Kensington Contour Terrain Notebook Case
We really like the business-casual exterior of the $50 Kensington Contour Terrain Notebook Case. Its drab-olive canvas body and brown-corduroy accents are a bit more upscale and subdued than a Timbuk2 messenger bag but still not as stuffy as your typical black-nylon bag. Based on looks alone, in fact, we thought we'd found our laptop bag of choice. But despite the Contour Terrain's attractive appearance and largely functional design, we ran into a few deal breakers during our use: First, the weight of our 15.4-inch laptop strained the straps so much that we're worried they would rip out after a few months of regular use. And secondly, even if the straps proved sturdy, the bag's fabric material lacks structure and looked very misshapen when we carried our laptop in it. In the face of these concerns, we'd rather carry a nondescript black bag than spend money on a bag that at best looks disheveled and at worst seems likely to fall apart.
Two padded handles on the Kensington Contour Terrain's exterior let you carry the bag like a briefcase, and a shoulder strap attaches (via sturdy metal clips) to metal D-rings on opposite sides of the bag. The placement of the strap anchors helps keep the bag close to your body whether you carry it over one shoulder or messenger-style. On the front of the bag, there's a large, slit pocket to hold a bottle of water or a cell phone at the ready, though without a way to close the pocket we'd worry about the cell phone falling out. A horizontal, zippered pocket stretches the length of the bag and provides a more secure place to stash your cell phone, plus a boarding pass, tickets, or other items that need to be secure but still easily accessible.
A thick, double zipper opens about halfway down the side of the Kensington Contour Terrain Notebook Case, letting you readily access most of the bag's interior without running the risk of losing its contents. We like the light-khaki lining inside the bag, which makes it easy to spot even the smallest thumbdrive. One side of the bag includes a thickly padded laptop pocket with a Velcro strap to help secure your laptop in place; the other side includes a slender, slit pocket that's ideal for pens (it also accommodated our Treo 650, though the fit was snug) as well as an 8x6-inch zippered pocket for accessories. The rest of the bag's roomy interior is unstructured and can easily accommodate your laptop's power cord plus several spiral notebooks or a Sunday newspaper.
The Contour Terrain's canvas-and-corduroy exterior provides a welcome respite from the sea of nondescript black-nylon bags you usually see on the street. However, the fabric could benefit from some additional structure. When we loaded the bag with the 15.4-inch Toshiba Tecra A8 and a few books, the fabric stretched, and the bag became considerably distorted. The anchor points for the shoulder strap and the handles seemed to be carrying the whole weight of the bag, which didn't inspire our confidence in the bag's long-term durability; the straps seemed likely to rip out after several months of daily use. When we removed the books and carried just the laptop, the bag still lost its shape; the anchors looked similarly strained even when the bag held only a 12-inch ultraportable laptop. Even if the shoulder strap and handles prove to be more firmly attached than they appear, we simply don't like the bag's distorted appearance when we carry it.