Timbuk2 has been at the backpack/bag game for a long time and they make a bunch of bags so you would expect that they have pretty good handle on what should and shouldn’t go into a laptop bag.
For curiosity’s sake, I let their website guide me through the process of picking a bag. After entering my laptop (a 13 inch MacBook Pro, thank you for asking!) I was presented with no fewer than 30 options that fit my computer. For a certified bag nerd like myself, it was sort of a glimpse into heaven.
For the next 1000 or so paragraphs (give or take) I am going to be talking about the Control Laptop Case which I have been dragging around for the last couple of weeks.
The Control is a fairly slim over the shoulder bag. It is made of a lightweight nylon and will fit up to a 15 inch laptop and the unloaded bag weighs less than two pounds. The bag I have is in gunmetal gray with algae green accents and black straps. The Timbuk2 logo and characteristic “squiggle” are reasonably subtle and the bag has modern, professional look to it.
The double handles on the Control are strap material doubled over and are lightly padded. They are serviceable, and given that the Control is not a “kitchen sink” kind of bag, they will do well, but if you do load the bag up with heavy stuff you will be more comfortable using the shoulder strap.
The shoulder strap is removable via quick clips and has an adjustable shoulder pad that is cushioned and has breathable foam on it to keep you from sweating. This pad is also removable should you choose take it off and has two five-inch loops of nylon on it in case you want to attach a clip or carabiner to it. The attachment hardware is high quality aluminum.
The front of the bag has two big gusseted pockets that are each seven inches square. They are open on top but have a single fold over flap that covers both of them. This seals shut with velcro on each pocket and these odd, latch type buckles can affix to loops on the front of the flap for additional security. These are good spot for cables or a paperback book but I would hesitate to put anything small and valuable in them as I would be concerned about stuff falling out.
I don’t get the buckles. They are difficult to attach and they don’t seem to add a lot to the velcro attachments. The Timbuk2 logo at the bottom front of the bag is a loop, and I found myself attaching them to this and leaving them that way to keep them out of the way.
The first zippered compartment on the Control is your catch-all compartment. Good quality zippers have pulls on them that look a lot like heat shrink and the zips stop where the strap attaches to the bag so you get an envelope style opening for this section.
There is an organizer panel on the back wall of this section with three pen slots, three open top pockets about 3 inches in width and a single pocket with a velcro top fold over closure. The front of the section has another open top flap divided in half to give you two more 7 by 9 inch pockets. These are actually divided with a velcro strip so you could turn it into a single large pocket if you needed to. The center section of the bag is an open section that is about 1.5 inches wide at the bottom. You could put one decent sized text-book in here but two would be a challenge.
The next zippered section on the bag unzips completely on three sides to allow it to open and lay flat. The side on the inside of the bag is divided to be able to store a tablet and a power supply. The inside of these pockets is lined with a cherry red tricot and has enough padding to make me comfortable putting a naked iPad1 in the pocket, but it has enough space that you can fit an iPad in with a case on it. My Adonit Writer case fit in here quite nicely. I really like that the iPad will fit in this pocket in either portrait or landscape orientation. The tablet is held in with a fold over velcro strap that is 1.5 inches wide.The power supply pocket is sealed with a velcro patch on the top and is 4 by 9 inches.
The other side of this section is where your laptop will go, which will put the laptop next to your body when you are carrying the bag messenger style. This pocket has the same red tricot interior but it is quilted to give you a little better padding. The laptop is sealed with a fold over velcro strap.
The backside of the bag has a piece of nylon sewed across the whole back panel. It is sealed on the sides, open on the top and sealed with a velcro strip on the bottom. This allows you to use this section as an additional pocket, or to open the bottom and use it to piggyback the Control onto a roller board handle.
I took the Control case on an international trip and the TSA approved laptop section went through security here and abroad with flying colors. I just unzipped the bag all the way around, laid it flat on the conveyor belt and cruised through without having to take anything out of the bag. This was a huge plus and for the frequent flyer makes this bag a big time saver.
Because the Control is only about 3 inches thick it will require some discipline if you are used to carrying kit for every possible emergency in your brief case. I found this to be a good thing because it made me ask myself, “Why do I need to carry TWO back up drives, two tablets, 6 power supplies and a laptop plus enough accessories to be accused of robbing a Best Buy?” If you think I am an idiot for even considering asking this question than a larger briefcase may be a better choice for you!
I was able to comfortably put a 13 inch laptop, a tablet, assorted power supplies, various cables and video widgets, a notebook, paper tickets and passport, a point and shoot camera, smartphone, USB travel mouse, pocket flashlight, Monster travel power strip, various manuals, two pairs of ear buds and a Jobe gorilla pod inside with a touch of leftover space. This is not a small list but your mileage may vary.
The bag is well made with good materials, reinforced stitching and a reasonable amount of pockets for organization. I enjoyed carrying it and the X-ray easiness is worth a lot.
On the downside, there is a whole lot of velcro in this bag, and I seem to only need to open velcro at the quietest part of a lecture or presentation. 8 different seal points are based on hook and loop closures, so you will almost always be using one. I would have liked to see a key ring attachment in the main section of the bag and I wish at least one of the internal pockets was sealed by zipper for a bit more security.
At less than $100 the Control Laptop Case is a good mid-sized brief with the TSA approved laptop and tablet section making it an excellent choice for power travelers. Timbuk2 obviously knows their audience and makes a bag that is perfect for the application.
I am giving away this Laptop Case on October 31, 2011. Details are here.