What We Like
Lightweight but sturdy
Maximized packable space
Classic industrial design
What We Don't Like
Lining fabric is stiff and papery
Too large for many airlines’ carry-on restrictions
Sounds like a plastic barrel
For some travelers, extra features on luggage equal an extra burden. Enter the Samsonite’s Framelock 20” Spinner. The hardshell carry-on is pared-down just enough to keep it light and efficient while maintaining the rugged, protective qualities for which the brand is known and loved. To see if it could live up to its legacy, we decided to test the Framelock to its limits. We packed it to the gills and spent a week dragging it through the treacherous sidewalks, curbs, trains, cabs, and fellow commuters of the New York streets.
Design: Strong and light
Smart, strong, handsome, and uncomplicated. Who wouldn’t want these qualities in a travel companion? Right out of the box, we fell a little for the boxy, neutral styling and straightforward design of this Samsonite carry-on, and we were impressed with how light it is considering its stout silhouette.
The corrugated clamshell exterior comes with a matte metallic finish and subtle carbon fiber texture. Though it isn’t actually carbon fiber, it is an attractive pattern and should prolong the life of the luggage by both resisting and disguising scratches and scuffs from normal wear.
Smart, strong, handsome, and uncomplicated. Who wouldn’t want these qualities in a travel companion?
The pull handle telescopes to two heights and feels secure when dragging a loaded bag across various surfaces. The two carry handles—one on the top and one on the side—look and feel fairly basic, but they delighted us by settling automatically back into their folded positions when not in use.
Instead of zippers, the Framelock closure has a dual latch system along one of the long sides, kept secure with a three-number combination and a TSA-friendly key entry for quick security checks. (Note that the suitcase itself doesn’t come with a key.) We found latching the case closed much easier than wrestling with a zipper. The minimalist closure also saves a little weight and suits the industrial aesthetic of the Framelock. However, there’s less room to give if the bag becomes overstuffed, and more chance of a spill if the latch fails.
Inside, each half of the shell is lined and has a fully zippered section for security and organization. We admit we aren’t huge fans of the liner fabric: It’s pretty thin and papery.
Only one side of the shell has elastic compression straps; the other side has a zippered compartment for odd-shaped items like shoes or toiletries. There is a large plastic pocket on the fabric divider, which we love for storing things like food, damp toiletries, shells, laundry, and anything else we’d want to keep separate from the rest of our luggage.
We found latching the case closed much easier than wrestling with a zipper.
Another little innovation of the 20” Framelock is the built-in ID holder. Nestled under the handle, the pull-out name/address tab is so discreet, we almost missed it—which makes us wonder what the motivation is for adding your name and address to luggage in the first place. On one hand, dangling luggage tags can feel like you’re sharing your personal information with the world. On the other hand, if your luggage is lost and your contact info is hidden in this little pocket, virtually invisible to anyone not familiar with this make and model of suitcase, is it really there at all?
Capacity: Don’t plan to overpack
We comfortably packed the Framelock with two pairs of shoes, two pairs of pants, two dresses, four shirts, a sweater, underwear, and a small dopp kit. If you’re a fastidious packer, you could probably squeeze more in with packing cubes, but remember that with the side closure, there isn’t going to be much room to grow once it’s at capacity.
Durability: Strong construction, but there’s stronger
The frame is made of aluminum, while the exterior shell is composed of ABS plastic, which is highly resistant to physical impacts and corrosion. You probably come into contact with ABS in other forms daily, in things like power tools, dashboards, and the unyielding enemy to bare feet everywhere—the LEGO. ABS plastic is certainly strong, but not as durable as polycarbonate (which other suitcases we reviewed are made from), and may not be as scratch-resistant.
If you don’t need something bulletproof to travel with every week and you prioritize plenty of space and low weight, then ABS is a good, versatile material. If you plan on checking your suitcase more often—i.e. entrusting it to handlers who probably don’t care much about its survival—then you may want to look for a bag with a sturdier polycarbonate shell.
Portability: Lightweight, but can you carry on?
Throughout our research, we’ve found that 8 pounds is about average for a rolling suitcase of this size. The Framelock doesn’t look like it weighs 8 pounds, though. The styling reads “bulletproof trunk,” but if you pick it up expecting that, you might end up tossing it across the room.
Of all the suitcases we reviewed, this one was the loudest to use.
The top and side carry handles make it portable when rolling isn’t an option, not to mention easier to hoist into an overhead compartment. Whether you will be allowed to actually take it onto the plane, though, is another matter. The external measurements of 22.25 x 15.5 x 9.5 inches are technically too big for Delta, Air Canada, Air France, American Airlines, KLM, Korean Air, Lufthansa … you get the point. You should review the regulations of your airline first, and be prepared to gate-check if there’s a challenge.
Of all the suitcases we reviewed, this one was the loudest to use. This had nothing to do with the actual rolling system: The dual 360-degree spinner wheels were silent in use and very smooth on most surfaces. Nothing squeaked, either, which would’ve been a deal breaker. The suitcase is just its own echo chamber. The cavernous interior, the hollow handles, and possibly the conductive properties of the ABS plastic itself create a deep rumble when it’s being rolled around. It sounds like you’re transporting a plastic barrel. Packing dampens the echo, of course—just maybe avoid libraries with this one.
Price: Okay value for a heritage brand
ABS plastic is usually seen in less expensive suitcases, and in a fairly simple design like this, a price of around $240 seems a touch steep. Then again, Samsonite has over 100 years of experience on its side and knows how to make a high-quality, long-lasting suitcase. Paying a little more for the name may work out in the long run.
Competition: Samsonite vs. Samsonite vs. Samsonite
If you’re thinking you may need the greater durability of a polycarbonate construction, then Samsonite really is its own best competition. The new Tru-Frame 20” Spinner is 100 percent polycarbonate and comes with two separate combination locks and a sealed gasket closure for extra security during your travels. If you don’t love the latch closures, the Samsonite Freeform 21” Spinner has a polycarbonate shell, an expandable zip closure, and, as a bonus, weighs a mere 6.5 pounds.
Recommended, but maybe not as a carry-on.
With dimensions a little large for many airlines, we’d hesitate to recommend the Samsonite 20” Framelock Spinner if you’re specifically shopping for a carry-on. If what you want is a well-designed roller suitcase without too many unnecessary features weighing it down (and you don’t mind having to check it now and then), then we think it’s a great option.
- Product Name Framelock 20” Spinner
- Product Brand Samsonite
- MPN 111701261
- Price $350.00
- Weight 8.1 lbs.
- Product Dimensions 22.25 x 15.5 x 9.5 in.
- Color Dark gray, ice blue, cordovan
- Warranty Limited 10 years