What Bag Carries Your Geekd’m? A Three-Part Series Review of the Best Laptop Bags 2009

May 3, 2009

This article series is more of a laptop bag recommendation list rather than a laptop bag review.   Allow me to explain…

What does a software company like LitCentral know about laptop bags? Plenty. It’s the equivalent of asking a NASCAR driver what he thinks about tires. We already know who’s the best in the business and we’re dedicating the month of May to showing you what they’ve got.

All of the bags chosen for this article series were chosen for the quality of the manufacturing, design, materials and functionality.  It’s not always about money, so we didn’t factor cost into our initial round-table discussion about which manufactures to contact; we just wanted to contact the best.

Here at LitCentral Founders’ Blog we wanted to strive to do better than the mundane laptop bag reviews that inundate the web – offering a press kit, Photoshopped image and a cursory review.  In this three-part article series (What Bag Carries Your Geekd’m?) we lay hands on the product, take pictures and communicate the functionality and quality of these bags.  Part I of the series covers the best laptop and messenger bags.  Part II covers the best laptop backpacks, and Part III showcases some of the best laptop sling cases on the market.

Part I – Best Laptop/Messenger Bags

Listed alphabetically:
1. Aaron Irvin – Microfiber Computer Bag
2. Axio – Messenger
3. Belkin – Flythru
4. MacCase – Flight Jacket
5. OtterBox – 7030 Case
6. Skooba Design – Satchel 2.0
7. Tom Bihn – Checkpoint Flyer
 

Aaron Irvin Microfiber Computer Bag

Aaron Irvin Microfiber Computer BagMy biggest worry with contacting Aaron Irvin and asking him to participate in this in-depth bag review was that I would not have the words to capture the irrefutable exquisiteness of his bags.

I have owned many high-end briefcases including Jack George, Tumi, etc.  In fact, (my old basketball teammates will get a kick out of this), I use to carry a posh leather briefcase to our high school games!  So when I say to you Aaron Irvin’s bags are the most exquisite, thoughtfully designed bags on the planet – take it to the bank.
 

The cultured experience begins from the moment you pry open the box.   Aaron Irvin cloaks his bags with a grey felt dust cover – which makes the unveiling of his bags a near sexual experience.

The Microfiber Computer Bag enters the room before you do.  Its unisex posh styling is packed full of versatility.  The center compartment is accessible from either side via vertical zipper entries, and is large enough to not only carry your computer, but also an A/C adaptor and your favorite reading material.  Additional gadgets and accessories such as an iPod, wallet, business cards, and cell phone can be stowed in the back and front horizontal compartments.  I love that the bag stands up on its own when you set it down, and the shoulder strap provides an additional carrying method.
 

Walking in to pitch your screenplay or book proposal with the Microfiber Computer Bag softly whispers…"I’ve  already made it."

*Although we will be giving away many of the product samples used for this article series to our faithful readers, Michelle and I are doing rock-paper-scissors over this one.

Cost: $350.00
External Size:  13”H x 17.5” W x 4”D
Weight: 3.9 lbs
Holds: 17” laptop or smaller
Material: 900D polyester
Purchase Here

"The Arrival"

Aaron Irvin Microfiber Computer Bag

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Axio Messenger

Have you ever heard someone say he or she “has a quiet elegance”?  That’s how I would describe Axio’s messenger.  Its simple, stylish, unisex design with red accents and chrome zipper pulls, leaves me feeling less techy and more modish.

After a long hard workday my routine usually consists of packing up my laptop, a folder with papers to review, whatever book I’m reading and a few gadgets.  Halfway out the door I’ll forget something like a magazine I want to look over, or a piece of mail that needs my attention.  The last thing I want to do is put my bag down and unzip a compartment.  This is when the exterior side compartments in the Axio Messenger comes in handy.  When traveling, the exterior pockets are essential for sliding in a boarding pass, passport or wallet.

I know it’s a seemingly insignificant feature, but exterior pockets make all the difference in how a messenger bag functions.  Axio’s Messenger has FIVE exterior pockets, two of which reside on the back and outside flap.  Perfect!

Inside the bag is spacious and expansive, easily holding all my junk.  There’s also a separate padded laptop compartment.  The fabric is durable and easy to clean.

This Axio Messenger has been to Hollywood, the Orange County Boat Show, Barnes and Noble and everywhere in between.  Everyone here who managed a turn at sampling this bag loved it!

Cost: $84.95
External Size:  13”H x 17.5” W x 3.5”D
Weight: 1 lb  11 oz
Holds: 15” laptop or smaller
Material: 900D polyester
Purchase Here

Axio Messenger

•  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •

Belkin Flythru

The Belkin Flythru isn’t in the same category as  the other bags in this series, but it is in a class of its own. We contacted Belkin to participate in the review for two reasons: First, the company offers a good product at a very reasonable price point – all three bags included in the series are less than $60.  Second, there is an array of Belkin laptop bags from which to choose.

For those of you who fly frequently and have a limited budget, this checkpoint friendly laptop bag will serve you well and won’t break the bank.  Inside, the butterfly design has a clear plastic window over one side of the laptop compartment, allowing security to literally see through to the computer.  Therefore, you do not have to take your laptop out of the bag when going through security.

Belkin purposely eliminated a lot of metal hardware such as zipper pulls, buckles, etc. so that nothing hinders the airport screening process.  The plastic overlay does not make for the most durable product, BUT Belkin offers a lifetime warranty, so you are covered just in “case”.
 

Belkin offers some nice subtle touches on the Flythru.  The handle is covered in nylon but just under the lip is a strip of velvet-like cloth that feels good to grip. The pad on the shoulder strap is both adjustable and removable. We counted four zipper pockets and plenty of open-faced pockets to stuff pens, passport, boarding pass, etc.  Belkin doesn’t list a weight on their website for the Flythru, but they should because it’s a noticeable feature that this bag is LIGHT!

Cost: $59
External Size:  16.5”L x 13”H x 4.5”D
Weight:  Unavailable
Holds: 15.6” or smaller laptops
Material: Durable polyester and soft-touch tricot lining

Purchase Here

Belkin Flythru

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MacCase Flight Jacket

The MacCase Flight Jacket won the prize for the thinnest laptop bag reviewed in this article series.  The exterior is constructed from earthy soft leather that reminds me of the smell of a classic boot shop.   The interior is lined with a padded nylon material to help shield your aluminum MacBook from nicks and scratches.
 

You know how Apple’s design approach to everything is simplistic and super clean? If you add the word “handcrafted” it completely describes this bag.   The product sample we received accommodates the 17” MacBook Pro in a vertical position. The A/C adapter fits snug in the top zipper compartment.

The front pouch is specifically designed for Apple’s SuperDrive and can be completely removed if need be.  Velcro is used to hold down the large top zipper flap as well as to hold the SuperDrive pouch flush with the bag.  For an additional $20 you can order straps that reconfigure the over-the-shoulder carrying style into a “backpack” option. MacCase backs their bags with a lifetime warranty and designs the Flight Jacket in four different colors: Vintage, distressed dark vintage, chocolate and black.
 
In summary, you have to be impressed with the quality of the MacCase Flight Jacket and I think the price is quite reasonable for a leather bag. If everything you need to work on is contained within your laptop, and you prefer to “pack light”, then you should seriously consider the Flight Jacket.
 

The MacCase Flight Jacket is the "Top Gun" in slim-design laptop bags.  This unisex bag will last you for years to come while offering a classic style that befits any couture.

Cost: $169.95 or $189.95 Backpack strap option
External Size:  16.50”H x 11.75”W x 2.25”D (17" Model)
Weight:  1.4 – 1.8 lbs.
Holds: Custom sizes ranging from 13” – 17”
Material: Leather

MacCase Flight Jacket

•  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •

OtterBox  7030 Laptop Case
Update 8/25/09: OtterBox recently discontinued the 7030 case in an effort to refocus 100% of their efforts on hand-held  technology.  However, a brief Google search will reveal numerous resellers that still have this awesome rugged case in stock.  Start with Ebay and Amazon.
 
Specializing in rugged cases for gadgets (iPhone, BlackBerry, iPod, etc), OtterBox puts a lot of attention into engineering cases that work well in the most extreme environments… and they do it well!

The OtterBox 7030 Laptop Case is one of the most customizable laptop cases on the market.  When you open the case you’ll notice the bottom is covered with a single, large piece of Velcro fabric.  What the heck??? But then, the engineering kicks in.  Because included in the shipment are 10 bumpers (3 sets) that when positioned according to the dimensions of your laptop, help to hold it in place.  The 7030 is reconfigurable allowing for use with a 15” laptop and then adjusting the bumpers inward to transport a 10” netbook.  That kind of design deserves a techie outburst…WOOT!

There’s another quick release Velcro strip that lies over the surface of the laptop to strap it in place.   For documents and magazines, there’s a rugged document folder that also attaches via Velcro, as well as a business card/pen holder.  Underneath, rubberized feet keep the Polypropylene case from sliding off of any surface.

The 7030 offers enough room for your laptop, A/C adapter, and a few pieces of reading/writing material. Use the rubberized carrying handle or the padded shoulder strap to carry the 7030.
 

It’s hard to dress-up the traditional square hard shell “briefcase”, but OtterBox pulls it off without a hitch.  The 7030 has a modern sleek design.  This case ebbs-and-flows within various environments. I would feel totally confident schlepping my laptop through the Amazon Rain Forest, entering a construction zone, white water rafting, or traversing the urban jungle.  Environmental protection elements guard against a 3-foot drop and 1 meter water immersion for 30 minutes. If you need a rugged laptop case you will be very pleased with the 7030 Laptop Case.

Got a meeting in Hollywood?  This case is so Men in Black.

Cost: $189.95
External Size:  16.375”H x 14.5”W x 3.375”D
Weight: 6 lb 75 oz
Holds: 15” notebook or smaller
Material: High Impact Polypropylene
Purchase Here

OtterBox 7030 Laptop Case

OtterBox 7030 Laptop Case

•  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •

Skooba Design Satchel 2.0

I love the Skooba Design motto – Better to explain the price than apologize for the quality.

It was a no-brainer placing Skooba Design on our short list of laptop bag manufactures.  I have always drooled over the Skooba Design laptop case advertisements displayed throughout my geek magazines. Good quality, stylish design, versatile – now that’s  what I’m talking about!

The Satchel 2.0’s quality build will have you growing tired of it, before it [bag]…grows tired.  The main inside compartment allows for folders, magazines, books, etc.  The accessory compartment – located in the front – provides ample pockets for pens, keys, cell phone, etc.  We counted 5 zipper pockets and numerous open-faced and Velcro pockets to help secure all our gadgets.  There’s also a side zipper that hides a nylon net bottle holder.  Now, I rarely carry my drink in such fashion, but for those that do, you’ll love that it’s there.
 

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a company put so much engineering design into a shoulder strap as Skooba Design has with the Skooba Super Bungee Bag Strap. I mean come on…this thing has a "sport-tuned suspension system"!  It’s designed to absorb the shock from the weight of the bag.  And the best part about it is, although the shoulder strap is sold as a separate item on their website ($25.95), it is INCLUDED free with the Satchel 2.0.

In addition to a laptop, I can imagine a writer loading this puppy up with all sorts of gear like an iPod, noise cancellation headphones, pens, a journal, a camera, eReader, etc. There’s room for all of it!   If you need to schlep home in the rain, the Satchel 2.0 is finished with a weather repellent that should help ensure your valuables stay dry.  It comes in five different color combinations including pink/black ladies.  A company believes in their product when they back it with a lifetime warranty and Skooba Design is no exception.
 

The LitCentral team took numbers waiting to try this baby out!


Cost: $99
External Size:  16.75”L x 12”H x 6”D
Weight:  2.75 lbs
Holds: 17” or smaller laptops
Material: Ballistic nylon, neoprene trim strip, nylon interior, patented Air Square in laptop compartment
Purchase Here

Skooba Satchel 2.0

•  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •

Tom Bihn Checkpoint Flyer
It was 2006, LitCentral had just ordered tablet PCs with glass screens.  I had read horror stories on the internet of tablet users dropping their laptop backpacks and shattering the tablet screen.  So, I frantically searched the internet looking for laptop bag cases with shock absorbing engineering.  Tom Bihn’s Brain Cell was our saving grace.  Thus, when we first decided to do the laptop bag review article series for the blog, Tom Bihn was one of the first manufactures we called upon.
 

The Checkpoint Flyer meets TSA (Transportation Security Agency) standards, which allows you to leave your laptop inside the case when passing through airport security.  Simply open up the tri-fold bag and lay it atop the conveyer belt.  I only have one question, “Tom Bihn, can you make a checkpoint friendly shoe?”

Tom Bihn included a horizontal Freudian Slip organizer with the product sample that allows for more inside bag room when removed.  Also, if you want to leave your laptop at home, you can detach the laptop case completely and just use the bag for reading material, screenplays, notes, etc.  In addition, the laptop case itself is detachable. This means that if you currently have a 15” laptop bag, but you’re planning on upgrading to a 17” in two months or you already have two different size laptops, you don’t have to buy an entirely new bag.  For $70 you can purchase a 13” or 17” laptop case that fits the Checkpoint Flyer

There are numerous organizational pockets, double stitching, and YKK splash-proof zippers. Two open-pockets on the back allow for magazines, newspaper, boarding pass, etc.  (If you’re like me, open pockets come in handy.  I’m notorious for grabbing an “oops-I-almost-forgot” and slipping it in my bag.)
 

I was really impressed by the weight of the Checkpoint Flyer bag.  It’s unbelievable that this much “bag” is bundled into 1.1 lbs!

My only complaint of Tom Bihn is that they don’t offer a luggage line.  Look out Tumi, ya got nothin’ on Tom.


*  Tom Bihn also designs great travel bags and totes (Michelle loves their Shop Bag!).

Cost: $220
External Size:  Model reviewed 15” (14.3”W x 9.8”H x 1.7”D)
Weight:  1.1 lbs
Holds: Varies depending on bag size 13” – 17” laptop
Material: 1050 denier ballistic nylon
Purchase Here

Tom Bihn Checkpoint Flyer


Tom Bihn Accessories

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Clavo_R May 11, 2009 at 4:25 pm

I agree, most laptop bag articles are written from the same perspective as the reader which is “I saw this on the internet”. Well whoopdidoo! How can you advise me to buy something you haven’t even touched yourself?

Great first-hand experience article!

Reply

Write4TV May 11, 2009 at 4:45 pm

There are some bags in the article that I wasn’t even aware of. Thanks!

Reply

Ken May 13, 2009 at 6:42 pm

Well, Tom Bihn actually does have a luggage line. Its not a big line, but what’s there is choice!

–Ken, a happy Tom Bihn customer

Reply

1_Chief May 13, 2009 at 9:16 pm

OMG! Could you have not published this BEFORE CHRISTMAS! Some of us have wives you know. Wives that won’t stand for another laptop bag in the house.

Too bad, I’m going for the checkbook man. Cover me.

Reply

17 Inch Laptop Bags May 27, 2009 at 1:24 pm

Those are some great bags! But do you have any that are a little more on the cheap side? It’s great to see some new bags also, a lot of these I have never seen! Where are you able to find all these bags??

Reply

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