Brenthaven Pro Computer Briefcases

by Owen Rubin and David Weeks

Pro 12/15 and Pro 17 Apple PowerBook case.
Company: Brenthaven

Price: $149 for Pro 12/15, $179 for Pro 17

The search continues for that perfect bag for my 17” PowerBook, and it continues with a serious contender for the top spot, the new Pro series from Brenthaven. While this may look like your typical over-the-shoulder bag, the Pro is lot more than that.

The first thing I noticed when I opened this bag was the VERY WELL PADDED slot for the PowerBook. Called the CORE™ Protection System, this pocket is well designed so it should easily protect your PowerBook from any unexpected drops, bangs or bumps, of which I had several that caused no damage. The CORE pocket has substantial padding on all sides to offer extra side, front and back protection for your computer, and the 12/15 has spring loaded, curved pads inside to firmly hold either a 12” or 15” PowerBook securely in place. CORE’s spring tension is firm, but not so strong that you can’t easily remove the computer. The bag is constructed from a military grade ballistic nylon, so it should be able to easily withstand whatever punishment you can throw at it, and will continue to look good for years as well. Thank you Brenthaven for leaving Velcro out of this bag as a way to secure the computer!

But how does it work in real life? That’s the real question, so David and I decided to run it through it paces. David took his bag on two airline trips, while I commuted to work for several weeks with mine. Both bags have 4 zippered externally accessible pockets and an amazing number of internal pockets to hold all your stuff. David says he counted an amazing 15 pockets on the 12/15, while I counted 12 internal pockets, 4 pen pockets, and three slots for holding files. On the front are two pockets, a low, long pocket along the front that easily held my glasses, and a large pocket that opens to reveal 6 internal pockets, pen holders, and a place to clip your keys.

A large zippered opening on the top gives access to the CORE pocket, while a second zippered pocket, which opens fully around the entire bag gives access to more pockets and three folder/file slots. Most of the internal pockets are made of a mesh material that allows you to easily see what’s in them without having to grope around.

To quote David, “this bag will hold more than you should take with you!” And he is right. After moving all my stuff to this bag, there was, unfortunately, still more room, and it easily filled up with more stuff over time.

On David’s last trip, his bag easily swallowed the following: 15″ PowerBook, battery charger, spare battery, 6″ Ethernet cable, Kodak 7440 digital camera, SanDisk memory card reader, USB cable, 5 blank CD’s in thin plastic cases, SecuriKey USB security access device, an iPod, USB keychain flashdrive, a hardback copy of David Durham’s “Pride of Carthage“,two peanut butter sandwiches, one large bag of dried apricots, and one fat file folder of work-related correspondence. David says there was actually room for more, and I believe it because I easily stuffed as much and more into my bag, including the 17” PowerBook.

Both bags have extremely comfortable handles, as well as a very wide, well-padded contour shoulder strap attached diagonally across the top for excellent carrying stability. I appreciated this strap on my commute, as the empty bag weighs 3.8 lbs for the 12/15, and over 4 pounds for the 17. Add a 5.6 lbs. 15” PowerBook or a 6.9 lbs. 17” PowerBook and you are at nearly 11 pounds before anything else is added. David rarely carried his bag over the shoulder, opting to place the bag on top of his roller case. And while I appreciated the comfortable strap, I found myself often setting this bag down because of its weight. The flat bottom of the bag is very stable when set down, so this was not a problem, but this bag is heavier than most.

Construction quality is excellent, but the padding at the top of the computer pocket often made closing the zipper difficult, especially when the computer is inside. Also, unlike many other bags designed to keep the insides very dry, the top zipper design of this bag DID allow a small amount of water inside the bag. The padding kept the computer dry, but I was worried that long exposure to the rain would allow more water inside. A bit more thought to the pocket layout would be nice, with a few more zippered pockets inside to hold items more securely. Open top pocket just do not work for everything. And lastly, with all these pockets, still missing for me were external water bottle and sun glasses pockets, which seem to elude every bag maker except Timbuk2!

Both the Brenthaven 12/15″ and 17” Professional are excellent bags. The innovative spring-loaded pads securing the PowerBook on the 12/15 are far better than the usual Velcro straps many other bags employ, while the extra padding on the 17” should offer excellent protection for your PowerBook. It has more padded pockets, flaps, and slots than you will ever need.

But if you load it up, make sure to take your protein supplements, as you will need them to carry these beasts when full. rating: 5 out of 5

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