If you travel with a laptop, getting through the security gauntlet at the airport is almost as much fun as when you travel with a toddler. You normally have to remove it from the case, lay it flat with nothing on top of it, with a TSA agent barking at you for still not doing it right as you fill up bin #4 with your belt and shoes. Get to the end and put it all back together again.
Things took a big step forward recently with the approval of laptop bags that will fly through security with ease. They are now hitting the market, including office stores like Staples where you can get different versions from Samsomite and Targus. With these cases, your laptop stays in place and all you have to do is unzip the bag and lay it flat on the belt. At the other end you just zip it back up and you're on your way in a flash (well, after you put your shoes and belt back on.)
I've been trying out the Samsonite Checkmate laptop case, which will make my life easier next time out. It fits a 15.4-inch computer snugly or a netbook-sized one with room to spare (see pics). For that see-through compartment, it's laptop-only. But then the rest of the bag is like any other one you've used for travel or going back and forth to the office: lots of pockets and compartments, comfortable handle, and a shoulder strap. There is plenty of room for chargers, gadgets, and reading material, plus a front pocket with spaces for pens, business cards, a phone, and the like.
It uses lots of pleather around the nylon at the stress points, but the Samsonite Checkmate bag retails for $80 and comes with a 3-year warranty. It's rugged and looks like it will take any abuse you throw at it, while the cushioning inside keeps your equipment intact.
Staples also carries a few other computer bag options, including a rolling version. These models are just now getting into stores and taking longer to trickle out online, but should be easy to find as we get closer to the holidays. If you've got a business traveling road warrior on your list, this would be an appreciated gift.