on May 24, 2006
If one is willing to shell out a fair amount of moola for a laptop computer, then one, it reasons, should also be willing to do the same for the carrying case that will be housing it while being transported, yes? The main question that arises is whether that case should be one that looks like a carrying case or a casual backpack. Myself, I've seen two drawbacks to the former: one, with either its handles or its inadequately padded over-the-shoulder strap, it concentrates all the weight onto one side of the body; two, it looks like a notebook case, thus alerting any potential thief that it contains a computer. So, for me, a non-professional who doesn't have an office job and who doesn't meet clients in office-like settings, the backpack-case route seemed the best route to go. So at a local Circuit City I opted for the Kensington 62232 SaddleBag Sport Computer Carrying Case, with a cost of $39.99 plus tax. There are more expensive backpack cases out there, and also slightly cheaper ones, so preferring more often than not to purchase products in the middle-of-the-road price range, the SaddleBag Sport fit the bill for me. And it's been a pleasure for the most part, especially in light of a previous unpleasant experience with a carrying case a year and a half ago, which, coupled with a 9 lb. Hewlett Packard laptop (both of which I returned to Best Buy after a mere week), made for some serious shoulder-aching days. There are a couple of drawbacks to this particular backpack case, it must be noted, but thus far after a three-month period the pros have decidedly outweighed the cons.
Not looking like some kaleidoscope-colored eyesore from Gadzooks or a drab, nondescript JanSport, the SaddleBag Sport is comfortable yet classy- and sporty-looking. It's made out of black waterproof nylon and contains numerous pouches and pockets for numerous needs. On both bottom sides there's an open pocket for a water bottle, which serves its function well enough and is even accommodating for small umbrellas (though if you try toting either by using just one of the straps on your shoulder, the objects will rub up against your side and fall out); and right above each one is a small zip pocket designed for easy access to a cell phone or MP3 device (though I can't aver that this design equates into a success since I own neither such device). On the bottom of the front side, there's a small leather pouch that contains pockets for writing supplies and business cards, along with a gray metal clasp for keys; and attached to the open flap there's a nylon zipper net for storing small loose items, like paper clips and staples and the like. Above that is a compartment more than double the pouch's size that extends all the way to the bottom of the case; ideal for medium to large cupped headphones and paperback books, this. And opening up from the top is the main compartment, which splits into two sections. The first one has several non-zippered mini nets lining the exterior wall, which can be bothersome in that objects, like paper notebooks, can get snagged on them; aside from these needless things (I've no idea the purpose of them), the allotted space is adequate.
It's the second compartment, though (with the dimensions 12.0"L x 16.4"H x 2.0"W) -- the one designed for the laptop -- that's the bee's knees, so to speak. With Kensington's SnugFit(tm) sleeve, your computer will be amid some reassuring surroundings. The lining of the interior back wall and the sides is soft but durable and exceptionally well-padded; and the exterior backside boasts not only good padding for added reinforcement of that inner compartment, but three padded contours -- on the top left and right and bottom center -- for added comfort while carrying the case on the shoulder or back. A couple of possible negatives, however: while the exterior bottom has been superbly designed for water resistance (it's made out of rubber), the interior bottom relies too much on it -- it lacks the generous padding of the back and sides, so if the case were dropped and landed straight down, either side of the laptop could be susceptible to damage; and the top is also a problem in that its interior padding is just as mediocre, and it doesn't have the benefit of the exterior bottom's notched rubber as a contingency. Yet, as bothersome as these vulnerabilities are (why not splurge for just a wee bit more padding in these two spots?), the chances of sustaining damage to your laptop are quite minimal in that the case, when dropped with the rest of its compartments adequately filled, tends to fall in a face-first direction, thus leaving the compartments containing the less-expensive items absorbing the majority of the impact. That leaves the vulnerable top portion, but the likelihood of dropping the case upside down is, as you'll probably agree, low.
As for the carrying comfort, the SaddleBag Sport is quite a wonder. Compared to my Hewlett laptop/carrying case experience, which felt much like a toilful chore, this one with my 7.9 lb. Toshiba 15.4" and this case isn't even in the same ballpark. The contoured (and easily adjustable) shoulder straps, which have been designed to ease neck and shoulder strain, make carrying this on one's shoulder perfectly feasible; and, as aforementioned, the generous padding on the back and its snug (but not tight) fit to your body occasionally make you forget you're toting the case around, believe it or not. Another praiseworthy notable is the zippers. They move back and forth with ease, the material surrounding them is not only reflective, which improves nighttime visibility, but protective in their complete covering and sealing of the zipper, which vastly decreases the chance of water seeping in. Throw in a water-resistant headphone port located at the very top of the case, along with a design that makes it super-easy to gain access to your laptop at a moment's notice with just one zip (for a case that's this protective, it's hard to believe you don't have to wade through two or more zippers to get to it), and you have yourself quite the stylish alternative to those run-of-the-mill satchel cases. Oh, perhaps there could be a bit more room in the main compartment being that with a regular-size laptop, its AC power adapter, a couple of DVDs, and a 3-subject notebook there isn't much in the way of spare room left (of course, a Centrino notebook without the AC adapter would alleviate this), but overall the SaddleBag Sport does its intended job and does it well.