Over the summer, I drove, shot, and taught my way across a serpentine route from California to Maine—a 10-week, epic summer roadtrip of some 5,600 miles (one-way) in my Ford F-150. During the adventure, I made three hops by air between NYC and California—on a total of 8 different planes (one of the joys of living in a small town is that the planes get smaller as you get closer to home).

Thanks to the protection of Tenba’s Air Case, my trusty 27″ iMac (home to hardrives Speedy and Steve) was with me the whole way—in the truck and in the planes—a distance of about 16,000 miles I figure. And…the adventures are not over. Next week, I’ll Fedex the case to Altanta for the Peter Read Miller sports photography workshop while I take a quick side trip up to Toronto for the Exposure Photo+Video Expo.  After a week in Atlanta teaching with Peter, my iMac and I will fly to NYC for PhotoPlus and then start my Speedliter’s Intensive Tour (which reunites the Air Case with the backseat of my Ford for the three-week drive back to the left coast).

Taking a Big Computer on the Road

Why take a 27″ iMac on the road? One word…deadlines. Over the summer, my #1 job was to finish my new book, Lighting for Digital Photography (which is set to publish in a couple of weeks). If you click through on the grid-shot above, you’ll see different phases of the book in progress done in places as big as NYC and as small as Henderson, Kentucky.

My 27″ iMac is a must-have tool. There’s no way that I would have been as productive or as comfortable during the long gestation of the book if I had been working on a 15″ laptop. The 27″ iMac screen is large enough to jump between many apps without hitting the max/min buttons again and again. The SSD drive (“Speedy”) runs the OS and apps blazing fast. The other internal drive (“Steve”) holds 2 TB of data—so I’m freed of the need to carry a fleet of external drives for image storage.

Here are my essentials for iMac connectivity and data protection on the road:

  • iPad—On the road, I found my iPad 3 with the Zagg keyboard to be an essential part of my travel kit and a near-replacement for a laptop. The iPad gave me the opportunity to check my email, cruise the web, write the book, etc. when I was not with my iMac. It also fits well on the tray table when flying trans-con (photo here). I use Quickoffice to open Word and Excel files on the go. Frankly, the Zagg keyboard is what makes all of this hum. Check it out here—even though the listings don’t mention iPad 3, it works perfectly with mine.
  • 4G LTE Internet—I set up my iPad 3 as a personal hotspot and shared its 4G LTE internet access with my iMac. You can see the iPad in most of the photos above (click through for a better look). Compared to the slow internet offered in most hotels, the 4G LTE was a joy and worth every penny. I subscribed to Verizon’s 10gb/mo. plan.
  • Dropbox—There are many ways to store and share files in “the cloud.” My favorite is Dropbox. I shared a project folder for the book with Amy’s computer back home. So, within a few seconds of saving a file on my iMac, I had a backup copy parked safely across the country. Dropbox is also a great way to share files between my iMac and iPad.
  • External Drive—It’s never a question of IF a drive will fail. Rather, it’s only a question of WHEN. So, I routinely backed up Speedy and Steve to external drives. I’m a fan of the My Passport Studio drive by Western Digital as it has both Firewire 800 and USB ports. If your computer does not have Firewire, then check out the  USB-only My Passport line, which is a bit more affordable.


Why I Love the Tenba Air Case for the 27″ iMac

Design: Like the iMac itself, the Tenba Air Case is rugged, yet minimal. The exterior is made of ballistic nylon over air-channeled plastic panels. The huge #10 YKK zippers are hidden under a snug flap—which kept the computer bone dry on a recent trip where thunder storms in Philly soaked my grip case and clothes duffel while everything sat on the tarmack during the long flight delay. There is a zippered pouch for shipping documents. The wheels are solid rubber. The interior has closed-cell foam covered in a soft material—so the iMac literally just drops in to the slot with no fuss. There are two moveable pockets on the inside to hold keyboard, cord, trackpad, etc. When the cover is zipped, the foam block on the lid presses the iMac gently into place.

Dimensions / Weight: The exterior measures (roughly) 31″ x 26″ x 13″—big enough that it needs to ride in the back seat of taxis rather than in the trunk with the rest of my gear. The interior provides several inches of clear space around the computer on all sides. The empty case weighs 19 pounds.

Air Travel: There’s no doubt…a 27″ iMac will not fit into the overhead luggage compartment. So, it travels in the belly with all of the other checked baggage. Based on the dimensions, the Tenba case is considered to be “oversized” by most airlines—which gives them the ability to add an upcharge of $150 or so. I’ve yet to have a Skycap or counter agent pull out a measuring tape or bring up the issue. Weight-wise, it’s very close. To not push the 50 lb. limit, I put my power cord, keyboard, and trackpad in another bag.

Fedex Shipping: Due to the size of the case, Fedex uses their dimensional weight formula to calculate the weight for shipping (( length x width x height)/139). So, the case is rated as if it weighs 70 lbs. Trans-con rates in Oct. 2012 are: Overnight = $402, 2Day = $328, Express Saver (3-day) = $224, and Ground = $68.

Cost: At roughly $650 bucks, the Tenba Air Case for 27″ iMac is twice the price of the mammoth Pelican 1730 case and half the weight (19 lbs vs 38 lbs). It does not take too many shipments / flights to make up for the lower transport costs of the Tenba’s lighter weight (plus, my lower back is a huge Tenba fan!).


Resources & Info

Read the full specs at B&H

Download the Tenba Transport catalog



Thanks to Tenba for providing the case for this review. It far exceeded my expectations!


8 Responses to 16,000 Miles With My iMac 27″ or… Syl Takes Speedy & Steve On His Epic Summer Roadtrip

  1. Morgan says:

    Very impressive setup!! What kind of Mac Book do you have? I see one in the middle/middle photo.

    • Syl Arena says:

      @Morgan — Good eyes! That’s my old 17″ MacBook Pro. It served as my trusty companion at home and on the road for five years. Now, it resides in the e-waste graveyard. I love MacBooks and will likely get another one in the next year. Still, when a big screen is needed, I won’t hesitate to take my big iMac on the road.

  2. Great review on the Tenba, thanks Syl!
    Just a clarification, the listings in B&H for the Zagg keyboard indicate compatibility with ‘The New iPad’ and iPad 2.
    See you at Speedliter’s Intensive on the 28th!

    • Syl Arena says:

      @Bernie — Yep, for reasons unknown, the description for the Zagg Folio has never included the iPad 3. Maybe because Apple only calls it the iPad? Anyway, it absolutely works with my iPad 3.

  3. Rob Anderson says:

    Nicely written article and a good review of the case. Where can we read more about the road trip? I’d like to know more of your travel tips.



  4. […] to this Tenba aircase, it’s well protected from the ramp gorillas and inclement weather. [Click here to read more about my travels with my iMac and the Tenba aircase.] So, in the air, I’m able […]

  5. Rex G says:

    I attended the Speedliter’s Intensive in Houston, and can say a big “amen” to the usefulness of the New Ipad, the big IMac and the Tenba case. I may never need to travel with an IMac, but I see that it can be done quite well, with efficiency.

    Syl, a BIG thanks for bringing your road trip to Houston!


  6. bruce says:

    Great review. You just made my life easier. I will order the Temba just after writing this review. I ordered the new 5K iMac today…and…it will with the aid of the Temba, accompany me on business trips near and abroad. The weight is a critical consideration – especially when traveling to Asia, Middle East or Europe. I have Temba camera cases…so brand familiarity is a good thing. I love that this will enable me to have a bigger working landscape when traveling to a major project that has a ‘gotta have it now’ type of deadline. All the best…and…the trip you made sounds awesome.

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