The search for the perfect laptop bag is a complicated one. Add too much padding, and a bag becomes unwieldy. Too little, and your laptop isn't protected. Too many pockets will leave most of them unused and wasting space, while having too few means everything has to be stuffed into the same compartment. While the green canvas military look of Solo's new Urban Vertical Messenger laptop case isn't as high-tech as other cases we've looked at, the company has somehow managed to find just the right mix of pockets, padding, and ergonomic design, making this $79 case our current favorite.
Designed for 15.4-inch and smaller laptops, the case measures 16.5 inches wide by 12.5 inches high by 5.5 inches deep. The main compartment is divided in two by a lightly padded pocket with a Velcro strap, and the nonpadded front section of the main compartment has two pockets sewn into it, big enough for an iPod or other bulky item (too often, smaller pockets in laptop cases are too tiny to hold anything bigger than a USB key).
The bag's outer flap covers both these compartments, and has a small zippered pocket and a small pouch on its front face, with a pass-though hole for your iPod headphones. Although these pass-through holes are a common feature on modern laptop cases, we find them to be pretty useless--it takes too much effort to thread the headphone cable through them, and then you have to go through the same hassle to remove them.
On the front face of the bag, under the flap, are three small pockets and two pen holders. These pockets are also big enough for a smart phone or similar device. Finally, an open rear pocket covered the back of the bag, perfect for magazines or papers. We liked the overall emphasis on fewer, larger pockets.
While most laptop cases are made from black leather and nylon, or look like colorful bike messenger bags, the Urban Vertical Messenger is crafted from simple green canvas. It's a welcome change, even if it isn't as sophisticated-looking as some of the other cases we've seen. The stripped down look extends to the simple 1.5-inch-wide canvas strap--which, despite a lack of padding, was comfortable and managed to stay securely on our shoulder, as well as the simple metal clasp on the front flap--a welcome change from the annoying (and annoyingly loud) Velcro on many bags.