Mobile Edge has long been a trendsetter when it comes to women's laptop bags; the company was one of the first to concentrate on incorporating serious functions in a fashionable case. The Element briefcase continues the tradition, wrapping a number of thoughtful organizational touches--as well as solid laptop protection--into a stylish briefcase.
On the outside, the Mobile Edge Element looks like any other business tote, with colored poly-suede side panels in your choice of three colors: brown, pink, and green. (We carried the green.) Whatever your color choice, the handles and accents on the bag are made of brown faux leather. We're not overly fond of faux leather, but the high-end look of the poly-suede gives the bag a sophisticated appeal.
The exterior of the bag includes a shallow zippered pocket that's large enough for a paperback or a day planner; the opposite side includes a larger file pocket that secures with a single Velcro tab. A small mesh pocket on the side of the bag can hold sunglasses or a cell phone (though not a smartphone).
The bag itself consists of three main compartments, each accessible via a sturdy double zipper and lined with a satin fabric that's striped in the same colors as the exterior. (This attractive interior garnered more than one compliment from women at the coffee shop and library.) The front section opens wide to reveal a number of organizer pockets, with space for a cell phone, business cards, pens, and lipstick, plus Mobile Edge's "wireless security shield" pocket, which the company claims will keep phones and PDAs safe from hackers. There's also a deep zippered pocket for valuable items, such as a wallet or checkbook, and the front side of the compartment includes eight more file pockets for papers of various sizes. We really like that this section of the bag opens wide for easy access to the contents, yet has accordion-fold fabric along the sides to keep small items from falling out.
In the center of the bag there's a heavily padded laptop compartment with an elastic Velcro strap to hold your laptop in place; the bag is large enough to accommodate 15.4-inch laptops. Even with a bulky laptop in place, there's room left for a magazine, notepad, or a few file folders.
The third compartment, which like the front area opens wide for easy access but has fabric sides to keep small items in place, includes two large sections for file folders and other paperwork. This is also where you'll find Mobile Edge's signature removable accessory bag, which is useful for corralling mice and USB keys, stashing makeup, and even serving as a clutch purse in a pinch. The accessory bag attaches to the interior via a small hook dongle that's also handy for keeping keys within easy reach.
The bag feels sturdily constructed, with one notable exception: the shoulder strap. Though we found we preferred to carry the bag (containing our ultraportable laptop) by its two briefcase handles, we did find the shoulder strap handy when we needed to keep our hands free. (And a 15.4-inch laptop may prove too heavy to carry in one hand, necessitating constant use of the shoulder strap.) The strap itself seems a bit narrow for the size of the bag, but it is made of nylon and attaches to the bag via steel fittings, so we figured we'd be OK. Unfortunately, one of the fittings on our review unit fell apart the second time we carried the bag, dropping it from waist height onto concrete. Luckily, the bag's padding adequately protected the laptop.
Of course, one incident doesn't mean every bag is flawed, and Mobile Edge does back the Element with a lifetime warranty, so the strap would be readily replaced. Barring that annoyance, the Mobile Edge Element would be one of our favorite fashionable laptop bags.