The fine folks from Gearzap.com were kind enough to send over this case for review.
Meet the Belkin messenger bag for laptops up to 12.1â€. This small and lightweight bag has a cool two-tone color scheme. All of the outside parts of the bag, excluding the zipper tabs, are brown, while the inside parts of the bag are a cool teal color. Belkin calls the colors on this version of the case chocolate/tourmalineâ€ and they also offer it in a few different color combinations. I personally think the two go very well together. The bag puts these two contrasting colors to stylistic use by allowing a bit of the inside to peek out on the front of the bag. The zipper tabs are also the same color as the interior, providing some neat highlights without trying too be too flamboyant.
If you’ve already bought a a 12.1â€ laptop, you are probably trying to stay mobile. Buying a case to fit helps keep your kit nice and light, and there is a certain satisfaction to having a case that holds your notebook just right, as opposed to just buying a generic bag that’ll fit anything between a netbook and your microwave. Having said that, the notebook pocket inside this Belkin messenger bag fits my 12.1â€ HP tablet perfectly. The main pocket’s zipper doesn’t go all the way around which means that the top doesn’t â€˜flap’ over, it just opens and allows you to slide the desired contents inside. While the zipper doesn’t go all the way around, it does go down pretty low on the sides, making access to the main pocket easier than some others cases I’ve tried.
Let me give you a quick rundown of all of the pockets. Starting from the front, there is a pocket where you see that vertical strip of blue color. The zipper follows the strip (it runs vertically up and down the bag) and when unzipped you reach into the bag sideways (horizontally). Behind that, but still on the front of the case, there is the horizontal zipper pocket and inside there is interior holder which is presumably to hold an MP3 player, as there is a hole that will allow you to thread your headphones out of the pocket while your player remains inside. Skipping over the main pocket (I’ll talk more about that in a moment), on the backside of the bag is a sleeve-like pocket which would be good for quickly stowing papers as it is held shut by a single section of velcro as opposed to a long zipper.
Now on to the crux of the case: the main pocket. Despite this case being pretty small and fitting the notebook just right, the main pocket is quite spacious. The part that actually holds the notebook inside the main pocket is sort of a plush and padded sleeve with an elastic strap that secures the notebook and is fastened with velcro. I’m glad that this strap is elastic because it easily stretches around the notebook whether it has the standard or extended battery attached.
Also inside the main pocket are plenty of holders to organize all of your stuff. I was able to fit a good deal of assorted objects in the case, and just to demonstrate how nice and spacious it is there is even room for my netbook in addition to my notebook!
The build of the case is also quite good. The stitching is well spaced and areas that need to be reinforced had extra attention payed to them. In particular, the shoulder strap doesn’t just connect at one point it runs just about all the way up and down the sides which gives it more attached surface area, which should make it more durable. I was surprised to find that this bag lacks a shoulder strap pad (an extra cushiony area) — even some smaller bags that I’ve used have been equipped with a pad on the shoulder strap, so considering that this bag is larger and carries a heavier laptop, I was expecting the pad to distribute the weight around your shoulder, but alas there doesn’t seem to be one, despite the apparent inclusion in most stock photos of the bag (as seen on the right). However, Belkin makes this case in several sizes, so it is possible that it is only included on larger models.
All in all, I would definitely recommend this bag if it fits your notebook. It has an easy to access main pouch, and good build quality. The notebook holding section fits 12.1â€ devices perfectly, and the main pocket still has plenty of room to spare. Despite the apparent feeling of spaciousness, the bag is still rather small and light, maximizing portability, which is the reason you bought a nice small 12.1â€ notebook to begin with, right?
If you are in Europe, the guys over at Gearzap offer this case or you can browse their site for others (they have a pretty good selection, but only ship to Europe at the moment) . If you are in the US, Buy.com has the Jet/Cabernet version of the bag, and Amazon has a good selection of the same bag but at a larger size.