It’s a backpack. It’s a computer case. It’s an iPod dock. It’s a mobile speaker system. It’s a winner. You need one. Which color should you get?
Skullcandy’s black and yellow color scheme makes the most sense from the three available models of this pack. Your pack will get filthy through constant use. I really like my red and white colored pack, but its white straps quickly picked up dirty smudges when the pack was placed underneath an airline seat.
I didn’t receive an official written manual with my evaluation pack. A company representative provided brief itemized instructions that are less than comprehensive. One customer support web query and one quick call to tech support answered my questions about the slightly confusing sequence of buttons to press for optimum audio and battery management. High marks go to Skullcandy for its responsive customer support, in spite of the missing manual.
MyMac recommends you buy and use rechargeable AA batteries for this and all suitable battery-powered devices. You will save a load of money in the process, and you’ll help keep landfills less full of throwaway batteries. Best is to have rotating sets of four rechargeable batteries, so that freshly-charged batteries are always on hand.
Audio quality from the small built-in shoulder strap speakers is good but not great. Low to medium volume is fine, but high volume has some distortion. Once you become familiar with the pack’s right hand in-strap iPod controls, you’ll use them instinctively. They are easy to operate, and are responsive to the touch. You will get a thrill from having your pack burst into song in places and with people who least expect it, but don’t be any more obnoxious than you need to be. A punch in the nose is not worth a Cheap Trick.
For $100, Skullcandy’s audio features are alone worth the price tag, but this is not a novelty or instantly-disposable pack. The audio components are fully integrated into the pack’s construction, which is exceptional. At that price, the pack minus audio is also a great value.
We test a lot of computer packs and cases at MyMac, and this is one of the best. I’ve used it on two demanding trips, with great success. During last January’s Macworld Expo, a red Skullcandy Audio Pack was my constant companion. It performed flawlessly. It’s the one on the left in the photo below.
On a recent family reunion vacation, friends and family were intrigued and impressed with the pack’s many features and components. At last month’s Tucson Mac User Group demo, the members were amazed at how I could fill the auditorium with music from my laptop backpack, and how easily I could switch tracks, all at the touch of a button on the pack strap.
The exterior long, vertical mini-compartment is where I keep pens, business cards, a charger, a book, and an apple (the edible kind). In the large central zippered drop-in compartment, I travel with food, eyeglasses, and technology accessories. In the main zippered drop-in compartment I store my MacBook Pro, change of clothing, and personal accessories. This pack holds a load of gear with comfort and style, and has half a zillion zippered and velcro enclosures and storage pockets. My iPod and headphones reside in the designated size pocket; the pack has a mesh water bottle pocket on the opposite side. Bonus: computer and iPod each have rugged, flexible neoprene sleeves to contain them.
Balance and weight distribution are good whether the Audio Pack is mostly full or not. I don’t use the stomach cinch snap strap, but there is no way to remove it. The top deck neoprene grab handle is large, flexible, and comfortable to hold.
Skullcandy is more of a lifestyle company than a serious laptop case manufacturer, but don’t let appearances fool you. Their Audio Pack is a quality item that deserves to be recognized for its many merits and competitive price. MyMac strongly recommends it, with a rating of 4 out of 5. It would have a perfect score if the red pack’s straps were black, and if the written manual was better or available online. Otherwise, load up and boogie!