Matias 17″ PowerBook Laptop Armor Slim, in black aluminum
Weight 6 pounds or 2.75 kg
Cost: $180 US for the large, $149 for the smaller.
Matias Universal Laptop Armor, with black matte exterior EVA shell
For 12″ to 17″ laptops
Weight 4.5 pounds or 2 kg
URL: http://matias.ca/laptoparmor/la1217u.php (or www.laptoparmor.com)
Cost: $130 US for the large, $100 for the small
(Review assisted by John Nemerovski and David Weeks)
I was impressed from the first time I saw one of these briefcases. Long ago for my cameras I carried an Anvil case, the high water mark for hard cases, and always like the idea of a hard sided case to protect my expensive things, so here was a chance to try one out. And if this Laptop Armor protects my computer the way they protected the case in shipping, I have nothing to worry about.
The case came packed so well, nothing was going to hurt it, not even the people at the post office. Of course, this also made me a bit worried. Was this case so fragile that it needed such strong shipping materials? In a word, no, they just want it to arrive in pristine condition, which it did.
This is a strong, sturdy, well-built briefcase with good hardware and a solid feel, and looks amazingly good too. And as I continue my search for the perfect 17″ PowerBook carrying case, I was eager to try something different from the array of soft cases in the past, and this was it.
Upon opening Laptop Armor, you will find a large space in the bottom for your computer, which is initially packed with a carrying strap and a small plastic bag full of padded strips with Velcro on both sides. In the top, there are a number of file pockets as well as two small and one large Velcro closing pockets for storage.
The idea here is to place your laptop in the bottom center, and add enough of these Velcro pads to hold in firmly in place. In addition, a wide, permanent Velcro strap running front to back keeps the computer from falling out should you open this case up side down. For my 17″ PowerBook, I needed only two strips on each side to hold it firmly in place in the center of the case, a recommendation of Matias for your computer s best protection. If you have a smaller PowerBook, simply add more pads. Of course, you can always purchase a Laptop Armor dedicated to its size as they come in 14″, 15″ and 17″ models which will reduce the need for more pads.
But this padding is my first complaint. Although this briefcase is fairly large, the ENTIRE bottom is used up by the computer and these pads. If you want this case to protect your computer properly, this is the only choice for placing it in here, and it wastes a lot of otherwise usable space in the bottom. Even if you buy a smaller case for a smaller laptop, the problem is the same. And leaving out the pads and filling the space with “stuff” can cause the computer to shift and hit the sides of the case while being carried, and that will surely cause some damage to your machine.
I also tried to move my usual array of files and “stuff” I carry with me every day into the upper part of this bag. There was no way this case was going to hold half of it. Ok, maybe I have to much stuff, but it works in all my other cases. And because Laptop Armor is hard shelled, there is no room to expand for “just one more item”. After my work files (about 6 file folders of papers), a few DVDs, and a power supply, this case was full. No place for a water bottle, sunglasses, or even my fairly small and thin Treo phone, all of which easily fit in the soft bags. This was not good.
As for protecting the PowerBook, this case will do that better than ANY case I have tried to date. Granted the soft cases have done an amazing job of padding, but they are still very susceptible to being hit, dropped, or struck in many ways that could damage the PowerBook. With Laptop Armor, if properly inserted into this case, your baby is safe. I put an old 540c in here and dropped it down the stairs, and it survived just fine. I do not plan to try that test with the soft bags, or with my 17″ PowerBook, but I was happy with the results.
As for durability, I was pleased that this test did not scratch the case nor cause any dents. However, the beautiful black anodized finish of this case can scratch, and received just such a scratch from just sliding it under an airline seat, leaving a large silver streak across one surface where the black came off. (Note, a black felt pen hid the scratch quite well!)
While the latches are sturdy, if this case is just slightly over full, they will not close without a great deal of force, and are VERY difficult to then open again. I found the key and locks to be too simple as well and easily picked with a dentist tool! I would really like to see a sturdy lock added to this case. And once you open the latches, the smooth, slick sides of this case, and the lack of any handle on the top half make opening it a bit difficult side if the top section is at all heavy. The need something to make the case easier to open when full.
Lastly, the carrying handle is strong and seems attached well and I had no fear of it coming off as handles often do. Unfortunately, is not padded, and as such, not very comfortable when carrying ten pounds of stuff for long periods of time. The four feet on the bottom however, which sit skewed at an outward angle, do an excellent job of standing this bag up on edge and keeping it there, even when full, so setting it down was never a problem.
Laptop Armor s over-the-shoulder carrying strap was strong, comfortable and easy to attach and remove in a hurry. But a hard case like this does not carry well over the shoulder as does a soft bag, and I wonder if I need to just play with the adjustable strap more to make it easier to carry this way?
All in all, if you do not have a lot of stuff to carry along with your computer, you want to protect your computer as well as possible, and you want to look good doing it, this case will do that, and do that well. It is beautiful to look at, very well constructed, and should last you a good long time. On the other hand, if you are like me and carry too much “stuff” with your PB, this may not be the best solution for you, as you will have to leave something behind with this case.
John s review unit was a different model, as he reports:
After you study the promotional material on the Laptop Armor web site (http://www.matias.ca ) for this and the other cases from Matias Corporation of Ontario, Canada, take a sideways glance at the sorry state of your existing PowerBook or iBook case and you wil be ready for one of these.
I tested the Universal model padded case, which is unlike any other briefcase-style computer carrier around. Like Owen s, it comes with numerous Velcro pads for custom interior configuration, four sturdy feet for standing upright without wobbling, a generous set of interior small and large pockets for containing papers, phones, pods, pencils, and passports, plus a quick-release shoulder strap that attaches via exterior connector pins. Laptop Armor s three strong hinges will withstand constant opening and shutting, but its snap-hold folding brace which holds the case open isn’t up to the rugged construction of the other hardware.
With my iBook safely enclosed by the pads and the single, wide Velcro strap, the Universal case has just enough room for power cable and mouse, plus the aforementioned papers and goodies. Weight and balance on the loaded Universal are good, but I too found that the handle had too many rough edges for carrying the computer any distance. The handle material and design must be improved, quickly!
The EVA scratch-resistant finish on this case will get dirty and beat up and still remain attractive and professional. During my first month using it, the exterior appears to be as good as new, inside and out, unlike Owen s aluminum model which is showing some signs of use. (Owen notes that he still like the way his case looks!)
The impression I make during my rounds as a private computer tutor is of a style-conscious pro. Instead of lugging in a couple of beat-up backpacks and a funky old rolling suitcase, I now appear at my clients doorstep with only my Laptop Armor case and a clipboard, leaving all the other gear in my car, where it belongs. With a couple of unsnaps on the top two clasps, my portable office is open and I m ready for action.
Most important when considering whether to purchase a Laptop Armor case is concentrating on what it IS, and not what it isn t (see my colleagues remarks in contrast). For an attractive, durable computer BRIEFCASE, the Universal model I m reviewing receives a serious recommendation, with gripes about the handle material and lid brace.
David Weeks borrowed John s case for a week on the road and in the air, and he disagrees with John s positive opinion, saying:
I used John s Laptop Armor Universal during a four-day airline trip, instead of my ancient-yet-reliable Targus carrying bag. The Laptop Armor looks like a million bucks, but it proved to be less suitable for my needs than my Targus bag. Here are my issues:
Nemo s Universal case was so large it didn’t ride well on the extended handle of my roll-aboard suitcase. While perched awkwardly on my suitcase, it was too wide to fit through the Airbus A320’s flight deck door, forcing me to carry it through separately.
Weight was also a problem. Given the fact that we’re reviewing something called “Armor, the case weighed too much, once it was packed for action.
Like Owen, for my usage, space was inadequate. While the Armor has neat little expansion pleats for papers, and a modicum of space for computer gear, it can’t pack nearly as much as my stretchable, stuffable, “I can pack one more thing” Targus bag. When all the little pockets are full, hard cases don’t stretch to accept that last paperback book.
On a positive front, the first thing to die on my Targus bag will be the zipper. The clasps on the Laptop Armor are elegant and very easy to use. And Targus has one big pocket that becomes a bottomless hole when you’re searching for that one item you stashed away. The Armor’s multiple compartments make it easier to store things for easy retrieval.
Plain and simple If style, looks, and ultimate protection of your laptop are your key needs, the Laptop Armor products are a good investment. When you require expandable storage, use a computer case constructed of high quality soft material. We rate the Laptop Armor bags a solid 3.5 out of 5. Fix that handle, and it would get a solid 4!