A great laptop backpack has several important qualities: good protection, a comfortable feel, ample storage pockets, and ideally a design that transcends the staid world of computer bags. We may have found the perfect mix with the $100 Booq Boa Squeeze. In a compact frame, the Boa Squeeze has more storage power than many larger backpacks, and wastes very little space while retaining a minimalist, eye-catching look. While $100 isn't cheap for a backpack (and we wish it had an over-the-shoulder strap to turn it into a makeshift messenger bag), the Boa Squeeze is worth the investment.
At first glance, the Squeeze seems too small. Taking it out of the box, it resembled a mini-backpack that a biker might wear, sleek and semiarmored in appearance. Covered in ballistic nylon, the Squeeze has a dark black outer shell that's sleek and curved, well-reinforced by padding underneath. It doesn't seem like a bag that can hold much more than a laptop, and a small one at that. But the ingenious quality of the Squeeze is that its zipper curves up and over the top and down the sides, peeling open, forming a padded gear-tube for storing a great deal of stuff inside. Once peeled open, the bag's gray and green padded interior becomes even more conversation-starting--in fact, we had several people comment on it on casual trips to coffee shops, and a few even stopped to admire the design.
Inside, the bag has a deep main compartment; a pocket with side-flaps to hold books, papers, or small items; and a rear laptop sleeve. The Squeeze is designed for MacBooks up to 15 inches, but it can hold a thick 16-inch Asus laptop snugly and easily, with room to store books in the main compartment and a charging cable in the side.
Best of all, the Squeeze has plenty of side pockets. The main opening flap on the front has deep zippered and padded pockets on the inside and outside--the inner ideal for loose change and small items, the center-zippering outer for storing boarding passes or maps when traveling. We'd have been happy there, but the Squeeze also has two large zippered side compartments on either side of the main bag, both of which open up fully and can be used to carry cables, gadgets, or any number of small memory cards in the numerous nylon pockets inside.
These pockets even have additional external elastic outer pockets for water bottles or other gear. This all adds up to a bag that's perfect for gadgets, and we haven't even mentioned that the thick, ergonomic backpack straps both have soft stretch pockets for carrying MP3 players, cell phones, or PDAs. Our iPhone slid in easily and held tight. At 17 inches long by 11.8 inches wide and weighing 2.9 pounds, this is a perfect carry-on laptop bag.
While the Squeeze is best used as a laptop bag, we spent the better part of a week carrying it around with an SLR camera body, books, and other portable gadgets inside. Since the bag doesn't scream "computer carrier," it also feels like a safer way to port around a laptop.
A padded handle on top makes holding the bag when it's not strapped onto your shoulder even easier, although one quibble we did have with the Squeeze is that it doesn't stand up straight on its own--placed on the ground, the Squeeze tips over. A flat bottom might have been an improvement.
All Booq bags come with a limited five-year warranty replacing defects.