The continuing search for the perfect iPad/Netbook man-purse (Round 2)

What makes a great iPad bag? We take a look at eight notables.

Scott Stein Editor at Large
I started with CNET reviewing laptops in 2009. Now I explore wearable tech, VR/AR, tablets, gaming and future/emerging trends in our changing world. Other obsessions include magic, immersive theater, puzzles, board games, cooking, improv and the New York Jets. My background includes an MFA in theater which I apply to thinking about immersive experiences of the future.
Expertise VR and AR, gaming, metaverse technologies, wearable tech, tablets Credentials
  • Nearly 20 years writing about tech, and over a decade reviewing wearable tech, VR, and AR products and apps
Scott Stein
4 min read
An iPad bag worth owning: the Tom Bihn Ristretto for iPad. Sarah Tew/CNET

The iPad's a great device: useful, portable, dare we say revolutionary. Unfortunately, it's a tough gadget to find a good bag for. The problems are myriad: the small size and slim design seem to lend themselves to tiny bags. Tiny bags, however, are often both impractical and unappealing to a lot of people, myself included. Over the summer, I began a quest to find an iPad bag that wasn't too "murse"-like, too awkwardly small and useless. I started with four that had their ups and downs, but in the end none of them was perfect.

iPad/Netbook murses (photos)

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For the second round, we've found a few other manufacturers and designs that up the ante a little more. Are they as cool and useful as the iPad itself? We've rated each on an informal Style Index and Humiliation Index; a perfect bag should aim for 10 in style, but 0 in humiliation. Not only did we find a few good bags, but we may even have found a perfect one, too: the Ultimate iPad Man-Purse.

Booq Boa Push ($89)
Booq wins the prize for pure style in an iPad messenger bag, crafting an immediately eye-catching slim leather-and-Twylon over-the-shoulder bag that looks like it's made to go with $300 designer jeans. The problem is, the whole bag's too slim for its own good. An inner iPad compartment makes up nearly the entire bag, and it's a tight fit for iPads in cases (although Apple's slim case works narrowly). The pocket has exposed corners on the top and bottom, leaving a naked iPad at risk to a sudden downpour. Similarly, a stylishly sewn front iPhone pocket leaves smartphones too exposed on a subway, and the two slim pockets--one inside, one on the back--are barely large enough for a Moleskin notebook. Forget about carrying any power adapters. It is comfy, though: the seatbelt-nylon strap rests nicely on the shoulder and lies flat on the sides of the bag. Make the Push slightly bigger next time, and we have a winner.
Style Index: 9
Humiliation Index: 5

M-Edge Journey Bag ($69)
M-Edge makes a variety of Kindle and iPad cases, and the Journey is one of its few bags. At first glance, it's as sleek and sharp as a form-fitting suit. Available in red, blue, or black, our model looked a bit too metrosexual the more we used it. Even worse, although the zippered compartments inside are quite roomy (the iPad also gets its own padded zippered pocket), the large, stiff front panel is useless; a middle buckle is hard to unsnap on the go, and a lack of front pockets on the interior or outer flaps make this a terrible pedestrian commuter bag. It will, however, look respectable for a job interview.
Style Index: 7
Humiliation Index: 7

Tom Bihn Ristretto for iPad ($110)
More expensive than most iPad bags, the Ristretto earns its price with well-thought-out design and very practical, roomy pockets. Available in a wide variety of interior/exterior colors (we prefer olive green), the Cordura nylon vertical bag holds an iPad in a dedicated sewn-in rear pocket with its own protective fold-over flap that's large enough for a 10-inch Netbook, too. Another front pocket and several zippered subcompartments can hold an iPhone and far more--on a recent press event we managed to fit an iPad, an 11.6-inch Netbook, a camera, a USB dock, and our wallet and keys. Multiple rings and clips hold keychains or separately sold zipper-wallets. A thick shoulder pad isn't easily adjustable and the metal side buckles are prone to squeaking, but this is the most versatile and nonembarrassing iPad bag we've yet encountered.
Style Index: 8
Humiliation Index: 1

Tom Bihn Co-Pilot ($110)
Designed, as you might imagine by its name, as an airline carry-on bag, the horizontally aligned Co-Pilot has a puffier, looser feel than Tom Bihn's other Ristretto bag. It also holds a ton of gear: a roomy inner main pocket has a removable padded iPad/Netbook sleeve, but is otherwise free to use as you wish. Three front compartments are oddly aligned, but are meant to hold gear in the two side multipockets and a water bottle/umbrella in the vertical center pocket--a small hole in the bottom is meant to help with moisture drainage. A back pouch can hold a boarding pass/magazine, but it also unzips on the bottom to become a strap for attaching to the handle of larger wheeled luggage. The bag's undoubtedly practical and spacious, but perhaps better left for frequent fliers.
Style Index: 4
Humiliation Index: 5