AER Tech Brief review – your mobile office, optimized!

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REVIEW – If you’re looking for something different in a briefcase-style bag, AER may have your answer. The Tech Brief is a full-featured bag designed to haul all of your tech and office gear for the daily commute. The look will be the envy of all the IT-issued laptop bags you’ll see in your travels. How does it work as a day-to-day commuter? To the review!

What is it?

The AER Tech Brief is a modern briefcase that’s been optimized to organize your tech and accessories.

Tech specs

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1680 D Cordura exterior
840 D nylon weather resistant front face
Recycled nylon interior
YKK Zippers
Fits up to a 16″ laptop
16.5″ wide by 12.25″ tall by 6.25″ deep
16 liter total capacity
2.6 pounds total weight


Design and features

This is the third item I’m testing from the AER’s 2024 Tech Collection, which focuses on optimizing tech-heavy carry for creatives and professionals. The whole collection includes a sling, a brief, two different backpacks, and two different material options (Cordura and X-Pac).

The AER Tech Brief presents with an unusual profile for a briefcase. The deeply rounded corners and a wedge-shaped side profile that are signature elements of the Tech Collection give this bag a look that is reminiscent of an old-school doctor’s bag with contemporary styling.

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One of the really interesting bits about this bag is the frame structure. Reinforced stitching and padded panels in the right places give the bag a rigid shape and the ability to stand on its own. There are no metal/plastic supports or a frame sheets in the build, though. The net result is a surprisingly lightweight bag for it’s size that still keeps a rigid structure.

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Like other bags in the AER Tech Collection, this design is efficient, clean, and purposeful from every angle. This particular bag hits a little different in my eye. That shiny fabric on the front face, coupled with those dramatic curves (including the grab handles), adds a little extra creative funk to the style.

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The dual zips on the front panel run almost down to the bottom of the bag, fully exposing the admin panel for organizing all of your accessories and tech bits. High-visibility light grey fabric that is used throughout the interior spaces so you can find your stuff.

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You’ve got six different pockets on the admin panel. There’s a padded drop pocket that runs the width and depth of the bag. I have a Leuchtterm notebook in there for reference, but you could easily stow a 12.9″ iPad Pro with the Magic Keyboard there with room to spare.

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This divider is fronted on the left side by elastic-fronted pockets. The rear pockets are about half the depth of the space  (one narrow, one wide), while the front pocket is 1/2 the width of the bag and runs to the base.

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The right side of the panel has a zip pocket with a key leash that is about half the depth of space (matching the left side), with a lower pocket that is the mirror of the one on the left hand side. You also have a bit of a space you can see in this pic that runs the width of the bag. Combined with that pleated front panel, this means that you have extra space in a pinch if you need to stow something on-the-fly.

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Flipping the bag around and you’ll find a luggage handle pass-through strap on the back face, along with 2 back pockets.

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The first pocket is zippered and matches the interior lining of the bag. This is a spot to secure things you may need quickly without digging into the bag like your phone, a work badge, or your wallet.

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There’s also a big drop pocket that runs the width of the bag. This is great for stashing a notebook, a tablet, or boarding passes while you’re moving around.

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Your interior main compartment includes a padded laptop sleeve on the rear face, which is currently holding my 16″ MacBook Pro. The tablet sleeve in front of it will easily take a 12.9″ MacBook Pro with the magic keyboard.

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The main compartment has plenty of space for all your extra gear. Dual zips run all the way down the sides so you can get deep into the bag, calling back to that doctor’s bag style. I have a Jabra headset in there for a size reference, but you’ll see more fit pictures below.

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There’s also a zipped pocket that runs the length of the bag on the opposite side, behind the admin panel. This is an odd one. Like the Tech Pack 3 I reviewed previously, this pocket is very tight. I think it’s a good place for extra cables.

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You have three ways to carry this bag. The grab handles are lightly padded and maintain that rigid half-moon shape. There’s also a little snap button strap you can use to secure them together when you’re moving.

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Your shoulder strap anchor points are on the back of the bag. It seems a bit odd at first, but it keeps the strap from getting in the way of full access to the main compartment. That wide, padded shoulder strap coupled with the adjustable strap length enables you to use the bag for over-the-shoulder carry or cross body like a messenger bag.

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Hardware and construction throughout the AER Tech Brief are outstanding. You’ve got YKK zips with custom rubberized zip pulls as seen below.

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Chunky plastic swivel clips connect the bag to the straps. You can also see a great example of the finishing details in this pic. See how that D-ring is mounted? You could sew the nylon D-ring loop right to the back panel, but AER chose to tuck it behind the back panel with reinforced stitching for a more sophisticated look and stronger anchoring. You’ll see this kind of detail throughout the build.

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The 15″ long shoulder pad is roughly 2.75″ at its widest point, tapering down to 2″ on either end. It’s nicely padded but there’s a bit of stiffness that will break in over time.

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The underside of the pad has a waffle pattern that gives a bit of resistance to keep the bag from sliding around on your shoulder. The total length of the shoulder strap is roughly 40″ at full extension. This seems shorter for cross-body carry, but the positioning of the anchor points behind the bag (as opposed to at the corners) allow for a bit more flexibility here.

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The AER Tech Brief excels as a mobile toolbox for quick access to your stuff. Its wide base and wedge-shaped design allow it to stand on its own, patiently waiting for you to get your gear.

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The pairing of the main compartment & admin panel design is excellent for general organization. Big things in the big space, smaller essentials all laid out cleanly, and some flexibility for tablets and notebooks and such. The usability is excellent all around.

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Despite being only 16 liters in capacity, this is a deceptively big & roomy bag. I have all sorts of things stuffed in that main compartment when I hit the office: my 16″ MacBook Pro, my 12.9″ iPad with the Magic Keyboard (not shown), my hydration bottle, a travel coffee mug, 2 different headphones, snacks… there’s still room for more. I could get a light rolled-up jacket in there or a packed lunch and more with a little careful packing.

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The styling will be a bit more subjective. Those rounded shaped give it more of a contemporary/creative vibe than a squared-off briefcase, but it will hold up well to formal business attire or casual dress. I also dig the doctor’s bag look. It’s different.

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The size is a bit chonky compared to a traditional briefcase, but the tradeoff is all that extra room for your gear. It is also very comfortable for over-the-shoulder carry given the lightweight frame.

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AER also makes the Tech Pack 3, which carries many of the style queues and design elements of this bag in a vertical format. The sizing between the two is almost exactly the same. It reads as a smaller backpack in that orientation and a bigger brief here.

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I thought the rounded grab handles would be less comfortable, but I was wrong. There is some play in the padding, and adding that strap to connect the two is a brilliant addition that stabilizes the handles when you’re moving. The generous loops give you ample room to grab the handles when you’re on the go.

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Crossbody carry is fine, but not what I would call the strength of this bag if you have a bigger frame like I do. The shoulder pad is wide and comfy across our chest, but the narrow space between the anchor points and the shorter (40″) shoulder strap can make it a squeeze.

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The little extras in the build round the AER Tech Brief out as a great commuter bag. I love the dual pockets on the back panel for when I need to free my hands. The luggage pass-through handle is an added bonus for overnight adventures.

Build quality is really, really good. It’s a little deceptive given the lightweight nature of the bag, but it’s built to take some punishment. I’ve tossed this beast around for several weeks on the commute and train trips with no noticeable wear and tear. We’ll see how it responds to long term testing.

What I like about AER Tech Brief

  • Excellent usability, with quick access to all the parts of the bag
  • Pockets for everything
  • Stands on it’s own – ideal for mobile office work
  • Lightweight, yet durable

What needs to be improved?

  • Shoulder strap anchor points may not work for cross-body carry for everyone
  • Odd sub-pocket in the main storage area has limited usefulness

Final thoughts

The AER Tech Brief has become my go-to shoulder bag in recent weeks. It excels in usability as a mobile office platform, and offers a very different experience from a typical briefcase-style bag. The accessibility and organization are excellent, as is the capacity to handle just a bit more than a streamlined brief. It also looks great with a funky style that stands apart from the typical squared-off briefcase.

The differences between this bag and the Tech Pack are worth noting. Both bags are identical in overall capacity (16 liters) and share the same basic design/layout principles. The Pack incorporates a few more features that the heavy traveler will appreciate like a separate laptop/tablet area, an external water bottle pocket, multiple grab handles, and a big padded externally-access pocket for quick grab items. The Brief, in contrast, provides easier access to all parts of the bag and has a much more flexible main compartment area. You really can’t go wrong with either bag in commuting vs. business travel if you have a style preference. Having handled both, however, I’d lean more towards the Tech Pack 3 if I was doing more traveling, and the Tech Brief if my work style leaned more towards regular office commuting.

Price: $159.00
Where to buy: Get it at the AER web site!
Source: The sample of this product was provided for free by AER. AER did not have a final say on the review and did not preview the review before it was published.

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