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  1. #1
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    A Synapse 19 user reviewing the Synik 22

    I've been the proud owner of a Synapse 19 for about 6 years now. It's my most used Tom Bihn bag and there's just one thing that's bothered me about it: no good way to attach it to my roller bag at the airport. I usually will just balance it on top, some days more successfully than others.

    I added a Pilot to my collection a few months ago just for the passthrough after seeing a few posts here showing it hold much more than one could imagine. And while that's certainly true, it's not quite to the level of the S19 and I've only been using it for shorter trips.

    So, when I read the Synik announcement and saw that it would have the handle passthrough feature, my excitement went way up. But not as much as it did when I received the email a few days later letting me know that Countron had chosen me to be one of the lucky few to receive a bag to review for the forums!

    A Synapse 19 user reviewing the Synik 22-family-jpg

    First, a little context:
    Unlike many that I see carry the S19/25 as their only piece of luggage, I'm a lifetime member of the 'two bag club' and never one to waste an airline's carry-on limit. My kit consists of a 21" rolling bag exclusively for my clothes and the S19 that holds everything else.

    My thought process for choosing the S19 went something like this:
    • Airlines are starting to enforce carry-on sizes more strictly so I'm going to need a smaller backpack
    • My first TB bag (a now-discontinued Imago) has been awesome and I want to continue supporting a local Seattle business
    • The S19 will fit in the personal item sizer, even when you overstuff it

    And with that, it has happily travelled with me on hundreds of flights all over the world... and unlike its owner, never complains about legroom.

    First impressions:
    I chose the Synik 22 in Deep Blue/Coyote. My first thought after opening the box was "oh, it's an S19 with the tag moved." If you aren't paying close attention, the S22 doesn't seem very different. And that's a good thing. The overall layout is the same: a main compartment, two side pockets, two center pockets, and one pocket on the bottom.

    The colorway is beautiful! I love how the Guide's Editions look, and I think this follows that spirit while still maintaining a professional look suitable for the workplace. I was a little worried that Coyote inside might not be bright enough, but I didn't find that to be the case except in one of the center pockets (more on that later).

    A Synapse 19 user reviewing the Synik 22-cordura525-jpg

    My S19 is Cordura and I'm liking the 525 Ballistic material much better as a travel bag due to the structure it provides. I might feel differently if I was going to use it as an EDC.

    Packing it:
    This is what I usually carry in my S19.

    A Synapse 19 user reviewing the Synik 22-contents-jpg

    I was super happy with how familiar the bag felt when packing. Everything fits pretty much the same in the S22 as it did in the S19, except for one place: the rear center pocket. The black liner fabric between the center and side pockets is now one piece instead of two.

    A Synapse 19 user reviewing the Synik 22-s19inside-jpg A Synapse 19 user reviewing the Synik 22-s22inside-jpg

    Darcy explained to me that this change was made to remove the two construction gaps in the bottom that was often a source of customer questions and that recent Synapses also now feature this design.

    It would probably only be a noticeable change for long-time Synapse users then, but I think the new design has two downsides:
    1. Less flexibility to adjust the capacity between the side and center pockets due to the reduced slack. I put more into the rear center pocket than the sides, plus they're items that are cubical (e.g. travel wallet, iPad mini) vs. cylindrical (such as a water bottle), so the volume loss there is far more noticeable.
    2. The full black back of the rear center pocket makes it very hard to see all the way down, and it's especially obvious compared to the front center pocket.


    A Synapse 19 user reviewing the Synik 22-s19full-jpg A Synapse 19 user reviewing the Synik 22-s22full-jpg

    I usually end up with an at (or slightly above) capacity S19 and the extra 3L in the S22 makes a notable difference. Extra room to bring more back home with me! The padded bottom also helps the bag almost want to stand upright.

    Straps and grab handle:
    I can't emphasize this enough -- the new shoulder straps feel heavenly and are a significant improvement over the old style. An apt comparison would be the difference between using the Standard vs Absolute shoulder strap.

    I rarely find myself needing to carry my S19 by the handle, but the single webbing design felt like an afterthought. It wasn't conducive for much more than hanging on a hook or pulling out from under the seat/overhead bin. I see that newer Synapses have an incrementally upgraded handle so I can't compare against that, but the S22's padded design is more than comfortable enough to hold on for extended periods of time (like while standing on a bus), plus it looks much more integrated into the bag.

    I was also sent the padded hip belt to try out. While it does indeed help lighten the shoulder weight, I don't think it's really needed for a bag of this size, especially with the new shoulder straps. I don't use the webbing one either since I don't like how it dangles when it's not worn.

    Laptop compartment:
    Love this! So much more streamlined than carrying a separate Cache/sleeve like I had to with the S19, and it's not just a loose pouch that you see in many bags. I had no problems fitting either a Surface Pro or 12" MacBook using the inner and outer zippers. The 'two-point turn' when using the outer zipper should be done carefully -- I kept hitting the metal slider against my laptop removing it. Unfortunately, Darcy confirmed that plastic sliders aren't an option for AquaGuard zippers.

    A Synapse 19 user reviewing the Synik 22-surface-jpg A Synapse 19 user reviewing the Synik 22-macbook-jpg

    I do wish that the opening was on the right side (like it is on the Luminary) rather than the left. When I wear a backpack on one shoulder, it's usually on my right. With the opening on the opposite side, I can't access the side zipper without taking the backpack off. Someone who would wear it on their left shoulder would argue this is an improvement :)

    The black color of the padding does make the main compartment a little darker than I would like, but it's not as big of a problem as in the rear center pocket, especially with being able to open the main zippers down further.

    Clamshell:
    I feel indifferent about the clamshell opening. The zipper is definitely well designed and there's virtually no chance of it unzipping more than you want to. In fact, it holds in place so well that you have to make an effort to zip it all the way down (i.e. past the bottom corner) for the clamshell to open fully flat. But as mostly carrying tech gear, I've rarely been in a situation where I would need to open it all the way, and the bag is compact enough that the bottom is not that far down. I think I would appreciate it much more on the larger S30, especially if I was to use it for one-bag travel with packing cubes.

    A Synapse 19 user reviewing the Synik 22-clamshell-jpg

    Frame and the Handle Passthrough:
    One of the problems with overstuffing the S19 was that it would bulge out the back.

    A Synapse 19 user reviewing the Synik 22-s19fullside-jpg

    The S22 frame solves that problem (and I assume the S19's optional frame would as well).

    Ah, the long awaited passthrough! I tried it with two of my bags and it works exactly as I expected -- both are 6 1/3" at the widest part of the handle, but one of the bags has a slightly thicker handle and that just makes it through.

    A Synapse 19 user reviewing the Synik 22-roller1-jpg A Synapse 19 user reviewing the Synik 22-roller2-jpg

    To give an idea of vertical measurements, one of the handles is 17 from the bottom of the Synik to the bottom of the grip and that was barely enough to leave room for my hand. My other handle measured 18.5 which made it much more comfortable.

    A Synapse 19 user reviewing the Synik 22-flipstraps-jpg

    The shoulder straps do rest in an awkward position with the handle in the way, but I quickly found that flipping the straps forward solves that.

    Conclusion: would I recommend the Synik 22?
    If you already have an S19: as much as I love the changes on the S22, it doesn't feel game-changing enough to warrant an upgrade. The most significant (and surprising) improvement for me is the new shoulder straps. They are miles better and I could see myself lasting much longer before the weight starts to wear me down. Which ironically makes the handle passthrough that I thought would be the key differentiator less necessary.

    If you're a new user thinking about the S19: no question, I would definitely choose the S22 instead. There really doesn't appear to be any big downsides for me over the S19. The clamshell doesn't open any further on its own, you can remove the frame if you don't care for it, and the increased capacity doesn't make the bag feel any bulkier. Plus, you'll get that awesome shoulder strap.

    I hope you find this helpful and I'm happy to answer any follow-up questions, so just let me know!

    Bonus:
    Here are the same items barely fitting into a Pilot.
    A Synapse 19 user reviewing the Synik 22-pilot-jpg A Synapse 19 user reviewing the Synik 22-pilotside-jpg

  2. #2
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    What a nice thorough review @aloha and great set of pictures! Interesting perspective on the water bottle pocket redesign, since you don't use it for cylindrical water bottles... good to know, because you can't be the only one using it that way.
    I'm glad you had a chance to review the SN22 vs S19. There have been several SN30 reviews, so good to see the smaller bag get some time.
    Please keep checking back on your post, as I'm sure folks will have further questions.
    :)
    I like all the blues and greys...and all the happy citrus colours too! My search unicorn is the Sapphire Dyneema original Small Shop Bag...

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by aloha View Post
    If you're a new user thinking about the S19: no question, I would definitely choose the S22 instead. There really doesn't appear to be any big downsides for me over the S19.
    Only if the price difference is "moderate". But then, most people will choose S22 over S19, as you said. Unless TB has a plan of phasing out S19 and S25, I predict there will be "some" price differences that people will consider. It will be interesting what "some" difference is the sweet spot. Just hope it's not too big.
    Last edited by gadgets; 08-04-2019 at 10:51 PM.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by gadgets View Post
    Only if the price difference is "moderate". But then, most people will choose S22 over S19, as you said. Unless TB has a plan of phasing out S19 and S25, I predict there will be "some" price differences that people will consider. It will be interesting what "some" difference is the sweet spot. Just hope it's not too big.
    Frankly I think that the Synapse 19/25 will be phased out in the near future... I'm not an oracle ;) But just from a plain manufacturing / business point of view, it makes literally no real sense to keep both (synapse/synik) in production at the same time for long.
    I guess they're going to "test the waters" for some times, seeing how many customers pick the Synik over the Synapse in the next few months, then if sales go as predicted - the Synapse will go the way of the Samrt Alec et al.

    The Synik- to me (and I can't wait until that pre-order goes online.. (Tom Bihm crew: if you're listening, feel free to shoot me an email, I'll gladly pre-order mine now ;) )) ... - feels much more "arrived in the 21st" digital century than the Synapse ever did. I mean how many travellers out there these days don't carry either a laptop or tablet around? pretty much every EDC outfit I've seen has either of these.
    The "cache" thing never made a ton of sense to me, at least in my part ofthe world, the electronics need to be taken out of the sleeve 90% of the time when flying... also the lack of an internal frame - or one that is installed in a "hidden away" method... the shoulder strap improvements ...
    I can get (nod to the reviewer here, and thanks for that review) why some would be impartial about the clamshell on the smaller of the two (Synik 22)... the clamshell for me was though One of the crucial parts (but then again I'm leaning towards the 30) in NOT orderdnig the Synapse 25, just days before the Synik was announced ... but I am a life long memeber of the one-bag travel (sorry @aloha for hijacking this and altering ;) ) club ... clamshell bags are just so convenient ;)
    Essentially to sum it up, when I started to see the first reviews of the Synik models, I thought: *this* is how the Synapse should have been designed from day one if it would have been my call (hindsight, you know...).
    And this is, why I assume that in the short-to-mid term the Synik is essentially kicking the Synapse down to the design basement of Tom Bihn's factory...
    (although I still sort of can't understand why they banished Smart Alec back to the basement... It was one of the bags, that when I discovered it, and wanted to buy it, realised: why... why have I been too late ;) ).
    But the Synik makes up for that, totally.

  5. #5
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    This was very helpful for me, thanks! Ironically, your disappointment with the new center compartment went a long way toward reassuring me that there New design would be an improvement for me: I use the center compartment in my S19 exclusively for my water bottle/travel mug, and I've wished I could fit a cubelet or 3DOC in the side pockets. Looks like that might be realistic.

    You compared the laptop compartment on the luminary... Do you have any thoughts on how they compare in other ways?

  6. #6
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    Agree - great review/pictures. For Darcy or one of the moderators: Any insight on why the laptop opening is on the left, rather than the right? (I may have missed this explanation in one of the other threads.).

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by dgentile View Post
    Essentially to sum it up, when I started to see the first reviews of the Synik models, I thought: *this* is how the Synapse should have been designed from day one if it would have been my call (hindsight, you know...).
    The Synapse was originally designed as a hiking bag. At the time, there were other bags that were more for travel and tech gear. As times have changed and what we all carry and how we carry it has changed, TB has created new bags, retired some, and altered others. It's a continuum...
    I like all the blues and greys...and all the happy citrus colours too! My search unicorn is the Sapphire Dyneema original Small Shop Bag...

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by aungrl View Post
    Agree - great review/pictures. For Darcy or one of the moderators: Any insight on why the laptop opening is on the left, rather than the right? (I may have missed this explanation in one of the other threads.).
    I asked that too! I think it's answered in the FAQ that will go live tomorrow.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lia View Post
    This was very helpful for me, thanks! Ironically, your disappointment with the new center compartment went a long way toward reassuring me that there New design would be an improvement for me: I use the center compartment in my S19 exclusively for my water bottle/travel mug, and I've wished I could fit a cubelet or 3DOC in the side pockets. Looks like that might be realistic.
    Looks like it should work well for you -- just tried with my 18oz Hydro Flask and I was able to fit a Travel Cubelet in one of the side pockets and a Kindle in the other.

    A Synapse 19 user reviewing the Synik 22-waterbottle-jpg


    Quote Originally Posted by Lia View Post
    You compared the laptop compartment on the luminary... Do you have any thoughts on how they compare in other ways?
    I don't own a Luminary so I unfortunately can't comment beyond what I see in photos/videos :) Hopefully someone else who has one can provide their input.

    Quote Originally Posted by aungrl View Post
    Agree - great review/pictures. For Darcy or one of the moderators: Any insight on why the laptop opening is on the left, rather than the right? (I may have missed this explanation in one of the other threads.).
    As @aedifica said, I believe that will be one of the questions answered in the official FAQ when that goes live.

  10. #10
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    Lovely review & everything I needed to hear... sort of - ha! I'll explain: I just receive the email announcement about the Synik 22 and I about threw my laptop across the room in frustration. After years (literally) of thought and deliberation and trying/returning other packs (including an S25) I finally bit the bullet at the very end of May and purchased a S19 as an upgrade from my long loved DLBP. I really needed a new pack and I love TB, and it was all they had that worked well enough for me. I'm okay with the S19 but the size is just a little tiny bit too tight, and while the shoulder straps are okay for short hauls, they aren't my fav.

    And now they release a 22L size WITH updated shoulder straps!!!!! (Seriously still want to throw something but I'm an adult and a mom with children nearby, so there's that.)

    I have no extra room in my budget for another bag right now, but I can't wait to read all of the forum posts about it and the upcoming reviews. May I please live vicariously through you all? :)

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