Review: Brain Cell Laptop Sleeve

Solidly made, protective sleeve (July 19th, 2006)

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Product Manufacturer: Tom Bihn, Inc.

Price: $50.00

The Good

  • Sturdy stand-alone or inner-bag sleeve. Good color choices. Well-made. Simple design. Great price.

The Bad

  • Outside mesh pocket is not weather-proof.

Many laptop sleeves boast good protection, but they don't seem to do more than protect against scratches and dings. I'm not about to toss my laptop off of a truck to test its case, as done in the video by Victor Marks, our Podcast Host. Like most of us, I have to trust my instincts as to the robust nature of the laptop sleeve I choose.

Tom Bihn's sleeve, aptly named the Brain Cell, is one of the few that inspires my confidence. If instincts aren't enough for you, you can see Tom Bihn himself drop an egg while inside this sleeve on the site. They neglect to say whether it's a raw or hard-boiled egg though! (Ok, they emailed me after I posted this review, to assure me it was a raw egg.) While it's a sleeve designed to use inside their computer bags, it is convenient as a stand-alone accessory. I prefer a simple handled sleeve for everyday use and this meets my needs. A list on the Brain Cell page details which of their bags accommodate the different sized sleeves.

Simple, Functional Sleeve

The Brain Cell is a simple square that closes securely with a one-inch Aplix hook and loop strip. (Yes, it is really loud to open.) A stretchable black mesh pocket, with two snap closures, graces one side of the Brain Cell. The other side has two tabs to secure it inside one of their bags. It is thickly padded, and has nice hard sides.

Four-Sided Protection

The Brain Cell protects your laptop by suspending it in the bag. According to Bihn's site, 8mm thick foam padding holds the laptop, which is "suspended in a 4mm hard corrugated plastic insert that protects from the front, back, and bottom. The sides are protected by dense cross-linked closed-cell polyethylene foam." You'll have to excuse me if I don't cut open the bag to verify this information, but I like using it too much to deface it. They do state that your laptop is not protected appropriately if you use the Brain Cell vertically, so look at the Monolith bag if you need a vertical enclosure.

Excellent materials

The handle is sewn securely down the whole side of the Cell, so there's no worry of it pulling loose. A shoulder strap is an extra option, with a choice of three types for $10, $18, or $25.00. The D-ring attachments, although sewn in with six rows of stitching, do not seem to have a long tab; it feels about 1/2 inch long. The 500-denier Dupont Cordura will not fray though, so this shouldn't be a problem.

Any Size You Need

There is a Brain Cell size for almost every available laptop. My PowerBook G4 fits perfectly in a Size 4, and they make a Size 4x just for the MacBook Pro. Phil puts his 17" PowerBook in a Size 1 Wasabi Brain Cell in his Super Ego bag. In addition to the nine sizes, you can choose from five colors. My Crimson cell is a nice bright red with a black handle.

After using my bag for a few weeks, I notice no wear, little dirt, and my shoulder thanks me for not dropping six pounds on it every time I go out. This is not a good client visit bag, because only a few items, such as a power supply, a small mouse, and some papers fit in it with the machine. I do feel that my Mac is out of harm's way while in the bag and like the simple design a lot.

by ilene hoffman, Reviews Editor


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