Finding a good laptop backpack is difficult--in fact, what even qualifies a backpack as being laptop-compatible is often confusing. After all, briefcase-style laptop bags at least are clear about their intention, with specially sized computer compartments. Slappa's Velocity Spyder Pro Backpack, at $100, not only promises to carry around a 17-inch notebook without breaking a sweat, it also claims to carry other gear and even cold beverages at the same time.
Measuring a long and somewhat bulbous 22 inches, the Spyder is covered with rain-resistant nylon and black rubber webbing that gives it its namesake design. The overall effect is a bit goofy, and certainly not subtle. However, the material felt solid, and the rubberized bits did seem--as advertised--to keep the large outer shell's shape intact. Divided into three large chambers, the Spyder is basically a triple-pocketed backpack, with the middle two chambers running the entire length of the bag. All inner material is the sort of fuzzy-soft stuff that lines camera bags, promising a scratch-free experience for any gear that goes in.
The pocket closest to the back contains an extra-padded 14-inch-by-16 inch-by-2.5-inch Velcro-sealed laptop compartment, which was perfectly functional and rigid. The middle pocket is completely empty, with only a single webbed pouch the size of a water bottle. The Spyder's outermost zipper panel opens completely up to access a few dedicated Velcro-flap gadget pockets and a zippered pouch, and the panel itself can be opened for storage--a fourth mini-compartment. Having too many long, large compartments and too few small ones mean that tiny gear such as iPhones, iPods, and portable game systems could get lost in the Spyder's interior.
Other than that, the bag feels sparse. There are no outer pockets or webbed pockets. Above the shoulder straps and running down the back is a lined "cold storage" chamber that Slappa says is perfect for keeping snacks and beverages chilled. Since it rides down along your back, however, too many cans of soda will make your spine feel as if it's lying on gravel. Making that snack pocket long and thin instead of cooler-shaped strikes us as an odd design decision.
The Spyder felt perfectly comfortable on subway commutes and long walks, thanks to the extra-padded and well-fitting shoulder straps. An included MP3/phone pouch snaps onto the strap for easy access. At $100, it's expensive. It's also heavy--4.5 pounds empty, thanks to the heavy-duty material and padding.
The Spyder Pro has a 180-day replacement warranty if purchased through retail, or a 360-day warranty if purchased through the company's Web site.