Computing may indeed be reaching a crossroads where ultraportable devices become as easy to tote as a softcover book or a thick issue of GQ. It certainly seems that way when toting an iPad or a thin Netbook around. Unfortunately, neither has solved the problem of making a bag for these devices that's not semi-humiliating.
The joke about "iPad murses" has circulated the office for months now, yet there still hasn't been a clear-cut bag that's conquered the stereotype. We tried on a few recent offerings for some quick impressions, along with what we call a "humiliation index" (the larger the number, the less likely we'd ever wear it outside).
Cocoon Grid-It 10-inch Harlem Netbook/iPad Sling ($54)
At first glance, Cocoon's nylon and water-resistant sling bag looks like a giant iPad fanny pack. Its awkward shape makes for a horrible over-the-shoulder messenger bag, but it's actually meant to be carried behind the back like a one-shoulder backpack. In that position, however, it feels ripe for someone to rob your iPad from behind. This bag does have a nice side pocket and an additional MP3 player pocket, plus the debatably useful Grid-It card, which has overlapping elastic bands for holding various gadgets in place. Honestly, we would have preferred slipping our gear into pockets instead.
Humiliation Index: 9
Cocoon Grid-It Gramercy Messenger Sling ($29)
This other bag from Cocoon is nearly half the price, but it has a far more appealing look. The bad news is that the Gramercy has barely any pockets other than its central one, which is barely padded and narrowly accommodates an iPad in a slipcase. For Netbook users, there's no room here for an AC cable. A front transparent pocket is the perfect size for an iPhone (and even allows control through the plastic window), but it's hard to pull the phone back out once it's in. Like the Harlem, the Gramercy comes with a Grid-It card as well, which is basically the only way of carrying loose cables and items in the small space. But, hey, at least the price is right.
Humiliation Index: 4
Booq Taipan Slim XS ($69)
We've had some strong feelings of love for Booq's laptop bags, and were undeniably curious about the company's tiny Netbook/iPad sling. The well-padded case feels sturdy and ready for the elements (we carried it through rainstorms with no worries), and a furry interior lining and elastic pockets cradle an iPad and other devices nicely. A side zipper pocket and an open side pouch offer some extra stowing room, but it's a shame that the bag's quarters are needlessly cramped to accommodate its sleevelike look. Plus, it looks a little too much like a miniature metrosexual laptop bag.
Humiliation Index: 6
STM Bags Scout Laptop Shoulder Bag ($49)
We gave a full review to this hipster-perfect olive-drab messenger bag, and really enjoyed its casual style and comfortable feel. I tried it on, too, and found it larger and better padded than the other bags, with a second interior flap for the roomy iPad/Netbook pocket. You may feel compelled to move to Brooklyn and start wearing fedoras after wearing this one for a while, but it's definitely the coolest of the bunch.
Humiliation Index: 2
Our search continues. Have a better suggestion? Let us know.