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While we suspect real-life hackers wouldn't use this laptop bag (the cyber cops could just look for the guy with the laptop bag called "the hacker"), this case from Timbuk2 impresses by stealthily transforming from a saddle-style messenger bag to a backpack, thanks to hidden backpack straps that can deploy when needed. At $120, the Hacker is on the expensive side for a nonleather bag, but the company is known for making bags with solid construction, useful pockets, and valuable extras, such as a waterproof lining on the main flap and bottom of the bag.
Measuring 12 inches wide by 15.5 inches high by 6.5 inches deep, this is what we sometimes call a vertical bag, or a saddlebag. Your laptop fits in with the side edge down, rather than lengthwise. This is an increasingly popular style, as it can look less bulky than a traditional laptop bag, which has to be at least as wide as your laptop. Our ballistic nylon review unit had a two-tone blue design, but black and dark green versions are also available.
The zippered main compartment is divided into a roomy front section and a corduroy-lined padded rear section, designed for 15-inch or smaller laptops. The corduroy lining is a nice touch, and feels like it would protect a laptop from scratches. Another compartment under the front flap is too small to hold anything bulky, but it includes several smaller pockets for holding pens, cell phones, and other small items. There's also a water bottle holder on the side panel, which is almost considered standard equipment for a decent laptop bag these days.
The front flap has two adjustable pull straps, useful for getting a little extra room when something bulky (such as your gym shoes) is stuffed inside. The interior face of the front flap, as well as the bottom panel, are both made of a waterproof rubberized material, which is something every laptop bag should offer.
The backpack look, even with one strap slung nonchalantly over the shoulder, just doesn't work for most people. But if you insist on looking like a tourist, two adjustable backpack straps are tucked into the rear face of the bag. Pull them out and detach the padded shoulder strap and you've got a traditional backpack design. We think the Hacker works better as a shoulder bag, but to each his/her own.