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Timbuk2 Zip Laptop Sleeve

February 20th, 2011 No comments

5 Stars- techdad

Timbuk2 Zip Laptop Sleeve

I recently received the Google Chrome Cr-48 Notebook, which is a 12.1″ notebook, and I wanted to get a very basic protective sleeve for it. After a few misses, I finally settled on the Timbuk2 Zip Laptop Sleeve.

PROS

  • Light weight
  • Excellent build
  • Protects against scratches

CONS

  • Difficult to determine proper size

I tried two neoprene sleeves before the Timbuk2 because they were advertised as being suitable for 12.1″ notebooks. Not so much. Both the Toshiba and Case Logic sleeves I tried were too small for the Cr-48. The Toshiba wouldn’t fit at all and the Case Logic was so tight that the zipper teeth were dangerously close to the casing of the laptop. I remembered that Timbuk2 had a nice selection of sleeves so I decided to give them a try. Apparently, Timbuk2 has decided to offer a variety of sleeves for iPads and Kindles, but they now only sell ONE sleeve for notebooks, albeit in different colors and sizes. I was hoping to avoid zippers for fear of scratching the laptop and I remembered Timbuk2 having envelope-style sleeves. Unfortunately, they no longer make them for notebooks so I went ahead and got the Zip Laptop Sleeve.

BUILD QUALITY & APPEARANCE
As usual, Timbuk2’s build quality is top notch. The stitching is perfect and the YKK zippers open and close smoothly. Alleviating my fears, the design of the zipper is such that the laptop is protected via a stitched lip that prevents the teeth of the zipper from ever coming into contact with your precious notebook. The zipper runs down to about two-thirds of the way down the sides. The interior is made of a felt material and prevents the case from scratches. The exterior material is a ballistic nylon. There is also a quilted pattern on both the outside and inside which might appeal to some, but I would have personally preferred it plain. You do get a choice of colors though.

FEATURES
The Zip Laptop Sleeve is bare bones. There are no pockets, handles or straps. There is also very little padding, which is perfect for me since I have padded bags to toss it in, but if you need something more robust, you should look elsewhere. I’ve read a lot of sleeve reviews where buyers lament about not having enough padding, pockets, and storage. Personally, I don’t expect all of those things from a sleeve. I have a full-on laptop bag if I want to use a dedicated bag. I was looking for something light weight that I could throw into my camera bag, backpack, messenger bag, diaper bag or luggage.

SIZING
The only difficulty I would describe with the Zip Laptop Sleeve is figuring out what size to get for your laptop. Here are the sizes and external dimensions (in inches) below:

Size Width Height Depth Weight
XS 11.02 7.87 1.18 0.26
S 13.58 10.24 1.38 0.37
M 15.16 11.22 1.38 0.41
L 17.32 13.39 1.38 0.55

For my Cr-48, I ended up with the small size. It’s not a perfect fit as I have about an inch of extra room at the top and about an inch total on the sides. I decided to see if my 14.1″ Dell Inspiron laptop would fit inside of it and it did. In fact, it fit so well that you would’ve thought it was custom made for that particular laptop. Interestingly, the tag that came on the sleeve describes it as being for 13″ laptops. I would say that if you have a notebook from 12.1″ to 14.1″, you’ll probably want to get the small with the knowledge that for anything under 13.3″, you’ll have some extra room. If you have a 15″-16″ laptop, you’ll definitely want to try the medium. 17″ probably warrants the large sleeve. And finally, anything in the 10″ range should try the extra small. I’m not sure about 11″ screens though.

CONCLUSION
The Timbuk2 Zip Laptop Sleeve is pretty much what I wanted in a sleeve. It’s a basic sleeve that I can place my notebook inside of and then throw into another bag of my choosing. It’s good for scratch protection and a small amount of impact. If you want more out of a laptop sleeve, you’ll have to look elsewhere, but at that point, why not just get a full laptop bag?

Available from Amazon.com or from Timbuk2 direct.

Categories: Reviews Tags: , ,

BlackRapid SnapR Bag/Strap

February 3rd, 2011 4 comments

5 Stars- techdad

BlackRapid SnapR Bag/Strap

If you haven’t heard of BlackRapid, it probably won’t be long before you start to hear about them more often. To great fanfare, they took the standard camera strap and ingeniously created an innovative camera “sling.” Until BlackRapid came along and introduced the R-strap, the only innovation in camera straps were related to padding and comfort. I see many DSLR owners out and about with their original OEM camera straps around their necks. To that, I say “ouch!” With a small but growing product line, BlackRapid decided to introduce a new solution for point & shoot cameras. Their hard work paid off with the new SnapR Bag/Strap. If you’re a Canon G-series or Nikon P7000 owner, you should keep reading.

PROS

  • Perfect fit for Canon G cameras (G9-G12) and Nikon P7000
  • Quality construction including zippers
  • Two side pockets for accessories
  • Unique, yet practical method for carrying your camera
  • Very easy to bring the camera up to shooting level from hip level
  • 3 ways to use the SnapR

CONS

  • Could use a small grab handle

SIZE & CONSTRUCTION
The first thing I noticed about the SnapR was the build quality. The quality materials were well put together and the zippers opened and closed smoothly. I’d dare say that the build quality surpasses that of Lowepro, who you might already know I’m a big fan of. The attention to detail was very refreshing. From the buckle covers to the expandable side pockets and the rubbery bottom, you can tell that someone at BlackRapid was paying very close attention. The SnapR is not a small bag. It’s not meant to be. The SnapR is an advanced bag/strap for your advanced point & shoot. So Canon G12 and Nikon P7000 owners, this is the bag you didn’t know you wanted, needed or even existed.  BlackRapid states that the SnapR fits cameras up to the following dimensions, 5.25″ x 3.25″ x 2″. The Canon G12 is 4.41″ x 3.00″ x 1.90″ while the Nikon P7000 is 4.5″ x 3.1″ x 1.8″.

BlackRapid SnapR Bag/Strap

USAGE
The SnapR in its basic form, is a camera bag with a removable shoulder strap. The strap has a thin but comfortable shoulder pad that is also removable. The strap has a non-slip side that keeps it from venturing off on its own. The opening where you place the camera inside is unique in that it’s actually on the small side (not the side with pockets) of the bag, not on the top. This works well in combination with the strap function of the SnapR.

In the strap configuration, you screw a stainless steel fastener to your camera via the tripod socket. The fastener is unique to the SnapR and is referred to as the FastenR-SnapR. Like their other fasteners, it has a loop that you thread a short male buckle strap to, which you then connect to a female buckle end that is attached to the long shoulder strap. In this configuration, you can let the camera hang down on your hip and when you need to take a photo, you can slide the camera up to your shooting level very quickly. The female buckle end on the main shoulder strap glides freely up and down the strap. This also has the advantage of securing your camera in case you drop your camera while handling it; it’ll just slide down the strap back down to your hip.

If you decide you just want to carry it in your hands, you can unbuckle your camera from the shoulder strap and attach it to the included wrist strap. When you’re done shooting, just unbuckle it again and store it inside the bag. Amazingly clever, don’t you think? If you want to put your camera down on a flat surface, give the FastenR-2 a few twists to remove it, otherwise you’ll have to lay your camera down on the LCD or lens.

The official SnapR video below requires a few seconds to buffer up before it starts.

MISC
The MSRP of the SnapR is $39.95, which is a very small price to pay to help protect and conveniently use your $400+ camera. The only thing I hope BlackRapid will consider adding in the future is a small grab handle at the top. When setting the bag down, I’m forced to either grab the entire bag by the sides or use the long shoulder strap. Neither of those are as convenient as having a small grab handle.  BlackRapid warranties their R-strap for 1 year and I assume it is the same with the SnapR.

CONCLUSION
If you own an advanced point & shoot camera, this is an amazingly functional bag/strap to pair it with. Even users with smaller cameras will likely find it useful. The build quality is top notch and bests even industry stalwarts like Lowepro. The BlackRapid SnapR is one of my favorite camera bags of all-time.

Available via 3rd party sellers on Amazon.com or directly from BlackRapid.com.

* Review sample courtesy of BlackRapid Inc.

Timbuk2 Snoop Camera Messenger Bag

January 20th, 2011 2 comments

5 Stars- techdad

Timbuk2 Snoop Camera Messenger Bag

After trying a few different camera bags, I was left feeling a bit unfulfilled. None of the bags I had tried really left me feeling the same way about the bag as I did about my new Canon EOS Rebel T2i. I started looking at bags from Crumpler, which looked great and were well rated. Out of curiosity, I decided to browse through my favorite bag company’s website. Hold the presses! Timbuk2 now makes a frickin’ camera bag! Had I known earlier, I wouldn’t have bothered with the other bags.

PROS

  • Subtle, but attractive appearance
  • Very durable
  • Good camera padding
  • Weather resistant
  • Removable camera compartment
  • Easy to adjust strap
  • GREAT customer service
  • Adjustable tripod straps

CONS

  • No grab handle
  • Front pockets not very useful
  • Shoulder pad not comfortable enough

There are bags, then there are Timbuk2 bags. There are bag companies, then there is Timbuk2. In 1989, Timbuk2 began making messenger bags for, well, bike messengers and for the young, hip crowd in San Francisco. For as long as I’ve lived in San Francisco (since 1995), I considered Timbuk2 bags as the crème de la crème of messenger bags. I’d long pined for a Timbuk2 bag and was finally able to have one to call my own just a few years ago––a limited edition Commute laptop bag.

Timbuk2 Commuter Cross

Since then, I’ve been fortunate enough to add a few more products from Timbuk2 and for the most part, they have been outstanding additions. The company also stands out for having outrageously good customer service as well. I have never been disappointed in their service. They’ve always been prompt, courteous, helpful, and even downright funny. When I found out that they recently added the Snoop Camera Messenger Bag, I knew without a doubt, which bag I wanted for my gear.

APPEARANCE & BUILD
The Snoop looks just like their classic messenger bags. It retains the three-panel design, their unique logo, ballistic nylon fabric, and reflector tails. If you didn’t know any better, you’d say it was just your average Timbuk2 messenger bag, which is why I love the bag so much. There would be no way for anyone else to look at your bag and tell that you had thousands of dollars worth of camera equipment inside. It comes in three different color combinations to suit most anyone’s tastes. Build quality is also top-notch, as always. Every stitch is perfect and you’ll never find a loose thread on a Timbuk2 bag. Chances are, the Snoop will outlive your equipment.

Timbuk2 Snoop Camera Bag storage

STORAGE
The Snoop comes in two sizes– small and medium. The medium is actually difficult to find as it sells out fast whenever it’s in stock. I consider the small size just big enough to carry a DSLR, a couple of lenses, an external flash, and a few small accessories. The slash pocket inside can also hold a small amount of papers, folders, or magazines. It’s also large enough to fit a small laptop inside but I wouldn’t recommend it on a regular basis as it doesn’t have any padding on the backside and it also makes the bag extremely heavy. The medium Snoop, which is the size I prefer, is larger all the way around than the small. The camera compartment can probably fit the camera, 3-4 lenses, flash, battery charger, spare batteries, and maybe a filter wallet. You could probably remove a lens or two and fit an extra body in there as well. The velcro dividers are easy to work with and can be configured in a number of ways. I only plan on storing my Canon Rebel w/18-55mm lens attached, 55-250mm telephoto lens, an external flash, battery charger, and lens caps in the actual padded compartment. It’s also nice that I can leave my Crumpler camera strap attached. I prefer the medium bag because I can put bulky items like my charger in the bag without having to rely on the front organizer, which isn’t very useful.

Timbuk2 Snoop Camera Bag organizer pockets

The front organizer is a layered layout which means that once you store something in one pocket, it invades the space of the other pockets. In their classic messenger bags, this is OK because items in those pockets can take up a little space in the main compartment and it works. The Snoop bag however, has the padded camera compartment pushed right up against the back of the organizer pockets allowing only really flat items to be stored in them. The Napoleon pocket on the other hand, is bigger and deeper and can hold more items. For now, I keep my charging cord, LensPen, and Spudz microfiber cloth there for quick access without having to unbuckle the cover. I also would have appreciated a water bottle pocket on one of the sides but as far as I know, none of the Timbuk2 bags have one. When deciding on which size to choose, I would say go with the small if you really only plan on carrying the bare necessities with you. Go with the medium if you want a little more flexibility. Keep in mind though that the medium is almost half a pound heavier than the small. The dimensions of the two sizes are below:

Size Width Height Depth Weight
Small 15.9in 9.65in 4.72in 2.16lbs
Medium 19.3in 10.43in 7.87in 2.57lbs

USAGE
Adjusting the main strap is incredibly easy and the True Fit cam buckle allows you to unbuckle it for easier placement on or removal from your shoulders. You just click the buckle back in for your pre-selected fit. The large velcro strips on the front and the two buckles keep the cover securely closed. The Snoop also comes with a pair of velcro silencers if you need to access your gear more discretely. The shoulder strap is nicely padded but I found that with all my equipment inside, it was actually a bit uncomfortable. Luckily, I bought the Timbuk2 Deluxe Strap Pad and it is much more comfortable. I highly recommend the Deluxe Strap with the Snoop. At the bottom of the bag are two tripod straps to allow you to carry your tripod with the Snoop. The only bummer is that when you go to put the bag down, you’ll be placing your tripod on the ground with the weight of the bag on top of it. Still, having the straps is better than having to carry your tripod by hand. Lastly, the entire camera compartment zips up independently of the messenger bag and can be removed. This is a cool function that allows you to use the Snoop as a normal messenger bag when you don’t need to carry your gear around with you but still need the utility of a messenger bag. How cool is that? There is one omission from the Snoop though, that I can’t understand why it was left out. The Snoop could really benefit from a grab handle. If you look at the photo of my Commute bag, you’ll notice the grab handle. It would make life with the Snoop a bit easier if I could grab it by a handle rather than having to grab the entire strap. Since Timbuk2 saw the benefit of a grab handle on the Commute laptop bag, I’m surprised they didn’t also see the benefit of it on the Snoop camera bag.

Timbuk2 Snoop Camera Bag interior

CONCLUSION
Timbuk2’s Snoop Camera Messenger Bag is a great camera bag and has some unique functions that differentiate it from your average camera bag. The price is definitely not for the timid, but trust me when I say that this bag will last a very long time and if it doesn’t, Timbuk2 will make it right. I only had a couple of small nitpicks, but they certainly didn’t detract enough from the overall quality and function to keep me from recommending the Snoop. Go get it. Now.

Available from Amazon.com or from Timbuk2 direct.

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Lowepro Passport Sling Camera Bag

January 7th, 2011 4 comments

4 Stars- techdad

Lowepro Passport Sling Camera Bag

Now that I just purchased my first digital SLR, I needed a bag to carry it in. I originally chose a standard style bag but quickly decided it wasn’t for me. It looked too much like a camera bag and I didn’t care for the way it was organized and the dividers didn’t quite work for me. More research online led me to the Lowepro Passport Sling Camera Bag. If Lowepro is listening, I have some suggestions for a new bag that would work even better for me and perhaps others.

Read more…

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Belkin Wilshire Collection 15.6-Inch Laptop Case

December 7th, 2010 No comments

4 Stars- techdad

I ordered the Belkin Slim Ultra Durable Case because I was looking for an attractive no-frills bag. When I opened the shipping box, I knew I had made the right decision.

The main compartment is just large enough to hold a 15.6″ HP dv6t laptop with a standard battery. It’s cushioned fairly well on the sides and bottom. The interior lining is a standard fabric and won’t scratch the currently prevalent glossy plastic finishes on laptops. The zipper opens and closes smoothly and the teeth have sufficient clearance so I don’t worry about it scratching the laptop during use. The zipper pulls, made of brass, also have lock holes so you can secure it with a luggage lock.

There is only a single pocket on this case but it encompasses the entire front of the case. The zipper is about 1/4 of the way down. The zipper teeth are hidden for a more attractive appearance and glide smoothly as well. This pocket is definitely large enough to hold papers, legal pads, file folders, etc. I use it to hold my AC adapter and a notebook mouse.

The clips on the shoulder strap are very nice and swivel in all directions but the pad could use more cushioning. Most 15.6″ laptops weigh anywhere from 6-9 pounds so more padding would’ve really helped with comfort. On the other hand, there are two comfortable handles for easy carrying when your shoulders get sore. Lastly, Belkin’s website states the bag has a lifetime warranty but the tags on the bag all say 1 year. I printed a copy of the website just in case.

Belkin Wilshire Collection, Slim Ultra Durable Case is the perfect slim business laptop case. It has a classy and professional appearance and has just enough utility for the minimalist. Road warriors would be wise to stay far far away because the case only has a single large pocket and isn’t as comfortable as you’d like. But for those of us who want a simple and attractive bag, this one is just right.

Available from Amazon.com.

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