Already dominant in the daypack market, JanSport now hopes to be the leading brand for packs that carry laptops. The new Optimizer is a great first step toward that goal. The Optimizer's key feature is a zippered side opening that allows quick access to the computer compartment. Because the zipper runs the full length, from top to bottom, you don't have to wrestle with your computer to extract it while shuffling through a frenzied airport security line. Since you don't have to open the main compartment to get the computer, you're less likely to dump out other objects.
We also like the beefy bumper guard (dubbed the Shock Shield -- image to right) that sits at the bottom of the computer sleeve for cushioning. It's made with high-density foam and a polycarbonate brace that further absorbs shock.
A laptop adds a substantial load to any daypack, so we appreciate that JanSport outfitted the shoulder straps with the Airlift system. Inside each strap is a layer of soft rubber constructed in a honeycomb pattern, so it's supple yet structurally sound. It's a good thing the straps are comfy, because at 1,850 cubic inches, the pack totes quite a load.
Kids -- or grownups who are kids at heart -- will like the V-shaped top compartment that holds a CD player. (There's even a little opening for headphone wires.) And the cell-phone pocket on the shoulder straps is handy when you're trucking through the airport.
Our only beef with the pack is that the PDA pocket in an outer compartment is a bit too shallow. A PDA in a padded leather holder won't quite fit.
Suggested retail: $120
4 Hands Clapping (1 to 5 hands clapping is possible, with 5 representing design perfection)