Review: Tom Bihn Super Ego Bag

Exceptional quality and almost perfect design (July 10th, 2006)

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Product Manufacturer: Tom Bihn, Inc.

Price: $140.00 US

The Good

  • Plenty of “splash-proof” compartments. Loads of space. Appealing color choices. Fine attention to detail. Made in the USA.

The Bad

  • No Velcro on magazine pocket. Colleagues did not like Wasabi-Grape color combo.

It is a sorry state of affairs when the receipt of a new laptop bag fills me with excitement and joy, but that is exactly what happened when I unwrapped my Tom Bihn Super Ego bag. This is one of the new generation messenger-style bags, I referred to in my Courierware Super Deluxe bag review. I ordered a purple front (Grape) with an olive (Wasabi) interior, a seatbelt closure instead of a clip, (a $15 option), and a Brain Cell laptop insert colored to match the inner pocket (a $50 option). Even the Ultrasuede laptop keyboard (a $6 option) cover matches the olive innards of the bag. The striking look is clean without looking gaudy. The seatbelt clip adds about a pound to the 2lb, 10.65 oz bag.

Good Design and Water Resistant

The Super Ego doesn't get by on its good looks alone. The bag is very well designed, even compared to some of the other great bags reviewed recently. It answers some of the requests I have made, especially in its weather-proofing. The zipper that accesses the laptop compartment is "splash-proof." The Uretek zippers are advertised as watertight on mountain climbing gear sites. The secondary compartment, covered by the flap, is somewhat tapered at the top, so that the opening small is completely covered by the flap.

Room for your network

Pockets on this bag are a dream. The main compartment is massive, plus it is behind the flap, so you do not have to unbuckle the bag to get at the computer. It easily held my laptop inside the well-padded and firmly reinforced Brain Cell sleeve. Additionally, I fit loads of papers and folders inside, and it felt like it could have taken much more. The secondary pocket under the flap holds all my power bricks in pockets, but also provides a well large enough for 25' of Cat-5 cable and my lunch. Not my drinks, of course, those are held firmly in two large bottle holders with compression straps, on either side. For easy access, there are splash-proof zippered pouches on both sides of the center under the flap, and four large pouches for quick access.

Straps for the long haul

For comfort, I use the 2-inch wide padded nylon strap, but Tom Bihn includes a waist strap. This is a feature I've wanted on a shoulder bag, but isn't usually available. The waist strap holds the bag close to you for balance, and takes some of the weight off your shoulder for that long-haul carry. The bag is balanced in an unusual way. While most shoulder bags seem to center themselves so that you could stand them up on a table, the Super Ego lies flat against your body, but bulges on the outside. I actually appreciate this design because it allows for much more room in the outer pockets, and it keeps the heaviest items close, which aligns your center of gravity with the bag. This design feature is similar to the more expensive Booq Folee XM laptop bag, reviewed previously.

Customize for your Mac

There are six color schemes to choose from, so there's a bag for every taste. The Brain Cell sleeve matched the interior perfectly. The Brain Cell clips onto the inside of the Super Ego for stability, which is a problem I didn't even realize I had with other bags until Tom Bihn solved it. The Super Ego is not a small bag, and accommodates a 17" PowerBook well, but you must pick the correct sized Brain Cell to fit your machine.

It is hard to criticize the bag, but a couple of minor improvements could be considered. The magazine flap in the back could use Velcro. Now that I mention it, I searched the bag for any bits of Velcro, and there are none. That's a definite plus in my book, because I use my bag in very quiet, professional settings, and Velcro noise is never convenient. Nothing has fallen out of the magazine pocket, so maybe I'm nitpicking. Also, the tapered opening to the secondary pouch feels like it should have a drawstring on it.

Complete with urban lengend

Overall, this is an incredible bag. The weather-proofing alone is enough of a reason to buy the Super Ego, but the attention to detail, and the excellent workmanship seals the deal. I would be remiss to talk about this bag and not make an oblique reference to the infamous "Treason Tag," now the stuff of urban legends, but I'll let the readers check snopes.com and discover that out for themselves.

Edited by Ilene Hoffman, Reviews Editor

by Philip Berne


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