Tzowla Travel Review
Cons: Poor water bottle holder, no battery pack with charging station, questionable quality
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Tzowla wins a Best Buy Award for covering the basics without costing much. This product doesn't scream quality, but it'll do the trick for storing your 15-inch laptop and your electronics. While it does have flaws, it's hard to beat its super low price.
Protection for your laptop is mediocre but sufficient, just as long as you take care to set it down nicely or on cushioned surfaces.
The sleeve features a padded front and back with a long velcro security sleeve. The sleeve will fit a laptop up to 15-inches. The security flap works but is a little flimsy and a bit too long for the 11-inch and 13-inch laptop that we tested. Given the slim profile of the backpack, it still manages to stay put width-wise without slipping around side-ways.
There is not additional padding around the edges of the laptop sleeve, nor is the sleeve elevated, so the laptop sits on the ground. It's important to be cognizant of accidental side-ways blows. We also took care when putting the bag down, ensuring we didn't throw it around while the laptop was inside.
We preferred to put our MacBook Air 13-inch into a protective sleeve for extra security with this pack. Overall, this bag offers some basic protection but is far from being the most protective option out there. Given that the sleeve is in the same main compartment that you'd store your books, folders, or papers, the more you load it up, the more protective the backpack becomes.
We appreciate the comforts that this backpack has to offer. To start off, it's fairly lightweight and doesn't feel bulky on the back. The shoulder straps are lightly padded and nice and wide (3-inches). Even on our taller testers, this back proved to have a decent fit. Unfortunately, it does not come with either a chest or hip strap. Another bonus — the strap material isn't itchy on bare skin, but articulates well and is quite smooth.
When the pack is fully loaded, it does a good job of sitting high on the back, even for those with a short torso. It distributes the weight nicely without any odd pinch points or discomfort. Despite not having a handful of adjustments, we are pretty surprised by how comfortable this laptop backpack feels. It's one we'd chose to wear if we were out all day.
This laptop backpack offers just the right amount of storage for those who don't carry around too much stuff day-to-day. It's important to note this backpack can't store a huge amount of books and even struggles to fit a binder inside width wise. If you don't need to carry these items, you're fine. But if you're a student that uses a lot of binders, this is a backpack we'd recommend avoiding.
Our testers using this on a daily basis typically used it with just their laptop, a notebook, book, and an extra layer stuffed inside. While Tzowla doesn't advertise a specific volume, we'd say it fits between 16-18 liters. For this load, we found it to be quite perfect. It features one main compartment, a second large organizational compartment, and a small zippered pocket on the outside.
Let's talk compartments. In the main compartment, you'll find the laptop sleeve. On the sleeve is a location that you can slide in a tablet or notebook. On the front of this organizational pocket, you'll find one small zippered compartment and an open pocket. They work well to store power cords, adaptor cables, and hard drives. This whole compartment is quite narrow, so the binder won't fit easily inside. At maximum, you might be able to fit one. During our tests, we got only one binder and two textbooks to fit - maximum. There wasn't much space for anything else.
Inside this compartment is also a pocket for the charging station (located on the outside of the backpack). While we were excited about this feature, we were let down when we went to use it.
Inside the main compartment, you'll find a "charging station". We were let down when we first got this backpack because it was advertised to have a charging station, which we assumed came with a battery pack. Know that it has no battery pack — you must buy one. Anyway, there are pockets inside the backpack that will hold your battery pack, which attaches with a USB input. This leads to a flimsy-looking cord that you can plug your phone into with a USB cord. It also has a cord for connecting wired headphones.To be honest, this charging station felt cheap, not easy to use, and something we hardly used. We could have just brought our own storage device, connected it directly, and put it into any compartment for storage on the backpack, which would have been more convenient. In addition, it comes with a generic headphone jack, which isn't compatible with newer iPhones without the dongle attachment. Plus, more and more people are buying wireless headphones, so this feature is becoming less and less appealing. Overall, if you're thinking of buying this bag because of the charging station, just buy a portable power bank. It'll be more convenient, and you've got to buy one for this backpack anyhow.
The second compartment is organizational. It has a pretty nice key clip, a place to hold your pens and storage sleeves big enough for other smaller items. We used this compartment to put small notebooks and narrow folders.
The last pocket is one the exterior. It doesn't have any fancy features, but we used it to store our phone and other items we wanted fast access to. The outside of the pack also has two side pockets.
One is meant to hold a water bottle, while the other is for your phone. The water bottle holder is complete junk and hardly fits even a small bottle. We never used it and just put our water bottle inside the backpack. The other pocket can fit your phone and has a security strap to prevent pickpocketing. This is a nifty location, but given our feelings about the power station, we typically just kept our phone in our pocket or in the backpack while charging,for security reasons.
Overall, we appreciate the organization of this backpack. That said, there isn't a ton of volume to store lots of stuff. But if you just need a lightweight backpack that'll carry your laptop, electronics, and the few notebooks, art supplies, and an extra layer, this will do the trick.
Ease of Use
This pack has many features that we like and others that we believe are simply for marketing (like the "charging station"). For laptop access and use, it's simple to use. One zip and you can easily get to all the items in your backpack.
This pack also comes with a lock on the top of the bag. It has only three numbers and can be set easily. The zippers act as the lock. To unlock it, you simply roll in the code and push the tab. That said, if a thief got their hands on your pack, it wouldn't take them long to crack the code or just break into the pack. But for traveling in the city or places where somebody might try to pickpocket your backpack from the top, this could be useful. Otherwise, we believe it to be another marketing embellishment that isn't the most functional. We hardly used it.
All the zippers are large and easy to use with a pair of gloves, while finding all the contents of your backpack is quite simple, especially if you use the provided organizational systems. We dislike the water bottle holder. Aside from that, this backpack is pretty simple to use.
This pack isn't well-suited for rainy days. While the exterior material will bead up water and snow in a light rainstorm, if the pack becomes saturated in any way, it will leak. This is largely due to the zippers being uncovered.
We tested water resistance by spraying this pack down with water from top to bottom for five minutes. We put a small hand towel in the laptop sleeve to see if it would get wet. While most other laptop backpacks are constructed to offer protection from moisture, this is one of the only ones that didn't protect at all. After these five minutes, the main compartment was pooled with water. The towel was completely drenched and all the pockets were also full of water.
Our recommendation for keeping your laptop protected from rain, if you happen to be in wet climates, is to simply buy a rain cover. This is not a bag we'd rely on when a storm starts a-brewing.
This bag is quite versatile in its style. It's sleek and handsome. Both female and male testers like it because of its professional, but not flashy style. The lines are clean, it looks smaller, and the slim profile is quite cute.
This backpack offers unparalleled value. While this backpack isn't a high scorer across the metrics, it offers reasonable performance for its low price. It's one we'd recommend to those that like saving money and aren't going to be abusing the bag daily. That said, know that the craftsmanship is quite questionable. The interior material is thin, and numerous online users have reported plastic pieces breaking off, the charging station coming unhinged, and other quality issues. Aside from some of these durability issues, it's one we'd recommend if you're pinching pennies or don't care for the best and highest quality laptop backpack out there.
The Tzowla Travel stands out for its really low price, decent performance, and fancy features. While many of the features it comes with don't live up to their marketing claims, we appreciate the storage and organization that this inexpensive backpack has to offer. Buyer beware, though, the quality is questionable, even though we didn't run into any real problems after three months of intensive testing.
— Amber King