By Bruce Eaton
Everyone loves their laptop, mainly because it?s not tied to a desk. So when it comes to hauling it around, you want to be able to do it not only in style but with the peace of mind that it is safe from everything: water, falls, waterfalls, etc.
To be able to not only carry a laptop, but also a few books, pens, a pda, a PSP, and two 1L water bottles would also be nice. And how about tossing some interchangeable strap buckles and a suspension system for protecting the laptop, one that can also be carried on its own? Well, that?s exactly what Tom Bihn did.
The Super Ego, from Tom Bihn, is in my opinion, one of the best laptop bags around. The bag itself, with the Brain Cell insert (a hard plastic-lined laptop suspension sleeve system) will provide the protection that only a safe provides for money.
So, out here you get the links, and inside, a full review with photographic goodness.
I received my bag only two days after I requested it. It shipped FedEx and arrived safely with good packing. Here is a picture of all the goodies laid out:
THE SUPER EGO ? Best Courier Bag Ever?
Let?s start by looking at the outside bag, the Super Ego itself. From just looking, Tom Bihn has added that flashy look to it without making it gaudy. The bag has already gotten comments from people in the office just for looking nice, let alone when I show them the features.
On the top there is one main compartment that is sealed with a Urutek splash-proof zipper, making sure that water isn?t even allowed to think about coming near your computer. Once opened, the heart of the system is unveiled. On the back wall of the bag are mounting clips which lock the Brain Cell to the bag. It keeps it from sloshing around and gives the back of the bag a nice surface that comes in contact with you.
Some other laptop bags I had felt too hard or so soft that I was hitting the laptop over and over with my body. The clips that mount the Brain Cell are actually one of my only gripes with it: they seemed a little flimsy, when you open and close them. Not like they will break while your Brain Cell is attached, but while you operate them. Maybe I am too primitive to use such a simple clip, but I had problems and worries that I would break them.
The main compartment is huge; you can carry a day or two worth of clothes in this thing along with your laptop. Take out the computer and I think I could get a week into this thing. It will definitely be nice when traveling: a big bag, but one that will fit into an overhead compartment.
The main flap is stylish, as it features slide-in interchangeable strips of various colors. Tom Bihn was nice enough to provide a Wasabi Green strip that matches the inside of the bag and also a reflector strip for the biker in all of us. A very big and sturdy 2? buckle locks the flap, under which there is two more Urutek pockets. There are then two fast access pockets and then the main underflap compartment which can easily organize your pens, PDA, DS Lite in my case, knife or whatever. You can easily fit another notebook or as I do, my lunch everyday.
On the back of the bag is a very convenient slot for magazines or other flat items and a waist strap if you are in need of riding a bike while wearing it. There are two water bottle holders that can take up to 1L Nalgene bottles on each side but have compression straps so even a Starbucks Doubleshot can fits without sliding around.
The actual shoulder strap is nice and thick, made from 2?-wide heavy-nylon webbing and there is a half-inch-thick foam pad on the underside. The handle is thick Poron form that is at the center of gravity of the bag such that when you carry it there is no leaning or moving around: the bag hangs straight down and feels great to carry.
THE BRAIN CELL ? Suspending Laptop Damage
The real technology and very important part of a Tom Bihn bag is the Brain Cell, a laptop sleeve that works with the bag to provide the ultimate in protection. Colored to match your bag, the Brain Cell has 8mm thick soft foam wrapped around a 4mm thick, hard plastic that together suspends the laptop from the bottom of the Brain Cell. With sides made up of cross-linked closed-cell polyethylene foam, there is nothing that is going to damage the computer inside except running over it with a car.
The top opens very simply with two flaps that close with Aplix strips, just like Velcro but longer lasting. Inside you will see a very soft surface on which your laptop has contact, so no worries about scratches. As I said, inside the foam is a hard plastic that is probably hard enough to protect your laptop from someone hitting it with a sharp object, such as a pen or scissors. When you put a laptop inside the Brain Cell, it is very snug and feels secure on account that they sell them in almost any size, so just make sure to indicate which one you need.
There are two handles that, just like on the outside bag, feel very tough and sturdy. There is also a webbing pocket that can hold things such as wireless cards or a mouse. There are, just as on the bag, the 6 rows of stitching for the D rings here that allow you to attach a shoulder strap. So if you choose to just carry the laptop without the bag you can still sling it over your shoulder. Tom Bihn provided the Terra Grip strap which is their super-no-slip strap. It’s made from soy-based polymer materials that make it soft and flexible even at -40 degrees and is U.V. stabilized (meaning no fading or cracking).
It is not too comfortable and I personally did not like it for day to day use as I am not clumsy, but I will say that even spinning around in my living room didn?t get that damn thing to slip off so it does what it says.
On thing that bothered me about the Brain Cell is that since it suspends the laptop to prevent damage, if you turn the Brain Cell on its side, it will not work for protection. You have to order a separate, vertical version of the Brain Cell if you are going to use it in a backpack. You have to keep the Brain Cell in the orientation of the type you ordered to get the protection that you seek.
After carrying the bag around for about two weeks now, I can say I love it. The Super Ego has become my new bag, going to the office, to a friend?s house, to the local coffee shop, it is with me. The Brain Cell product is an ingenious way, despite drawbacks, to protect your laptop and seems to prevent damage all together. And Tom Bihn managed to do all this, while keeping it stylish and trendy.
+Quality feeling in the product
+Brain Cell is changeable, removable, and extremely protective
+Doesn?t slosh around and carries well
+Lots of options in terms of styling (straps, strips, colors)
-Hard to use internal snaps when attaching Brain Cell
-Brain Cell does not work in both orientations
-The Super Ego is a very large bag, too big for small women to easily carry
-Terra Strap could feel better if wider