Bottom line: Your flight companion protects your MacBook and more.
Included 10,000mAh Li-ion battery charges some devices on the go
Many compartments to organize your stuff
Biometric fingerprint sensor controls TSA-approved lock
Underpowered battery doesn't live up to promises
Outer laptop pocket is too small
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The Kabuto Smart Carry-On is a suitcase that's also a laptop bag. Instead of a combination lock, the Kabuto Smart Carry-On has a fingerprint biometric sensor that you can use with up to nine fingerprints. It's TSA-approved because there's a master lock that the TSA can employ.
This suitcase is an airline-approved 22-by-14-by-9 inches and weighs 7.94 pounds. However, you can zip it open and expand it to increase its volume by 50%. Note that once you do that, it's no longer small enough to carry on. So, you'd have to check it in if you're flying.
It comes with a removable, FAA-approved 10,000mAh battery. The battery has USB-C, USB-A, and micro-USB ports. The battery connects to the outer zippered laptop compartment, and three ports in the same configuration underneath the handle, but in practice, it didn't work as expected. Kabuto claims the suitcase can give you up to half a charge on your MacBook Pro or charge your best iPhone up to four times, but my experience was a bit different.
Kabuto Smart Carry-On: Price and availability
The Kabuto Smart Carry-On is available on Kabuto's site in a variety of colorways. The four-wheeled, expandable version that you see in my photos is $771. The four-wheeled, non-expandable version is $414. The two-wheeled version starts at $350 but varies depending on the color you choose.
Kabuto Smart Carry-On: What's good
The Kabuto Smart Carry-On has a lot of nice features. Under the handle is the biometric fingerprint sensor. You can add up to nine fingerprints, so there's no need for a combination lock or a key. This lock is TSA-approved because there's a master lock that the authorities can access.
There are plenty of compartments in this carry-on. In addition to the outer laptop compartment designed for computers up to 13 inches, there is a laptop section in the main compartment that holds a laptop up to 15 inches. There are two small zippered pockets and four slide pockets in the main compartment. An adjustable strap keeps your items secured tightly inside the main compartment. You'll find a large compartment at the bottom that's perfect for shoes or laundry.
The telescoping handle adjusts to varying heights, and the 360-degree wheels are smooth and quiet. On the expandable model, there is a zipper just above the shoe compartment. Unzip it all the way around, open the telescoping handle, and pull. You'll get 50% more space inside the suitcase. However, at that size, it's no longer sized for carrying onto an airplane, so keep that in mind.
Kabuto Smart Carry-On: What's not good
The battery, which connects to the charging cable in the laptop compartment, would not charge my MacBook Pro or even my iPad Pro as promised. I looked at the packaging the battery came in and noticed that it lists only smartphones and the iPad mini on its compatibility list. So I'm not sure what the point is in connecting this underpowered battery to the laptop compartment since it won't even charge a laptop or full-sized tablet. It also doesn't "communicate" with the charging port under the handle consistently, though when used independently, it does charge my iPhone 12 mini. I did try swapping out the battery that came with the suitcase for a more powerful one and got better results: my iPhone DID charge through the port on top of the suitcase, and my iPad Pro did charge within the outer laptop compartment. My MacBook Pro still didn't charge at all.
My 13-inch MacBook Pro barely fits into the outer laptop compartment. If I plug the charging cable into it, the plug sticks just far enough that I can no longer zip the compartment completely! So even if the battery did charge my MacBook, it's still not ideal, since I would not want to travel with my laptop compartment partly open. That outer compartment is a better fit for an iPad Pro, though it's not advertised that way. Another weird design choice is that the outer compartment doesn't lock like the main compartment does, so I don't think I'd put my most expensive tech in there anyway. The inner laptop sleeve in the main compartment is a comfortable fit for my MacBook Pro and makes more sense given that you can lock it.
Kabuto Smart Carry-On: Competition
Topping our list of the best carry-on luggage is the Samsonite Omni PC Hardside Expandable Luggage. This 20-inch spinner is sturdy and well-priced. However, it lacks a laptop compartment or any smart features.
If you're in the market for something smaller that you'd actually carry and not wheel onto an airplane, consider the Waterfield Air Duffel Carry-On. This bag is small enough to qualify as your "personal item," so you don't even have to pay for a carry-on. It's classy and well-made, plus it has a laptop sleeve that holds up to a 16-inch MacBook Pro. It doesn't have any smart features, however.
Kabuto Smart Carry-On: Should you buy it?
You should buy this if ...
- You want to lock your carry-on with a biometric fingerprint sensor
- You want a carry-on suitcase that can be expanded in size
- You want to charge your iPhone on the go
You shouldn't buy this if...
- You want to charge a MacBook or an iPad/iPad Air/iPad Pro
- You want an outer pocket that houses anything larger than 13 inches
- You're looking for a bargain
If you want an expandable carry-on suitcase with a biometric fingerprint sensor lock, this is a good bet. If the charging feature is important to you and you expect to charge your MacBook or iPad, or you want to put anything larger than a 13-inch MacBook in the outer pocket, look elsewhere. This also isn't a suitcase for bargain shoppers.
As a suitcase, it's sturdy and well-designed. It has nice multi-directional wheels, and plenty of compartments for all of your goodies. It even expands into a larger bag, holding up to 50% more stuff than it does in its carry-on form. However, as a smart suitcase, it's a mixed bag. The biometric fingerprint sensor lock is pretty cool and it works fine (and didn't let me in when I tried to "trick" it with the wrong finger.) The charging port on the outside of my suitcase just doesn't work at all with the battery provided. The battery also isn't strong enough to charge anything other than a smartphone or iPad mini. When I replaced the battery with a more powerful one, the charging port and laptop compartment plug did work, at least for the iPhone and iPad Pro.
Bottom line: Secure your valuables within this laptop carry-on using your fingerprint.
Karen is a contributor to iMore.com as a writer and co-host of the iMore Show. She’s been writing about Apple since 2010 with a year-long break to work at an Apple Store as a product specialist. She's also a contributor at CNET. Before joining iMore in 2018, Karen wrote for Macworld, AppAdvice, WatchAware. She’s an early adopter who used to wait in long lines on release days before pre-ordering made things much easier. Karen is also a part-time teacher and occasional movie extra. She loves to spend time with her family, travel the world, and is always looking for portable tech and accessories so she can work from anywhere.