I've been looking for a new, slim, stylish, minimalist, professional-looking laptop backpack that can store a bit more than the Solo Universal Slim - not least because a Dell XPS 13 is slightly longer than a Macbook Air 11" and won't fit.
After an exhaustive search (see the full list of all 33 bags), I narrowed it down to two:
- Booq Cobra Squeeze ($195, but they often have 20% off codes around US holidays)
- WaterField Designs' Staad ($319-$329)
Neither bag is cheap, and both are a bit heavier than I wanted. But both companies offer 30 day, full refund policies as long as the bags are unused; allowing you to see them in the flesh.
My standard test contents in the below consisted of:
- MacBook Air 11"
- iPad Mini
- MacBook charger (with US plug)
- Mini DisplayPort to HDMI adapter
- Mini DisplayPort to VGA adapter
- MicroUSB cable
- Small travel umbrella
- Small bottle
- Small lunchbox
Booq Cobra Squeeze
My first impressions were that it's a nice bag, but it wasn't as slim as I was expecting. The curved style was good at providing structure, but also meant it was always the same thickness, regardless of what was in it. The laptop compartment was a little large for the svelte Macbook Air, but the addition of a small elastic corner strap and good padding meant it didn't seem to be a significant problem. The internal organisation was decent and, as you can see in the photos above, you could squeeze in a large water container in a side pocket, if you were happy to leave the flap open. Personally, I also found the grey a little light in colour: a darker grey would look more professional, while still providing a bit of variety over the standard black seen everywhere. YMMV.
Unfortunately, the combination of the depth, and the straps didn't quite lie properly at the top of my shoulders, meant it had to go back. Booq were brilliant about it: 2-day USPS shipping of the bag cost me another $8, but the money was refunded to my credit card straight away; with no hassles.
WaterField Designs' Staad
Everyone who's a customer of WaterField Designs sings their praises, and their Staad backpack seemed to fit the bill. It comes in two variants, Slim and Stout. Most reviews on the Internet are about the Stout, and they're mostly positive (with Carryology's Drive By an alternative take). ZDNet and Jim Kubicek provide useful hands ons with the Slim model.
I ordered the Slim and it did fit my test packing in that the Cobra Squeeze did. Just. So I ordered the Stout as well to see if that'd be a better fit.
After much consideration, I've decided to keep the Slim: it looks more professional, and holds what I need it to on a daily basis. It's also possible to squeeze in a bit more than you expect, but its slimness, and the lack of the extra width, make it the overall winner for me. As with Booq, there were no problems with returns: WaterField Designs refunded the money for the Stout immediately upon receipt (this time, 2-day USPS shipping cost $11.15).
We've also added some elastic around the straps to keep the spare, dangling, lengths tidy; this makes it look even smarter - and perhaps something WaterField could consider adding as standard in future.