by John Nemerovski, with help from David Weeks
During the last hour of the ultimate day at Januaryâ€™s San Francisco Macworld Expo I was finally able to examine an exciting new line of PowerBook and iBook computer cases by a company with an intriguing name and clever logo. The BOOQ booth was so crowded during my previous attempts that I was worried there would be no more laptop sleeves for MyMac.com to investigate. Founder, CEO, and designer Thorsten Trotzenberg gave me two very different items to review.
First comes PowerSleeve 12, a dual-purpose shoulder/hand carrying case. Its heavy rubber handle is solid, providing a good grip that wonâ€™t dig into your hand during a sprint out to airport gate G-398 at terminal 74. A large, comfy pad is easy to slide into position on PS12â€™s adjustable, removable shoulder strap.
Fabric on the sleeve is black heavy-duty ripstop nylon. A two-piece substantial buckle and strap close firmly and securely, but the bottom section, a three-pronged inserter, dangles far below the case when not being used.
There’s a little zippered pouch on the front flap, only suitable for small thin accessories. A similar but larger full-back zippered compartment on the rear can possibly hold a charger and cable but not a whole lot else. Beware of the battle of the bulge.
PowerSleeve 12 is fashioned to be sleek and thin, with an attractive, lean design. Its hefty latch will never pop open by accident, and the case is constructed with ample padding around its edges.
If all you need to carry is your 12â€ PowerBook or iBook, this is a good case, but it’s far from being a suitcase for your laptop. David would like to have some more room for accessories. PS12 is too small for his personal taste and road usage, because he sometimes need to take week’s worth of peanut butter sandwiches when he flies.
Readers should be aware that BOOQâ€™s PS12 has two intended applications, according to Thorsten, that differ from Davidâ€™s usage. PowerSleeve 12 slides into another backpack as added protection to your laptop (its main reason to exist), plus it lets you carry your laptop on short commutes (to a wireless coffee shop, or from office to office).
Our rating: for carrying a teensy computer and not much else, BOOQâ€™s PowerSleeve is a very good product, with a MyMac.com rating of 4 (Nemo) to 4.5 (Weeks).
Do you know what â€œmambaâ€ means? If not, stay in front of your computer and donâ€™t venture into the tropical rain forest. Think â€œboa,â€ because the smaller case weâ€™re reviewing easily zips onto BOOQâ€™s larger Boa.XL backpack for overnight web surfing in the jungles (concrete or other).
Mamba.XS is versatile, beginning with its split personality as solo case or accessory carrier, and continuing with included hand-grip plus single/double padded shoulder straps. Mambaâ€™s rear support surface is heavily padded and ribbed for strength.
David doesnâ€™t like the fact that Mamba.XS has adequate room for carrying stuff inside the zippered front compartment, but when it is fully opened, everything comes rocketing out of the inside front panel pouch. Youâ€™ll need to make sure which end is up when you open the front flap.
A 12â€ iBook or PowerBook slides into the main zippered compartment, which has good padding, including a hefty bottom cushion. Mamba.XSâ€™s fabric handle has no rubber grip, which seems a mistake when compared to PowerSleeve 12 and other competitors.
A thin, zippered storage compartment inside Mambaâ€™s front section exhibits the same type of problem as mentioned above, meaning you have to be careful and open it all the way or your precious contents will spill out sides. David would rather not have to unzip both accessory sections fully for access to their pouches. With no bellows expandability, watch for big bulges when overstuffing interior sections. BOOQ includes a nice touch: a little clip for your keys.
We realize Mamba.XS is designed to be an extremely compact, lightweight case that lets you carry all necessary accessories. Obviously, this product is not meant to be a full-featured backpack, and should not be viewed from this angle. Attached to the Boa.XL, the combination creates a full-featured backpack for larger laptops and full accessory storage.
Examining Mamba.XSâ€™s straps, we observe backpack straps that hook onto D-rings that attach to the bag with strong plastic loops. Adjustable shoulder pads are too easy to slide around when the case is in backpack mode. As a shoulder bag instead of backpack, the pad on the single strap works more normally.
Once you adjust Mambaâ€™s strap(s) you should be all set, but David suggests users might want to remove the strap pads and simply use unpadded straps in backpack mode. He advises that you won’t need serious padding for a trek up Baltoro Glacier with your PowerBook using Mamba.XS, because a traveler who needs more storage space will graft this versatile small case onto its larger sibling.
For standalone travel, David remains critical of Mambaâ€™s lack of storage space, saying, â€œIf I’m going to go the time and trouble to use a backpack, I still need expandable pockets.â€ Our MyMac.com rating is 3.5 (Weeks) to 4 (Nemo).
Itâ€™s a decent case, except for our unhappiness with the shoulder pads. â€œThis is a shoulder bag passing itself off as backpack,â€ says David, excepting its attachability to Boa.XL, which we havenâ€™t yet tested. Stay tuned to MyMac.com, please!