Torq Computer Backpack plus Boot and Dart Laptop Sleeves
Company: Spire USA

Price: $160, $30, and $50, respectively (US)

http://www.spireusa.com

SpireUSA had a substantial booth at January’s Macworld Expo in San Francisco. This company was new to the staff of MyMac.com. I was mostly interested in rolling computer backpacks, so I didn’t do a detailed examination of Spire’s computer cases. Their newest high-end model, Torq, recently delivered to our ultra-tech testing facility (Nemo’s shoulders and back), is spacious, expensive, and designed for every possible carrying condition.

Torq includes a Boot sleeve, in any of nine sizes, depending upon which laptop computer you’ll be inserting. Spire’s Boots with oversized velcro cover flaps are always black, and Torq comes in your choice of blue, grey, black, or red. The latter was provided for our colorful evaluation. Dart sleeve is more spacious than Boot. Dartis available in grey or black, and black is the color we received.

Getting ready for a day in the life of John Nemo, Computer Tutor, I slid my 15″ AluPowerBook into the rugged, form-fitting Boot, and positioned the sleeve within its designated compartment. I placed as many accessories into Dart as I could safely fit, and put it into Torq’s other large compartment. My power cable and brick fit easily into a small, weatherproof, zippered front section, and my calendar, working notes, phone, iPod, headphones, and pens all occupied Torq’s portable-office-equipment fourth space. Zippers and flaps enclose and protect everything. Except for that small front zone, the other three are top-loading and oversized. I placed water bottles in each of the pack’s two mesh receptacles along the bottom sides. The case was heavy!

It will be tricky to describe the multitude of buckles, snaps, handles, straps, pads, clips, and doodads affixed and dangling from every possible surface and corner of Torq. I won’t bother to detail or photograph them, because there are so many. The result is that whatever you want to attach and however you want to carry this case you can do it. Convenient storage sections allow you to tuck in danglers that are not being used, or are getting on your nerves.

Make sure you look at the Specs tab on the Torq web page for itemization of its many features. My personal favorite it the large frontward zone, mentioned above, that has enough space and mini-enclosures for the office and personal supplies of a veteran road warrior.

Is it worth $160? That depends. Backpacks, computer or other, are very personal. I’ve been using them since 1960, and I’ve rejected many more than I’ve accepted. Torq is terrific, except for its primary padded right/left shoulder straps. They fit fine, but are not padded enough for my bony shoulders when I’m trekking more than a modest distance. Aside from that grumble, this case + sleeve will contain a computer, accessories, clothing, food, and other gear with sufficient capacity, safety, and access for our recommendation. The inclusion of a $30 Boot with every Torq is a grand asset.

Balance and stability are good when fully-loaded, either on your back, in your hand, or standing on the ground. I didn’t try the included padded shoulder strap, because Torq-when-full is too massive for a sensible person to use it as a shoulder bag, except in emergency. When loaded with gear, this case will not fit under an airline seat unless you really cram it in, and it will fit into most overhead bins of commercial airlines except for the dreaded short-distance pip-squeak regional jets.

Our red Torq evaluation model is stylish, and very well-constructed. Its topside carrying handle is seamless (bravo!) and sturdy. Weatherproofing protects its precious cargo in all storm conditions except a prolonged downpour.

We have reviewed many laptop sleeves here at MyMac.com. Dart is not exceptional, except for being more capacious and flexible than most. Dart has three clever full-length sections, and one for your iPod or similar gizmo. Pricing is reasonable at $50. MyMac.com especially likes the expanding front pocket that will hold a power supply, which many sleeves reviewed previously do not have. Dart also has a nifty removable key fob. This sleeve can be Velcroed into Spire’s packs as can their Boot.

You can read customer raves for other Spire products by navigating to their web pages and clicking on the “Reviews” tab, center right, for different packs. A chart comparing the entire lineup of backpacks is here. A generous warranty policy is here.

A year from now I’ll have plenty more to comment on these durable, practical, attractive laptop cases from Spire USA. During our initial evaluation period, MyMac.com is comfortable with rating Torq, Boot, and Dart each with a favorable 4 out of 5.

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