TweetFollow Us on Twitter

Review: Laptop Cases

Volume Number: 19 (2003)
Issue Number: 10
Column Tag: Review

Review: Laptop Cases

So, you've got the laptop of the year, now what?

by Michael R. Harvey

Last January at MacWorld Expo San Francisco, Steve Jobs proclaimed 2003 as the year of the notebook for Apple Computer. It was no idle boast, either. Apple has some of the best portable computers on the market today. Both the 12 and 17 inch models were well received at MacWorld, and the new 15 inch Aluminum PowerBook G4 just released at Apple Expo Paris completes the line. But what do you carry it in? They are some of coolest, and most powerful laptops out there, but you still need to be able to get it, and its accessories from place to place.

I decided to look at this from a real world prospective. I developed an inventory of items any user might need and/or carry with their PowerBook on a regular basis. The list was as follows:

14" iBook

iBook power adapter

Spare iBook battery

PDA

Cell phone

iPod

Charging brick for iPod

One each Ethernet, FireWire, USB, phone, and HotSync cable

Small optical mouse

Two pens

Two CD jewel cases

Business cards

One book (I happened to be reading Bicentennial Man by Isaac Asimov at the time of this review)

Three press kits (to simulate miscellaneous paperwork)

With this pile of stuff, I set out to test some current offerings from various manufacturers to see if they could handle the load, and how well they could do it.

Brenthaven

The offerings from Brenthaven are top notch. So much so that they were the first official provider of cases to the Apple Store. These are high quality products. Well built, sturdy, and loaded with nooks and crannies for stuffing things into. Our inventory was easily handled by the Professional 17 Shoulder Case I tested. In fact, I doubled the load (except for computer), and this case was able to carry it. The bag is very well built. Tough, ballistic nylon, with solid, easily operated zippers throughout. There is a strap for sliding the handle of your wheeled suitcase through. The case for holding the laptop is detachable from the main case. There is an accordion file for paperwork within the main compartment, several sleeves for accessories, and hardware, a pocket for a PDA, a key chain hook. and even a secret small outside pocket just big enough to hold a plane ticket, and a passport. It's got a dual handle set up for carrying, as well as a decent shoulder strap. I did not particularly care for the dual handle set up. I couldn't just grab and go. I had to collect the two parts before hauling the case away. The strap is attached to the case in such a way as to automatically carry it over your hip, a much more comfortable position. The pad on the strap is only okay. It's soft, but sticky feeling. Make sure it is resting on your shoulder exactly the way you want it because it will not slide at all. I think they meant it that way, but I found it to be a detractor. Overall, this is a truly outstanding bag, ready to handle nearly any need a user might have. It is available from the Apple Store for $149.


Kensington

These guys make all sorts of great peripherals for the Mac. The also happen to have a really nice case called the Saddlebag Pro. This bag was really a surprise. Initially, I thought it would be okay, but nothing special. I could not have been more wrong. The Saddlebag Pro is well designed, tough, durable, and can easily handle nearly anything you need it to. It has one main compartment with a padded divider for the laptop (which is able to handle up to the 17" PowerBook). The other side is spacious and easily handled many of the items from the inventory list. There is an outer area that is covered by the flap with zippers on either side. This area has places for business cards, a key chain hook, and a pocket for whatever you want. The flap itself has pockets on either side. The main flap that covers it all also has a zippered pocket on it. The carrying handle it attached here. It is a single piece and very comfortable to grip, even when the bag is loaded down. The shoulder strap on this case was outstanding. The pad was very comfortable. Now, what about all the cable clutter? It fits in a hidden drawer that slides out of the lower side of the bag. It fit every random little piece of hardware from the list easily. Two other additions that really caught my eye. One, the bag can expand. Unzip the flap around the back edge of the Saddlebag Pro, and you give yourself even more room for those times when you have to take an entire desk worth of paperwork home with you. Last, this thing converts to a backpack. A compartment just above the suitcase handle strap opens to reveal shoulder straps that click to rings, and viola, backpack time. A nice addition for those times when you need to carry different, although I wouldn't recommend using the bag primarily in this configuration. The backpack straps are none too comfortable. The Saddlebag Pro can be found many places with an average price of around $60.


Willow Design

The Eastern Large Display Carry Case is one of many fine bags from Willow Design. All of their offerings, much like everything I tested, are made of high quality materials, and excellent workmanship. The Eastern case we tried was able to hold the inventory, but only just. It was a tight fit (some of their other larger cases would have had no problem). There are three outer pockets. One very thin one along the back of the case for holding no more than a magazine. The other two are on the front side, one atop the other. The outer most is just a zippered compartment. The larger one has pockets for anything you want to put in (the largest of which can hold a CD jewel case). There is also a zippered mesh pocket. The main compartment is where the uniqueness of this case shows. You access it by opening up the top flap that unzips on three sides (and also has another zippered mesh pocket on the underside). It is one space that is split by a solid board. The laptop rests on it, and can be secured with a Velcro strap. Flip up the board, and space for all your accessories is exposed. It's actually a nice setup. You can work on the computer as it sits in the case quite easily, accessing any papers from the pouches on the flap. The space underneath can hold most all your accessories, as long as they aren't too bulky and fit within the one of the three spaces the area is divided into. One final note on this case, the shoulder strap and single piece handle are okay, but not the most comfortable of those tested. Prices vary depending the model you choose, but the Eastern Large Display Carry Case is $90 direct from Willow Design.

Crumpler

Crumpler automatically wins in the category of cool, or insane, looking bags (depending on your take on such things). Big, bright colors, and unique names are hallmarks of the company. The test model they sent, for example, was called The Very Busy Man. This bag is all about big spaces. Everything is covered by a large flap which both Velcros and clips closed. Four pockets make up the interior of the case. From front to back: a zippered pocket that has several smaller pouches within it, that either zipper or Velcro closed, for small items. Next a large space for stuff, books, tomes, small cars. Third pocket is a flap covered space for your laptop. It, as well as the entire bag, is very well padded. This pouch can easily hold the largest PowerBook Apple ahs to offer, while also safely keeping the smallest. The last pocket is a smaller zippered pouch probably best used for holding cables, and other accessories. Back to the outside of this monster, we find only a heavy duty shoulder strap. No handle, which I found to be a big minus. The strap itself, however, is of good quality, with a sliding pad (the only one tested that has this). There is also a smaller strap from the bottom corner of the bag that hooks around the shoulder strap to help hold the case more securely to your body when you are wearing it for extended periods of time. Crumpler bags are sold mostly through camera stores. To find a dealer near you, or an online dealer, check out their web site at www.crumplerusa.com.

Does size really matter?

Bigger isn't necessarily better, at least as far as laptop cases go. It may be that you don't need to carry the Rosetta Stones, and a Volkswagen around in your bag. If you only need to get your smaller laptop, and maybe a few other things at most from here to there, then one of these could be the bag for you.

First up is McBain's Baby from Crumpler. It's one of their smaller laptop bags. It can hold a 12" iBook or PowerBook in its main compartment, and a few small bits in its zippered front pouch. The flap Is held down by Velcro. The shoulder strap is adequate, and it even has a small handle, unlike its big, and very busy, brother.

Our next item up for review in the smaller is better category is the Courtney Slipcover from Willow Design. This is a very nice bag. Like the Crumpler above, the Courtney can hold a 12" iBook or PowerBook. It has two additional compartments, however. A small accordion file with a Velcro closing flap is on the back of the case. The front space has pouches and mesh zippered compartments for accessories. There is even a detachable key ring hidden along one side of the case. Very clever.

Brenthaven had two offerings I tried out in this category. The first is the Professional 12 Shoulder Case. A very fine bag, small in size, but with a lot of places to store stuff. It can handle a 12" Apple laptop snugly, and has more places to store things than you think it should, considering its small form factor, with pouches for a PDA, and other accessories, a key hook, and even a luggage handle strap. It also has handles and shoulder strap identical to its bigger sibling. The second bag from Brenthaven was the Mobility One Messenger Bag. Much like the Professional 12, this bag has more places for stuff than you would think the laws of physics would allow. In fact, although this wasn't part of the review criteria, this bag was able to hold the test inventory I used on the larger bags. It was pretty stuffed, but it did it, and everything was nicely accessible. It is also able to hold the larger 14" iBooks in its very well padded case.


Final Analysis

Choosing a laptop case is a very personal choice. It has to fit your needs exactly, and even being off by just a little will nag at you. For the smaller bags, I went with the Willow Design bag. It was small, but still held a lot of stuff. As for the larger cases, the surprising winner for me was the Kensington Saddlebag Pro. As I mentioned earlier, I thought this bag would be adequate, but nothing special. I was totally surprised by how well this bag met my requirements. It fit all my needs exactly. Let that be a warning, when you go looking for a case, discount nothing ahead of time, because you may just eliminate the perfect case without ever knowing it.

These are just my personal preferences, though. The Brenthaven bags are outstanding. They are very likely an outstanding choice for many users. The Willow Design cases would be great for those who need smaller sizes, and need to carry a bit less than our criteria set up. Then there is Crumpler. Wacky, cool, unique, huge. Sound like your thing?

Again, it's a personal choice, but choosing from any of the cases reviewed here will definitely put a high quality, durable bag in your hands. Just make sure it fits your needs, and habits, and you will be very happy with your choice. Good luck.


Michael R. Harvey

 

Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Apple Pro Video Formats 2.0.2 - Updates...
Apple Pro Video Formats brings updates to Apple's professional-level codes for Final Cut Pro X, Motion 5, and Compressor 4. Version 2.0.2: Includes support for the following professional video codecs... Read more
Apple Final Cut Pro X 10.2.2 - Professio...
Apple Final Cut Pro X is a professional video editing solution.Completely redesigned from the ground up, Final Cut Pro adds extraordinary speed, quality, and flexibility to every part of the post-... Read more
Apple Compressor 4.2.1 - Adds power and...
Compressor adds power and flexibility to Final Cut Pro X export. Customize output settings, work faster with distributed encoding, and tap into a comprehensive set of delivery features. Powerful... Read more
Apple Motion 5.2.2 - Create and customiz...
Apple Motion is designed for video editors, Motion 5 lets you customize Final Cut Pro titles, transitions, and effects. Or create your own dazzling animations in 2D or 3D space, with real-time... Read more
A Better Finder Rename 10.00b1 - File, p...
A Better Finder Rename is the most complete renaming solution available on the market today. That's why, since 1996, tens of thousands of hobbyists, professionals and businesses depend on A Better... Read more
CrossOver 14.1.6 - Run Windows apps on y...
CrossOver can get your Windows productivity applications and PC games up and running on your Mac quickly and easily. CrossOver runs the Windows software that you need on Mac at home, in the office,... Read more
Printopia 2.1.14 - Share Mac printers wi...
Run Printopia on your Mac to share its printers to any capable iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch. Printopia will also add virtual printers, allowing you to save print-outs to your Mac and send to apps.... Read more
Google Drive 1.24 - File backup and shar...
Google Drive is a place where you can create, share, collaborate, and keep all of your stuff. Whether you're working with a friend on a joint research project, planning a wedding with your fiancé, or... Read more
Chromium 45.0.2454.85 - Fast and stable...
Chromium is an open-source browser project that aims to build a safer, faster, and more stable way for all Internet users to experience the web. Version 45.0.2454.85: Note: Does not contain the "... Read more
OmniFocus 2.2.5 - GTD task manager with...
OmniFocus helps you manage your tasks the way that you want, freeing you to focus your attention on the things that matter to you most. Capturing tasks and ideas is always a keyboard shortcut away in... Read more

Zen Brush 2 (Entertainment)
Zen Brush 2 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Entertainment Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Zen Brush 2 is a drawing app focused on the strong yet beautiful feel of the East Asian ink brush. | Read more »
NetNewsWire (News)
NetNewsWire 4.0.0 Device: iOS iPhone Category: News Price: $3.99, Version: 4.0.0 (iTunes) Description: Follow the Web NetNewsWire 4, completely written from the ground up for iPhone. NetNewsWire is the best way to keep up with the... | Read more »
Huzzah! Farming Simulator 16 Supports Cl...
As though it weren't difficult enough to resist the siren call of Farming Simulator 16, now it's been updated with cloud saves - so you can jump between devices without missing any of that precious crop-harvesting time. [Read more] | Read more »
Don't Starve: Pocket Edition Finall...
I've made no effort to hide my enjoyment of Don't Starve: Pocket Edition, but I will admit I was a tiny bit disappointed that it was only available for the iPad. Well nuts to that, because Klei Entertainment has made it universal! [Read more] | Read more »
Goat Simulator Wasn't Enough? Then...
If you just didn't get enough goat in Goat Simulator - or if you've been wanting to play a simulated MMO as a microwave - then you're in luck! Goat Simulator MMO Simulator is out now, and it's a game about simulated goats in simulated MMOs. Plus... | Read more »
You Can Play Madfinger Games' Unkil...
Madfinger Games - probably best known for the Dead Trigger series - has officially launched their newest zombie shooter (that isn't called Dead Trigger), named Unkilled. [Read more] | Read more »
KORG iELECTRIBE for iPhone (Music)
KORG iELECTRIBE for iPhone 1.0.1 Device: iOS iPhone Category: Music Price: $9.99, Version: 1.0.1 (iTunes) Description: ** 50% OFF Special Launch Sale - For a Limited Time **The ELECTRIBE reborn in an even smaller form A full-fledged... | Read more »
Toca Life: City Just Got a Bunch of New...
Toca Life: City is Toca Boca's most popular app (number 1 in 47 different countries, apparently), and it's just had an update that adds a bunch of new content. [Read more] | Read more »
My Country 3D is More About Cities than...
My Country 3D is an upcoming city builder from Game Insight that looks pretty decent - although the name seems a tad out of whack for a city builder. Ah well, it is what it is. [Read more] | Read more »
I am Bread (Games)
I am Bread 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: ‘I am Bread’ is the latest quirky adventure from the creators of 'Surgeon Simulator', Bossa Studios. This isn't the best thing... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Near-Office Input Functionality Virtually Any...
Today Logitech introduced the Logitech K380 Multi-Device Bluetooth Keyboard and the Logitech M535 Bluetooth Mouse, giving users the freedom to work on any device, most anywhere. According to... Read more
College Student Deals: Additional $100 off Ma...
Take an additional $100 off all MacBooks and iMacs at Best Buy Online with their College Students Deals Savings, valid through September 4, 2015. Anyone with a valid .EDU email address can take... Read more
2.8GHz Mac mini available for $988, includes...
Adorama has the 2.8GHz Mac mini available for $988, $11 off MSRP, including a free copy of Apple’s 3-Year AppleCare Protection Plan. Shipping is free, and Adorama charges sales tax in NY & NJ... Read more
Will You Buy An iPad Pro? – The ‘Book Mystiqu...
It looks like we may not have to wait much longer to see what finally materializes as a new, larger-panel iPad (Pro/Plus?) Usually reliable Apple product prognosticator KGI Securities analyst Ming-... Read more
eFileCabinet Announces SMB Document Managemen...
Electronic document management (EDM) eFileCabinet, Inc., a hosted solutions provider for small to medium businesses, has announced that its SecureDrawer and eFileCabinet Online services will be... Read more
WaterField Designs Unveils American-Made, All...
San Francisco’s WaterField Designs today unveiled their all-leather Cozmo 2.0 — an elegant attach laptop bag with carefully-designed features to suit any business environment. The Cozmo 2.0 is... Read more
Apple’s 2015 Back to School promotion: Free B...
Purchase a new Mac or iPad at The Apple Store for Education and take up to $300 off MSRP. All teachers, students, and staff of any educational institution qualify for the discount. Shipping is free,... Read more
128GB MacBook Airs on sale for $100 off MSRP,...
B&H Photo has 11″ & 13″ MacBook Airs with 128GB SSDs on sale for $100 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only: - 11″ 1.6GHz/128GB MacBook Air: $799.99, $100 off MSRP... Read more
13-inch 2.5GHz MacBook Pro (refurbished) avai...
The Apple Store has Apple Certified Refurbished 13″ 2.5GHz MacBook Pros available for $829, or $270 off the cost of new models. Apple’s one-year warranty is standard, and shipping is free: - 13″ 2.... Read more
27-inch 3.2GHz iMac on sale for $1679, save $...
B&H Photo has the 27″ 3.2GHz iMac on sale for $1679.99 including free shipping plus NY sales tax only. Their price is $120 off MSRP. Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Retail - Multiple Customer Support P...
Job Description: Customer Support Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the Read more
*Apple* Desktop Analyst - KDS Staffing (Unit...
…field and consistent professional recruiting achievement. Job Description: Title: Apple Desktop AnalystPosition Type: Full-time PermanentLocation: White Plains, NYHot Read more
Simply Mac *Apple* Specialist- Repair Techn...
Simply Mac is the greatest premier retailer of Apple products expertise in North America. We're looking for dedicated individuals to provide personalized service and Read more
Simply Mac *Apple* Specialist- Service Repa...
Simply Mac is the greatest premier retailer of Apple products expertise in North America. We're looking for dedicated individuals to provide personalized service and Read more
*Apple* Desktop Analyst - KDS Staffing (Unit...
…field and consistent professional recruiting achievement. Job Description: Title: Apple Desktop AnalystPosition Type: Full-time PermanentLocation: White Plains, NYHot Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.