Thick padding that balances flexibility and rigidity.
Rugged stitching, zippers, and materials.
Reinforced carrying handle.
Comfortable with adjustable shoulder straps.
iPad sleeve: Rugged build quality.
iPad sleeve: Good padding.
Backpack: No waist belt.
iPad sleeve: Bulky.
iPad sleeve: No side reinforcement, just padding and fabric.
Level8 derives its name from its focus on eight points, notably protection, durability and warranty. Their products are designed exclusively for the MacBook, MacBook Pro, and iPad. The backpack I tested and the iPad sleeve show that this isn't just lip service from their parent company, Avenues in Leather. There is a fine attention to detail and a strong, albeit expensive, attention to the safety of the products you choose to carry in these bags.
The Level8 15"/17" Atlas Backpack is constructed mostly of 2520D polyester nylon, heavily and rigidly padded with neoprene. It features interior scratch guarding and textured padding for both a unique look and improved airflow. When I say rigidly padded, it might sound like it would be stiff and not as safe, but that is not the case. Instead, Level8 balances rigidity and padding to give enough to protect your smaller items but prevent large impacts or heavy items from creating a point of force on any one spot in the bag.
Full Atlas Backpack
The backpack has a butterfly compartment for the 15" or 17" MacBook Pro. This unzips and folds out, which separates the other stored items within, for airport TSA checkpoints. The advantage to the butterfly design is extra protection and speed, because you do not need to remove the MacBook from its protective shell for TSA screening personnel.
MacBook Sleeve in Atlas Backpack
The space between the two halves of the butterfly compartment creates extra storage room for papers and other flat items, plus features an extra pocket for loose paperwork. The second main pocket holds paperwork and bulkier items without straining and includes four interior pockets for securing smaller items, like a phone, mouse, small camera or Magic Trackpad. It has an outer pocket with additional smaller inner and netted pockets for organizing small items.
Atlas Backpack Inside Pockets
The outer pocket is not just a small exterior flap, it can take still more cargo. I fit a pair of shoes in the outer pocket even though the bag was full. The bag was tight but was able to take the stress well. Part of the reason it can take full packing is it is built with rugged zippers and pull-tabs. The main handle is reinforced with a security cable, giving the bag a feel of indestructibility.
Handle and Zipper Tabs
A small top compartment, about the size of your hand, finishes off the storage compartments for use with small or delicate items. Just like the rest of the bag, the padding is so thick and stiff yet flexible, that I had no qualms about putting computer components such as an easily broken ExpressCard CompactFlash reader, flash drives, iPad USB and SD Card attachments, or my keys and Magic Mouse in the pocket.
The bag has smaller side pockets that could carry an iPhone or small bottle of water. The straps are rugged and wide with a heavy application of padding. The straps are easily adjusted to size as you fill or empty the bag. The padding against your back is thick, but offers airflow, even when weighted down with gear. The bag also has a trolley-strap for fitting it atop another piece of luggage and anchoring it over the extended handle. Though not as rugged as the other straps it is well anchored and wide enough to fit over handles without any effort. It worked very well on a recent flight, for which I stacked it on my main luggage and anchored it on the telescoping handle.
The actual MacBook compartment offers a unique texturing effect that gears to better airflow, offers excellent scratch protection, and envelopes all the angles of your MacBook with padding. It has a Velcro over-strap to keep the compartment closed with the MacBook safely anchored inside. It fit my 15" MacBook Pro comfortably and can fit 17" MacBook Pros as well.
I have traveled for years with my PowerBooks and MacBooks in various backpacks, but never felt certain that my gear was entirely safe, with flimsy padding or loose zippers, and over time, tears in the fabric. This bag is what I wanted all along. It is rugged, well padded, and made to last, with a lifetime warranty. I am extremely confident in my MacBook's safety as well as my other small components, plus the occasional pair of shoes. This is the best backpack I have tested and I give the Atlas 5 Stars with no reservations. There is no safer place for your MacBook.
Level8 Protective iPad Sleeve
The Level8 Protective iPad Sleeve fits the iPad and iPad 2. This soft briefcase-style case has similar construction quality to the Atlas backpack. It is built with 2520D polyester nylon, neoprene padding, and a scratchproof interior finish. The sleeve adds padding and portability to any iPad, and offers all-angle protection. It is roomy enough to fit a 1st generation iPad with an external hard case. It also has a side pocket for cables and other small accessories.
The iPad Sleeve zips closed with two handles supporting each side of the case, but ships with a shoulder strap too.
For portable protection it has a lot to offer and can carry a few accessories.. If you need to travel with the iPad as a primary computer, you may like this sleeve. It is also small enough to use as internal protection in a backpack or briefcase.
This is for people who want to carry an iPad on its own, so I would have liked to see more rigid material reinforcing the sides of the case, as opposed to fabric and padding. I don't have that same level of confidence in its protective capabilities as the backpack. This sleeve also has a slightly flimsy shoulder strap and it is a bit bulky. Priced at $50, I expected more, especially considering how robust the computer backpack is for its reasonable price. I'd rate the sleeve with 4 stars and feel more comfortable recommending that you use it as an internal case with a backpack or briefcase.