When you imagine a backpack from the future, what comes to mind? For some, perhaps it’s a backpack that doubles as a jetpack, or a backpack that’s also a parachute. For others, perhaps you share my desires: a near-limitless bag with weight displacement so advanced that it feels like almost nothing. (You know; something with some really major Hermione Granger vibes.) Or maybe, just maybe, your futuristic backpack already exists in this Pix Backpack.
The Kickstarter-funded Pix Smart Urban Waterproof LED Backpack brings something altogether new to the market with its innovative LED screen. It’s the closest we’ve come, I think, to a “smart backpack” to go along with your smart home and smart phone. As you’ll see in this review, it really is smart—smarter than I’d ever have imagined.
What makes this Pix Backpack so special?
Okay. When I first heard about the Pix Backpack from my editors at Best Buy, all I knew was that it was “fun” and would be arriving with a Qi-enabled Tzumi PocketJuice power bank. I assumed that meant that the Pix Digital Backpack was a charging backpack, similar to a piece of charging luggage that I’ve reviewed—but I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Instead of being there to charge things, you’ll need a battery pack with this backpack because it is itself an innovative device. What makes the PocketJuice (and other, similar designs) so well-suited for this bag is that it has two quick-charging USB ports. The Pix plug goes into one port, and you can use the other to charge your phone, tablet, camera, or another device simultaneously. (As much as I appreciate Qi wireless charging, I don’t so much trust it; I find that you typically need to have your contacts very precisely placed, which makes it a bad pairing for a backpack.)
The Pix Smart Urban Waterproof LED Backpack is a roomy, well-made backpack with a truly surprising digital face. Its large, flat front acts as a display screen when turned on, and is completely discreet when turned off. While the screen itself is heavily pixelated, the transition is so seamless that I literally couldn’t tell that it was a screen until it turned itself on.
(Yes, I had to take a minute to appreciate with shock and awe the fact that a backpack pulled one over on me.)
How’s the storage in the Pix Smart Urban Waterproof LED Backpack?
Honestly? It couldn’t be better. One of my primary concerns for any smart device is how smart it is on its own—without power. As our everyday technologies get more advanced, it becomes easier for each one to break down. Some products are even designed to break down over time with planned obsolescence, forcing us to spend money on replacements.
While you can’t get around that with a device like, say, your smartphone, you can absolutely plan around it for a smart piece of luggage or a backpack. I’m happy to report that, LED or not, the Pix Smart Urban Backpack is a keeper.
At an impressive 27L, this backpack fits a lot. It has a felt-lined compartment for a laptop of up to 15″, numerous small zippered pockets, and a dedicated space for its power bank. You’ll also find a lanyard for your keys or ID badge and a flat divider for items like books, writing pads, and tablets. The backpack’s zippers come with rounded, ergonomic pulls, and its straps are heavily padded.
Even the Pix Digital Backpack’s top carry handle is smooth and easy to hold. My only complaint (and it’s a small one) is that I would have liked to see chest and hip straps added to the bag. I know they’re cumbersome and rather unattractive, but given its large size, I think they’d be a much-appreciated addition.
Pix’s quality of materials
Surprisingly, what I appreciated most about this bag (before finding out that it was part backpack, part LED screen) was the fact that the company really invested in its materials. Cost doesn’t always translate into quality, but this Pix backpack is worth every penny. The entire bag is cushioned in a thick, lightweight foam covered in splash-resistant waterproof fabric, and the nylon straps are strong and soft.
(Gone are the days of nylon-strap chafing that I remember from my childhood!)
Inside, the water bottle strap is a thick, resilient band. It’s a nice change from your standard floppy mesh and thin elastic. And above all, what really made me double-take was the inner mesh pockets. In my many years of reviewing handbags, backpacks, and more luggage than I can even remember, I’ve never felt a mesh this nice. It’s extra stretchy but feels durable—like professional dancer’s nylons, which I swear you couldn’t rip even if you had a dinner knife and the entire length of a dreary intermission.
How the Pix digital face works
Enough about the backpack: let’s finally talk about that face!
The digital screen of the Pix backpack has a screen resolution of 16×20 pixels, and the result is adorable. It lends itself well to cartoons, games, and other low-resolution art. This isn’t a critique at all: I’m a die-hard 8-bit fan, and I love anything that reminds me of Stardew Valley or Fez.
The matching Pix Backpack app is easy to use and easy to pair. It lets you add art and animations to your in-app collection, then essentially “cast” them to your backpack with the touch of a button. Even the more complex animations only take a few seconds to load, and I didn’t have any problems with the app’s connectivity dropping while I was testing it.
The app also lets you add widgets and games to your backpack, and I’m… incredibly impressed. If you had told me as a child that I’d one day be able to play off-brand Tetris on my backpack, I would have lost my mind and demanded that you give it to me right now!! I’m not waiting twenty years for this!!! There’s almost no delay between your in-app controller and your backpack’s game face either and it’s easy to lose time to a poster-sized game on your bag.
Who is the Pix Smart Urban Backpack best for?
This backpack is best for those who are kids at heart. It’s so excellent for storing your items, and the extra padding makes it such a perfect gift idea for a photographer or digital artist. But more importantly, the Pix lives BIG.
I was never a partier growing up. I went from getting straight As in high school to hosting small dinner parties that ended by 10 pm. Having people look at me is my worst nightmare—so, while I’m sure that I could sneak around the city with a grey Pix and remove it to keep me occupied in doctor’s office waiting rooms, it’s not really for me.
Instead, it’s great for those who live out loud. It’s an awesome conversation starter, and excellent for those who travel in packs. If you want a bag that your kids can play games on while you carry their lunches in it, this is the bag for you. And if you want a bag to take to a dance party, then this is absolutely for you. Can you imagine how cool this would look under strobe lights?
Pix backpacks: The solution to your aching heart?
I also think—and this one is a little more out there—that Pix backpacks are perfect for single people. They’re such a big, obviously unique item that I’d bet they’d be an instant conversation starter. It’s tough to meet people outside of your circles of friends and workmates, but the Pix might just help take the awkwardness out of it.
I was once approached by a very cute man on the train with the line “I really like how you wrapped your earbuds up.” It was so phenomenally awkward and obvious, but it was so sweet, and I appreciated the effort. This, thankfully, is much smoother than that.
If you don’t want the attention, it’s easy to just politely say, “I got my bag at Best Buy! I’ve got to run, but thanks for the compliment!” But if you’re looking for love (or friendship), you could offer them your phone and let them play a bit of Tetris over coffee… And maybe, if you’re lucky, they’ll leave their number behind.
Shop the Pix Smart Urban Backpack at Best Buy.