Dec 21, 2017

We Tested Out All the Smart Suitcases—Here's the Best One

by Gabrielle Savoie

Away Travel

We can't argue that airport style alone is enough to make us want to upgrade our old beat-up suitcase. But now there's an even better reason: A new crop of chic and smart direct-to-consumer luggage is making waves on the jet-set scene—and it's revolutionizing the way we travel. After all, beyond the aesthetic reasons, there is nothing worse than lugging a suitcase that doesn't roll smoothly or struggling to close zippers that are in dire need of being replaced.

While planning our winter getaways, we decided to test four carry-on suitcases—right down to the zippers and wheels—to decide once and for all what luggage to buy before our next trip. Are you a techie who gets excited about the latest gadgets? Do you prioritize style above all? Whatever your needs and budget, we have the best luggage for you.

The look: 4/5

Away's case is sleek and sexy. We love its simple ribbed design and muted color options.

The weight: 5/5

At 7.2 pounds, it's the lightest of all cases—which means you can pack more in!

The wheels: 4/5

The 360-degree spinner wheels are smooth, just how we like them.

The zippers: 3/5

They don't zip as fast as you'd like them to, but they're perfectly acceptable.

The lock: 4/5

The TSA-approved combination lock cleverly uses a zipper slot. It means you have to zip it exactly in place.

The space: 3/5

The case is small but spacious, and it features a few zipped compartments, along with a compression system that's perfect for overpackers. The removable laundry bag is a classy touch—no one likes to mix dirty and clean. 

The branding: 4/5

We're slightly obsessed with Away's Instagram, and the brand now have beautifully-designed stores in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Austin.

The technology: 3/5

Charge your phone anywhere you go with the two integrated USB ports. The case also includes a wall adapter and luggage-charging cable.

The price: 5/5

It rings in at $225, the lowest of its competitors.

The return and warranty policies: 5/5

The brand offers a 100-day trial and a lifetime warranty on its cases. During your trial, you can travel with your bag as much as you want, so it's a very low-risk purchase. The electronics are warrantied for two years.

The final verdict: 4/5

The least expensive case wins best overall value for the money. Away is perfect for the stylish girl on a budget. We only wish it had location tracking and an integrated scale like its competitors.

Away The Carry-On ($225)

The look: 5/5

Raden wins our heart on looks with its sleek exterior and creative color offerings, which include baby blue, dusty pink, and light purple.

The weight: 3/5

Though the technology behind the case weighs it down, 8.4 pounds is still appropriate for a carry-on.

The wheels: 4/5

A set of four smooth double-spinning wheels gives this case complete maneuverability.

The zippers: 4/5

The zippers are smooth when opening but stick when you're trying to close them. 

The lock: 4/5

The TSA-approved combination lock has a zipper slot similar to the Away case, but it has two separate slots—which makes it a little easier to lock. We liked it.

The space: 2/5

The zipped compartments make organizing easy. That said, we were a little disappointed with how much space the handle and battery pack took up inside the suitcase.

The branding: 5/5

The look, the website—everything about Raden makes us want to order one stat. No doubt here: Raden is a sexy suitcase. The brand also has a pop-up store in SoHo.

The technology: 4/5

The bluetooth technology allows you to locate your suitcase through the app, which means you'll be able to locate it before the airline does if it doesn't arrive at your destination. The integrated scale makes it easy to weigh your suitcase so you're never over the weight limit, and the battery allows four full phone charges with two USB ports. Instant mobile chat support on the app is a nice touch. All in all, a very smart suitcase.

The price: 4/5

For all its smarts and sex appeal, $295 for a carry-on seems perfectly reasonable.

The return and warranty policies: 3/5

The brand offers 30-day returns on all unused cases and a five-year warranty on the case. The electronics are guaranteed for one year.

The final verdict: 3.7/5

This is the best-looking smart suitcase. It has all the tech features without the hefty price tag. The storage space is limited by the battery pack, so you have to choose what's more important: the tech features or space.

Raden The A22 Carry ($295)

The look: 2/5

Bluesmart is far from being an ugly suitcase, but it might not perfectly coordinate with your #ootd. It reads more techie than fashionable. We prefer the brand's newly launched Black Edition.

The weight: 2/5

This is the heaviest of all the smart suitcases we tested; it's probably weighed down by all its cool features.

The wheels: 5/5

This was by far the smoothest ride. The hubless wheels provide a lower center of gravity, making it more stable and accurate.

The zippers: 5/5

Bluesmart also had the smoothest zippers. You can feel the quality and attention to detail in this design.

The lock: 5/5

This one really got us excited. Your suitcase will automatically lock when you step away and unlock when you return (like magic)! Settings can be managed through the app. 

The space: 3/5

Plenty of spacious compartments means you can be super organized. The TSA-friendly laptop pocket provides easy access to your devices, making it easier to breeze through security lines. Very handy if you don't have TSA precheck.

The branding: 2/5

The website is very well executed and easy to maneuver, but the overall branding doesn't feel as exciting as the others.

The technology: 5/5

The technology behind Bluesmart is its biggest asset. First, you can charge any device up to six times—imagine how many movies you could watch! The tracking system means you will always know where your suitcase is, even when the airline doesn’t. The integrated scale will make it super easy to know if you’ve gone over the weight limit, simply by pulling the handle up. The iPhone (and Apple Watch) app will alert you if you’re leaving your bag behind, if you’re running low on battery, or if you’re over the weight limit. You can also build trip itineraries, and check flight status right within the app. But above all, the automatic lock feature has to be our favorite. 

The price: 3/5

At $449 for the Bluesmart One or $549 for the newest Black Edition, this luggage is a bigger investment. But we can vouch that the technology behind it, and the construction of the suitcase is worth the higher sticker tag.

The return and warranty policies: 3/5

The brand offers a 100-day trial period, no questions asked. The warranty on defects is one year, and two years on non-electronics. These smart suitcases beg the question: With ever-changing technology, will we have to replace our luggage every one to two years like we do our phones?

The final verdict: 3.6/5

This is the most robust and well-thought-out suitcase. We just wish it looked a little sleeker. It's perfect for the techie type and the seasoned traveler, but maybe less so for the fashion-forward gal.

Bluesmart Black Edition ( $599 ) ($549)

The look: 5/5

Arlo Skye's aluminum-magniesum alloy design is sleek and elevated; the only downside is that the shell scratches easily.

The weight: 5/5

At 9.5 pounds, the suitcase is lightweight, easy to slide around the airport, and a cinch to lift into overhead bins.

The wheels: 4/5

They get the job done but have worn out faster than expected; New York streets will do that.

The latches: 3/5

This zipperless suitcase leaves little in the way of stretch when it comes to packing; I've struggled to pack for a short three-day weekend using this bag. On the plus side, it forces you to pack light and plan ahead.

The lock: 5/5

The three-digit nomination locks couldn’t be any easier to use.

The space: 2/5

As mentioned above, space is limited due to the lack of zippers; you really can't squeeze in an extra pair of sandals or even a sweater. I typically have to stash a few things in my purse to make ends meet.

The branding: 5/5

Arlo Skye was created by alums from Tumi and Louis Vuitton; needless to say, the aesthetic is on point.

The technology: 5/5

With a portable dual-port charger, charging cable, and adaptor, this bag definitely makes the grade.

The price: 3/5

At $550, this carry-on is definitely a bit pricey for the average traveler.

The return and warranty policies: 5/5

The brand offers a 21-day trial and a five-year warranty for carry-on bags, plus a two-year warranty for the electronics. You have to submit a return request to receive the prepaid return label.

The final verdict: 4/5

Arlo Skye is gorgeous, sleek, and a design lover's best friend. For me, the biggest downside is the space issue and the price.

Arlo Skye Carry-On ($550)