capsule review

JanSport Dreamer Pack

At a Glance
  • JanSport Dreamer Pack

    Macworld Rating

    Laptop backpack with iPod and Bluetooth integration.

JanSport's Dreamer Pack is similar in style and shape to the company's Audio Pack but with a separate laptop compartment and the Bluetooth functionality of the JanSport Alt Pack (also reviewed on Playlist) built-in. Made of durable ballistic nylon, it provides a padded back and shoulder straps for comfort, holds 2,300 cubic inches of cargo, and weighs approximately 2.5 pounds empty. Two external pockets hold water bottles, while several smaller pockets -- one heavily padded, one made of neoprene for storing your mobile phone -- inside the bag's main compartment accommodate smaller items. A padded rear compartment features a laptop sleeve that fits laptops with screens up to 15.5 inches. The outside of the bag features a rigid panel that gives the bag its shape and its contents a bit of protection. One of the nice design touches (also found in the Audio and Alt Packs) is thumb loops on the shoulder straps; to tighten the straps, instead of having to grab the excess strap itself, you just put your thumbs through the loops and push down.

In terms of iPod integration, you place your dockable iPod in a zippered, neoprene pouch inside the bag's main compartment. Two plugs -- one for your iPod's dock-connector port and the other for its headphone jack -- connect your iPod to the bag. (You'll want to enable your iPod's Hold switch to prevent bumps to the Click Wheel from affecting playback.) Near the top of the right-hand shoulder strap is a standard stereo miniplug, into which you plug your headphones; lower on the strap is a set of soft-button iPod controls: Play/Pause, Volume Up, Volume Down, Forward, and Back. These buttons worked well and were easy to use, while resisting minor bumps -- I was surprised how infrequently I accidentally hit a button while using the backpack. Another feature that I really liked was the small elastic pouch at the very top of the right shoulder strap (near the shoulder) that can be used to store your earbuds. The pouch is too small to fit your earbuds and all of their cables without some effort, but for quickly stashing the earbuds themselves, leaving the cables free, it worked well. One other comment: I would have preferred that the iPod pouch be inside the bag's other compartments; in its current location, it wouldn't be difficult for someone to unzip the pocket and swipe your player on a crowded subway, train, or bus.

Like JanSport's Alt Pack, the Dreamer also includes Bluetooth connectivity. As I wrote in the Alt review: Why would a laptop backpack include Bluetooth? If you're listening to your iPod, you can't exactly be expected to pause playback, remove your headphones, take your phone out of the bag, and answer it, can you? (JanSport's answer would be "no," by the way.) Instead, you pair your Bluetooth-enabled mobile phone with the bag -- a small Bluetooth button and indicator light can be found on the left-hand shoulder strap. When your phone rings, press the Bluetooth button and your iPod pauses, your phone's audio comes through your headphones, and a microphone hidden near the Bluetooth button picks up your voice. Press the Bluetooth button again to hang up; your iPod resumes playback. A small (2-by-4.3-inch) battery/Bluetooth pack fits in a pouch in the laptop compartment of the bag; Bluetooth functionality requires 3 AAA batteries.

Overall, the Audio Pack is a solid bag for carrying books and other large items -- its 2,300-cubic-inch cargo capacity is huge for a laptop backpack -- and its iPod and Bluetooth integration are implemented well. However, like its Audio Pack sibling, this isn't a bag for carrying lots of gadgets and gear, as it doesn't have many pockets and organizers.
--Dan Frakes

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At a Glance
  • Macworld Rating

    Laptop backpack with iPod and Bluetooth integration.

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