When Timbuk2 told us they were sending us their new Soma laptop case, we expected to receive a tricolor striped bag similar to those worn by bicycle messengers and seemingly everyone else in San Francisco. But the bag that arrived in our offices (which, we learned, was actually manufactured by designer bag maker Casauri) was downright conservative, with a monochrome exterior notably lacking the straps, reflective strips, and other geegaws found on the company's messenger bags. And we like it. Though the company's signature waterproof ballistic nylon fabric still seems a bit too casual for a formal workplace, the Soma's sleek lines and compact shape--plus its well-thought-out and easy-to-use design--make it a worthy laptop bag for commuting or travel. About the only reservation we have about recommending the Soma is its $100 price tag; for that price you can purchase the more fashion-forward Mobile Edge Milano.
Available in five subdued colors, the Soma laptop case will especially appeal to women who want both the durability of a messenger bag and the slim lines of a briefcase. Two soft straps let you carry the bag like a briefcase or throw it over your shoulder. We really appreciate the bag's exterior front pocket, which keeps necessities within easy reach. A double zipper opens three quarters of the way down the sides, letting you see and access the bag's many organizer pockets for business cards, pens, lipstick or a thumb drive, and cell phone (though our smart phone was too large for the designated cell space, we were able to find another pocket for it). Within the same exterior pocket are two zippered compartments for securing a wallet or other valuables, plus a red tether to keep keys from getting lost in the bag's abyss. An open pocket on the back side of the bag holds a newspaper or magazine for the commute.
The Soma's central double zipper opens all the way down its sides, allowing easy access to all of the bag's contents, while accordion-style folds of the light-gray lining keep the contents from spilling out the sides. A central molded and padded laptop compartment protects laptops with up to 15.4-inch displays; we like the Velcro strap that holds the laptop in place as well as the notches at the top of the lining, which let you get a solid grip on your laptop before pulling it out of the bag. On one side of the laptop compartment is an open section to accommodate notebooks and other materials; a letter-size pocket keeps loose papers or file folders in place. On the other side of the central laptop compartment are two deep pockets in the lining (large enough to hold a DVD case) that can keep power cords and other smaller items contained; one of the pockets zips closed for added security.
No matter how much stuff we stuffed in the Timbuk2 Soma, it kept its sleek lines and slim shape--a huge plus for business travelers who want to look put together even while lugging all their electronic necessities across the country. And the ballistic nylon material means the bag itself doesn't add much to the weight you're carrying. However, anything heavier than a 13-inch MacBook seems too heavy to carry on one shoulder for lengthy periods of time; as with most shoulder-style bags, the Soma is best for carrying ultraportable laptops .