Review: Solo Urban At Ease Messenger Bag

Urban chic laptop bag for student or professional. (September 29th, 2008)

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Product Manufacturer: Company: SOLO (registered Trademark of U.S. Luggage LLC)

Price: $69.99 US

The Good

  • Top quality materials and construction. Comfortable. Spacious. Plenty of pockets.

The Bad

  • No padded wrap for shoulder strap. Some inner pockets have no flaps.

Laptop bags are probably one of the most widely produced computer accessories, with hundreds of models to choose from dozens of case manufacturers. Choosing a case can be difficult, especially if you want to find one with style and functionality, that doesn't look too generic. Solo answers this need with the At Ease Messenger, a stylish, city-inspired bag with plenty of pockets and a clean, semi-professional look from their Urban Collection.

I look for three things in a laptop bag: Aesthetics, functionality, and quality. While these are obvious features to look for, flashy looks or name brands typically distract from an otherwise appalling product, to the unknowing end-user. Luckily, the At Ease Messenger fills all these requirements exceedingly well.

 At Ease Messenger

I'm very pleased with the design of this soft, urban-chic briefcase style bag. The refreshingly minimal asymmetrical pattern on the front of the bag includes a few neat squares and stencil-style numbers on the right-hand pocket. Many expensive designer bags include a busy pattern resembling a map of the Tokyo subway system in order to detract from obvious design flaws or questionable utility. Best of all, it is not glaringly obvious that it is a laptop bag. Thieves instinctively look for the generic black ballistic nylon weave bags, because they usually contain a laptop. Less obvious bags are more likely to be overlooked from a casual glance around the room by a would-be thief.

A Truly Functional Bag

Functionality is where the At Ease Messenger shines. Solo offers 12 pockets, including the laptop sleeve for a MacBook Pro and a concealed document pouch on the backside of the bag. Three pockets adorn the front, with one offering a semi-sealed pass-through for headphones. The bag measures 16" x 12.5" x 6" and the open inside pockets accommodate most common accessories.

 At Ease Messenger Inside

Inside the At Ease Messenger

My favorite pockets on the At Ease Messenger are just under the front flap. The pockets zip across the top and down the side facing the outside edge of the bag, allowing for easy closed-lid rummaging. An expandable side pockets accommodates larger items, such as a water bottle.

Excellent Quality

I was very impressed with the quality of the bag, especially considering its reasonable price. The tough canvas cover is wear resistant. It also adds a degree of water resistance, which is enhanced further by other water-resistant materials stitched into the lining. Rigid air cushioned padding on the backside of the bag also softens any impact when walking.

 At Ease Messenger Back

Black At Ease Messenger Back

Stitching is tight and rugged, and not one loose thread has appeared in a couple months of use. All hardware on the bag is metal, except on the bottom half of the latches. Since flex is necessary for these pieces to operate, it is not a concern, especially since they feel solid, while maintaining their bendable nature. The front latches also adjust, so that the bag closes tightly around its contents.

The handle is padded and rounded so it does not cut into fingers when it is carrying 15 pounds. I really appreciated the thick webbed shoulder strap, which looks as though it could support the weight of a full-grown grizzly bear, since it is so tightly weaved. The stitching holding the strap to the bag is equally impressive, using a tight zigzag stitch to secure it on both sides, similar to the clasps on the front.

For the price, I can't imagine a better bag for urban students. The At Ease Messenger may also suit graphic designers, photographers, as well as any user who appreciates quality and design. Sadly, the bag only comes in two business-like colors, black with brown trim or tan. An olive or navy bag would be a nice addition to the line.

by Galen Wood


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