  Easy to maneuver, well-constructed, loaded with features
Cons:  A little tippy with a laptop loaded in the front pocket, wide dimensions might force you to check this bag
Manufacturer:   Samsonite
By Cam McKenzie Ring ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Apr 23, 2015
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83
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Ease of Transport - 25% 9
  • Storage - 25% 8
  • Features - 20% 9
  • Durability - 10% 10
  • Weight - 10% 4
  • Style - 10% 8

Our Verdict

Past Editors' Choice Winner
This review is archived, yet don't fret. We vigorously tested and compared the best of today's Carry-On Luggage in our updated review for the modern traveler.

The Samsonite Silhouette Sphere 2 21 is the new Editors' Choice winner for our updated 2015 review. This stylish carry-on bag is a breeze to transport through crowded airports thanks to its four-wheeled design. It's expandable, in case you pick up a few souvenirs on your trip, and it's loaded with extra features like a gel-padded handle and a plastic interior pocket for your toiletries. It also comes with a garment bag, and the carrying straps and handle are the most well-constructed and durable out of any of the other bags that we reviewed. Our only complaint was that it tipped over easily if we loaded a laptop in the front pocket, but then, so did most other bags that we tested. It does pack a little wide as well, and though it still fit in the overhead bin, it didn't actually fit in one airline's "testing" bin, which could cause you to have to check this bag if you have an unsympathetic gate agent. This bag retails for around $230, which is quite reasonable compared to our Top Pick for Business Travel, the $499 Briggs and Riley Baseline Domestic. If you are looking to save a few dollars on your luggage, then the Travelpro Maxlite 5 22 is a good option. Otherwise, we really loved this bag and it should suit you well on most of your travel needs, from business trips to week-long getaways.


Our Analysis and Test Results

The Samsonite Silhouette Sphere 2 21 weighs 8 lbs 3 oz and measures 21 x 15 x 8 inches. It has four spinner wheels, and can roll both upright and dragged as a traditional carry-on. There are four interior pockets, including one "WetPak" plastic pocket for your toiletries (just in case there is an explosion). There are two long exterior pockets, one of which can hold a 17" laptop and the other a magazines or tablet. This bag also has rubberized piping around the exterior corners to protect against wear in high-contact areas, and it has an expandable zipper. This bag comes in black, twilight blue and cypress green colors.

Performance Comparison


Rolling into the Las Vegas airport. Our Editors' Choice winner was a breeze to maneuver in airports and on planes thanks to its four-wheeled design.
Rolling into the Las Vegas airport. Our Editors' Choice winner was a breeze to maneuver in airports and on planes thanks to its four-wheeled design.

Ease of Transport


The Samsonite Silhouette Sphere 2 21 carry-on earned top marks in this metric. Unlike some of the other spinner bags that we tested in this review, the Sphere's wheels have a split design that provides even more stability when maneuvering the bag. The Delsey Shadow 3.0 21 also has split wheels, but they seem flimsy and were not as stable in comparison to these wheels. The split wheels also provide a larger rolling surface which makes wheeling the bag on uneven terrain, like parking lots or gravel, easier than with other spinners.

The split wheels on the Sphere (left) are more stable and even easier to maneuver than other swivel wheels  like the Lipault Paris Plume (right).
The split wheels on the Sphere (left) are more stable and even easier to maneuver than other swivel wheels, like the Lipault Paris Plume (right).

The upright design is also easier on your arms and shoulders. Whether or not you're a fan though is a matter of choice, and many die-hard travelers still swear by the two-wheel design (we think it's just because they haven't tried a four-wheeled bag though, as once you do you realize how tiring dragging your bag through miles of airport corridors can be). If you are really set on a two-wheeled bag, then the Briggs and Riley Baseline Domestic or Travelpro Platinum Magna 22 are good options.

In addition to the telescoping carrying handle, there are three additional handles (top, bottom, and one side) on the Sphere so that you can easily remove this bag from overhead storage or the trunk of a car, or in case you need to carry it on a flight of stairs. Samsonite uses a unique construction detail on these handles. Instead of sewing or tacking them onto the bag, they are cut from the main body of the bag itself. For these handles to rip off (a common complaint with luggage), the whole body of the suitcase would have to tear.

The unique carrying handles on the Sphere are cut from the main material of the bag. Also note the ID card  which retracts under the handle's material.
The unique carrying handles on the Sphere are cut from the main material of the bag. Also note the ID card, which retracts under the handle's material.

Storage


This bag has an open top design, as opposed to the clamshell design of the hard-sided Samsonite Winfield 2 20. This carry-on easily passed our pack test, holding all the items we might need for a long weekend getaway (in winter). The wide mesh compression straps held everything in place and we still had room for a nice pair of shoes as well as a dress and work clothes folded up in the detachable garment bag. This bag comes with an expandable zipper that adds another 1.5 inches to the width of the bag, but only for part of the bag. Unlike the Travelpro models, whose zippers runs around the whole exterior or the bag, this zipper only runs on three sides. It does expand the volume a bit, but not as much as on the Travelpro bags.

This bag held everything in our pack test  and we still had room to lay the garment bag on top without needing to expand the bag.
This bag held everything in our pack test, and we still had room to lay the garment bag on top without needing to expand the bag.

Savvy travelers will generally prefer to carry-on on their way to a destination; that way you can be sure that your luggage arrives with you. This might not be so crucial on the return trip, which is why expandable bags are nice. Simply unzip the expansion zipper, load up your carry-on with souvenirs (and dirty clothes!), and check your bag for the way home.

With a laptop and charger in the exterior pockets  this bag was technically too large to carry-on. It still fit in the overhead bin  and luckily for us the gate agent didn't require us to check the bag.
With a laptop and charger in the exterior pockets, this bag was technically too large to carry-on. It still fit in the overhead bin, and luckily for us the gate agent didn't require us to check the bag.

The one issue we had with this bag was its dimensions. Samsonite states that the Sphere measure 8 inches wide, and while that's true for the main bag, the pockets take this bag out to 10.5-11 inches. When we had our laptop in the outside pocket, we could not fit this bag in one airline's measuring bin. While it still easily fit in the overhead compartment, a gate agent would be able to insist that you check this bag as a result. This problem wasn't unique to this bag; the Briggs and Riley Baseline Domestic didn't fit in the measuring slot either.

It didn't fit in the measuring slot  but it still fit in the overhead bin.
It didn't fit in the measuring slot, but it still fit in the overhead bin.

Features


The Samsonite Silhouette Sphere 2 21 is loaded with features that make travelling that much easier. We love the interior "WetPak" pocket. The only other carry-on that we tested that features this type of pocket was the Delsey Shadow 3.0 21. This plastic pocket easily fits your quart-size bag of travel soaps and shampoos, and ensures that if there is a blowout due to cabin pressure changes that the rest of your clothes and electronics stay dry and shampoo free.

We love the Sphere's "WetPak" pocket. It held our toiletries for easy access during security  and ensures that our clothes don't get shampoo all over them in case a loose top lets 2 ounces of shampoo out.
We love the Sphere's "WetPak" pocket. It held our toiletries for easy access during security, and ensures that our clothes don't get shampoo all over them in case a loose top lets 2 ounces of shampoo out.

We also loved the gel-padding on the telescoping handle. We never realized how uncomfortable those handles were until we tried this one! While you might not feel it much when pushing the suitcase on four wheels, as soon as you need to drag in on two, say through a parking lot, your hands will thank you for choosing this suitcase. One downside to the four-wheeled design is that it's not as easy to use an add-a-bag feature. If you like strapping your briefcase or boarding bag to your carry-on, then the Briggs and Riley Baseline Domestic and Travelpro Platinum Magna 22 are better choices as they have that option.

This bag easily stayed upright on the moving sidewalk  though it was a little tippy with a heavy laptop loaded in the front compartment. Note the padded carrying handle on the telescoping arms.
This bag easily stayed upright on the moving sidewalk, though it was a little tippy with a heavy laptop loaded in the front compartment. Note the padded carrying handle on the telescoping arms.

Durability


The Samsonite Silhouette Sphere 2 21 was one of the most durable and well-constructed bags that we tested. While the Briggs and Riley Baseline Domestic slightly surpassed this model in workmanship, it costs twice as much. The Silhouette's telescoping handle has a sturdy design and easily locks into place. It was by far the most solid handle of any of the bags, and did not wiggle around like some other models. This bag also has rubberized piping that runs around the contours of the bag to protect against wear and tear in high contact points. And, as we mentioned earlier, the handles are cut out of the main material and should be virtually impossible to tear off. The wheels are also sturdily constructed and are beefier than those on the Samsonite Winfield 2 20 and the Lipault Paris Plume 22. All this is backed by a 10-year warranty.

The rubberized piping will protect the contours of the bag from wearing out.
The rubberized piping will protect the contours of the bag from wearing out.

Weight


At 8 lbs 3 oz on our scale (8.5 lbs stated manufacturer weight), the Samsonite Silhouette Sphere 2 21 is slightly lighter than the Briggs and Riley and Travelpro Platinum Magna 22 models, but heavier than the Travelpro Maxlite and Samsonite Winfield 2 20. The nice thing about a four-wheeled bag is that you do not notice the weight of your bag as much as you do with a two-wheeled one. We traveled with this bag loaded to the gills, including a laptop, and barely noticed the weight of it when cruising through the airport.

Style


The Samsonite Silhouette Sphere 2 21 has a classic carry-on look to it, which is a good thing. This bag is classy enough for a business trip, but can easily travel on a beach vacation or weekend jaunt to Las Vegas. It's not quite as chic as the Samsonite Winfield 2 hard-sided bag, and certainly lacks the color impact of the Lipault Paris Plume collection, but that bag might be too much for most people anyways.

The Sphere easily fits in the trunk of a small rental car. It's a classy bag  suitable for business trips or family vacations.
The Sphere easily fits in the trunk of a small rental car. It's a classy bag, suitable for business trips or family vacations.

Best Applications


This carry-on is best suited for general airline travel, be it business or pleasure, particularly if you are the sort of traveler who finds it hard to fit everything back in their bag for the voyage home. If you travel with your laptop in your suitcase, as opposed to a separate briefcase or messenger bag, beware that this could put the Sphere over the legal carry-on size and force you to check the bag. If you are looking for a more adventure travel bag, say with the ability to convert to a backpack as well as roll around, then the Osprey Ozone Convertible 22 is a good choice.

Leaving Las Vegas with the Sphere in tow. Yes  there are even slot machines in the airport  just in case you have any money left.
Leaving Las Vegas with the Sphere in tow. Yes, there are even slot machines in the airport, just in case you have any money left.

Value


This bag does have a bit of price confusion associated with it. It's listed on the Samsonite website for $230, but other retailers, like Macy's, have it listed as $460 but then on sale for $230. We've also seen it "on sale" on Amazon for less than $200. Long story short, this bag should cost you around $200, and certainly no more than $230. If you purchase the Sphere for this price, we think you are getting a lot of value for your money thanks in large part to its durable and versatile design. If you are willing to spend over $400 on a carry-on, then you might as well go for the Briggs and Riley Baseline Domestic for its high quality workmanship and lifetime warranty.

Conclusion


We've awarded the Samsonite Silhouette Sphere 2 21 our Editors' Choice award for several reasons: it's a classy, well-made bag that is easy to maneuver, loaded with unique features, and not outrageously priced. We loved the four-wheeled design and versatility — we could easily take this bag on a business trip or our family vacation. There are a lot of options out there when it comes to luggage, from soft to hard sides, and two or four wheels. The Sphere was the perfect combination of features for us, and the best pick of the lot.


Cam McKenzie Ring