A laptop bag lives or dies based on its shoulder strap. Even a great-looking bag, with plenty of useful pockets and extra padding, will sit disused in the corner if the strap isn't comfortable, or is prone to sliding off your shoulder. The $49 Mobile Edge Ultra Portable Netbook Messenger Bag scores big for a heavily padded, very comfortable shoulder strap, plus an airport-friendly zip-open compartment.
We were less impressed, however, with some of the visual elements, such as the puffy black front flap and boxy front pocket. It's fine for college students and casual types, but far from slick enough for the corporate boardroom, or even a fashion district coffee shop.
That said, if you don't mind the look (and it's certainly far from offensive) this has quickly become one of our favorite laptop bags, in part because it's designed for smaller laptops, from 10-inch Netbooks up to thin 13-inch systems such as the Apple MacBook. The outside of the bag measures 15 inches by 10.5 inches and is 3 inches thick, and the latest MacBook just barely squeezed into the interior laptop compartment.
That interior laptop compartment is not padded (but the two outer walls of the bag are). Instead, the laptop compartment has a see-through plastic front face, with the words "Checkpoint Friendly" printed in big, white letters, and the entire bag zips open in the middle, to allow it to pass through airport metal detectors without removing the laptop. Keep in mind you must have the laptop alone, no wires or accessories, in its own compartment to comply with TSA rules.