Versatile and stylish laptop bag with options. (September 1st, 2008)
Product Manufacturer: WaterField Designs
Price: $179.00 US
- Multiple compartments. Fits your Mac laptop perfectly. Removable shoulder strap. Sturdy construction with hard panels integrated into the bag. Luggage handle channel. Two handle options. Six accent colors available.
- Accessory pockets don’t have closures. Neoprene section seemed less finished than the rest of the bag. Shoulder strap pad not adjustable. Pricey.
The most important piece of equipment in my writing arsenal, outside of my MacBook, is the bag I use to carry it around. In 16 years of freelancing, I've swung back and forth between traditional briefcases and the latest in messenger bags and backpacks. I expect a bag to protect my computer, hold all my accessories, not be elephant-heavy, and look good. I've used the WaterField Designs Racer-X bag for a month and can say it lives up to most of my requirements. Let's start inside the bag and work our way through its features.
Versatile Cargo SpaceMy first look at the Racer-X led me to believe that it was just another conservative travel-style laptop briefcase, until I used the handle. With its optional mountain bike handgrip, WaterField has made this bag stand out and has given it real functionality. The grip is easy to hold and comfortable, even when the bag is fully loaded. You can also choose a standard dual leather handle when you order, but the bike grip is a neat touch.
While some people prefer a padded strap, I often default to the integrated handle on my bags because I toss them onto the passenger seat of the car and seatbelt them in. A shoulder strap flapping about only gets in the way. The shoulder strap can often hinder your movements while at a meeting too, and has in more than one instance, come perilously close to knocking over coffee cups. To this end, the Racer-X includes a minimalist designed shoulder strap. The thin straps have metal hardware at the ends that swivel nicely so they won't tangle. A puffy, padded shoulder pad in the middle is fixed in place, so to adjust its placement you have to move strap buckles equally on both sides.
A well-thought-out piece of construction was putting the D-rings for the strap at an angle across the laptop section of the bag. It keeps the bag snug to your hip and prevents it from bouncing around, as some other bags are wont to do.
The bag has perfect dimensions, 14.75"x 11"x 4.25" and is designed specifically to fit the MacBook Pro like a glove. Minimal room to move means less chance for damage. The Racer-X comes in four sizes and prices to fit any Mac laptop.
Inside the Racer-XThe front pocket on the outside is fine for quick access. The finishing and stitching is smooth and attractive. I don't recommend you put any valuable items in the front pocket because there's not clasp there; it's just a folder pocket.
The first zippered section contains four segmented pockets, a key strap, a strong pen pocket, and a main compartment, lined in gold for easy sight. This is for easy access to your stuff, not your laptop. The four inner pockets are large enough for various office items. The smallest can hold a CD sans jewel case and the largest holds a Macintosh laptop power cable.
This front section doesn't zip all the way to the base, so it won't flip open flat, which makes accessing items a little more difficult than I like. In addition, the compartments don't have any fasteners, so stuff can tip out unless you maintain some bag awareness. I've had my briefcase dive to the floor upside down on more than one occasion while driving, and with the Racer-X, my stuff would be all jumbled at the top of the closed compartment.
Laptop SectionWaterField Designs gets big pluses and two significant question marks from me for this section of the Racer-X. When you create a laptop-specific bag, I expect you to protect my baby. WaterField has done this admirably. The hard inserts on the back of the bag and dividing the sections are perfect. It's like having a hard sided piece of luggage for your laptop, so your laptop is protected. The surface area inside the section is also a nice cushiony neoprene that won't mar the computer and adds even more protection.
Question MarksYou can actually disassemble the bag and remove the neoprene from the laptop section. It's attached to the side panel by Velcro only. When removed, the inside of the bag looks as if it's still on the assembly line. I suppose this is convenient to clean the neoprene, but I find it odd. I also wonder why the zipper on the side of this section only goes halfway down the bag. If you've loaded the front with accessory hardware and folders, plane tickets, and maybe a clean pair of underwear, you need a little more versatility to slip your laptop in the back. I think full zippers are a must on any bag but this one doesn't have them.
FashionableThe black bag weighs less than three pounds (2.8 lbs) and it comes with accent piping around each section and the front in one of six colors - blue, black, brown, green, red and silver. You can slip your luggage handle through the handy zippered slot in the back. Each zipper is finished nicely with cord and a plastic fob to make them easy to operate even with gloved fingers. The outside ballistic nylon is water-resistant, but this wasn't specified in the literature or on the site. It does shed dirt easily and doesn't mark or scratch.
The wrap-upI take my livelihood in my laptop on a scooter, on a bike, in my car, and on public transportation. If you're living as varied a commuting existence, I suggest going with a different style bag. Yet, for the regular commuter who is looking for a solid, minimalist bag to protect their laptop and hold a few essentials, the racer-X should meet all your needs. Price is a touch high based on the limits I mentioned earlier, but the investment is worth it for that one time you drop the bag or it leaps from your passenger seat.
Related Product Reviews:
Vertigo Mambo Combo
iPod Gear Pouch and iPod Case
Edited by Ilene Hoffman, Reviews Editor