Carrying an iPad a year ago involved searching for the perfect bag, and the problem back in 2010 was that many bag makers hadn't figured out the iPad yet. Flash forward to mid-2011, and the iPad 2 and original iPad feel nearly ubiquitous--so, too, do iPad bags. Finding one that matches the iPad's sleek styling is a harder challenge, and one the Booq Cobra Courier XS meets while still offering ample storage in a small package. Though $145 is a lot to pay for a small bag, it's hard to do better for a sturdy/stylish/practical triple-threat.
The Booq Cobra Courier XS feels in some ways like a microminiaturized version of the Booq Boa Squeeze, a backpack we loved back in 2009. The Squeeze managed to be thin and small, yet it packed lots of pockets with plenty of padding. Similarly, the over-the-shoulder Courier XS is a tightly built little black bag made out of ballistic nylon and topped with Nappa leather, with a thick rubber bottom underneath.
The combination of leather, nylon, and chrome slots where the seat-belt-strap nylon wraps around and underneath the bag, and the rugged gridded rubber bottom combine to make a bag with lots of shades and patterns of black. It's the perfect quasi-executive bag to take out to an interview or business dinner or meet up at a bar with, but it's also functional enough to be a good commuting bag. It's smaller than a standard messenger bag, but it doesn't cross over into any absurd territory. It's a few inches longer and wider than the iPad itself.
The "seat-belt-nylon" shoulder strap lacks any padding, but that turns out to be a good thing: because of the way the straps are threaded through the bag itself, there are no metal buckles on the side to make noise or flip the straps around. This ensures that the strap rests flat on the shoulder, and the bag stays close to your body without much jostling.
A rear open pocket large enough for a magazine, boarding passes, or even the iPad also has a detachable key ring. Inside, there are three sets of compartments. A well-padded and felt-lined inner pocket for the iPad can hold a first-gen iPad naked, or an iPad 2 with Smart Cover and rear back cover (which is why it's become a lot more attractive to us in 2011). A large main compartment has room enough for a notebook or two, plus there's an iPhone-size pocket and two pen holders. Finally, a zippered front compartment runs the length of the bag and is deep enough to hold any odds and ends, such as coins, cables, or USB thumbdrives.
Our only real fault with the Cobra Courier XS is its lack of extra sealing-off of the iPad pocket. A large leather front flap keeps the bag closed, but it uses two Velcro patches to keep shut. The seal is passable, but we would have preferred buckles or magnets. Plus, while the flap covers the bag's interior, there's no additional zipper or flap in case of sudden downpour. The bag protects against rain, but it feels vulnerable at the leather flap's corners. The bag's rubber bottom's a nice touch, though; it adds an extra bit of safety in case the bag rests on wet pavement.
Booq's bag has got plenty of style, feels comfortable if dense, and has just enough pockets to be practical, plus it's nighttime friendly. For all these reasons, we'd advise you check out the Cobra Courier XS for yourself if you're in the market for an iPad bag. We've liked it after intensive use, and you probably will, too.