Review: Cobra.XM Laptop Case
Requirements: 14- or 15-inch laptop
Those of you who have been reading ATPM for a while may remember the Tom Bihn ID Messenger Bag review from a couple years back, in which I said of the ID, “If you’re upper management, this bag is probably too ‘hip’ for you, with its range of stylish colors and suit-wrinkling one-shoulder design. Besides, you wanted black leather, right?” If the standard black leather case is just too stuffy for you, but you still have to fit in at the office, Booq’s ballistic nylon Cobra.XM is your bag. Its understated style is subtle enough to blend in, but different enough to give you a sense of individuality in a sea of suits, ties, and PHBs that would make Dilbert cry. As a bonus, it comes with a nice shoulder strap should you find yourself wanting some extra support for your workload on Casual Fridays.
This is really two bags in one. The outer bag is very much a standard take-everything-but-the-kitchen-sink-with-you laptop bag, while the inner bag is essentially a lightly padded, lined sleeve with handles and D-rings for a shoulder strap.
The shoulder strap, by the way, deserves a mention on its own. It’s removable, adjustable, and comes with a shoulder pad and rotating clips to prevent twisting, as most quality laptop bag shoulder straps do. However, the hardware seems to be powdercoated cast aluminum, and the strap itself looks like a car seatbelt, which is unassailably cool.
Double-bagging provides a safety margin at the grocery store, and so it does here as well. I wouldn’t bet my ’Book on it, but with a 15" PowerBook safely tucked away in the inner bag, and the inner bag slipped into the main compartment and zipped up, the setup seems like it would easily survive a tumble down the stairs at the office without allowing the precious contents to be damaged.
Pockets and little sub-compartments are hidden away everywhere, as you can see above. I have no doubt in my mind that this bag could be zipped up with everything in that photograph inside and still have room for a cell phone, iSight, and possibly a bag lunch. This bag is truly cavernous. Unfortunately, its weight reflects that. The empty bag weighs six pounds, which is a lot for a bag with no significant metal and very little hard plastic in its construction. The size is a double-edged sword in another respect, too—it’s easy to forget where you’ve put something in one of the five main pockets, especially if you really pack the bag full of accessories. If you run out of room—an occurrence I’m having a difficult time imagining—the bag will expand by one-and-one-half inches simply by unzipping a circumferential zipper. If you run out of room in that, perhaps you need something a little bigger.
Other than the weight, there’s very little not to like about this bag. Getting the sleeve in and out of the bag is a bit tricky, and getting the computer out without removing the sleeve is downright impossible, so packing up or removing your machine is always a two-step process. Getting the computer in and out of the sleeve is also marginally more difficult than it could be had the zipper gone down the sleeve’s sides a little further.
Were this not such a cavernous bag, I would also take issue with the design of the computer compartment. There’s a divider and pocket in there to keep some files in the same pocket as the computer, but the computer and sleeve take up almost all the room in the compartment, so the pocket is pretty useless. These small complaints, though, are mostly offset by the feature that justifies Booq’s claim of “the ultimate professional laptop case”: the back of the bag has a panel that allows it to be attached to the collapsible handle of most common suitcases. This is a godsend to frequent travelers.
Messenger bags not big enough, or too hip for the senior partners to tolerate? Need a new carry-on to accompany you in accumulating another free trip to Hawaii? If you place a higher priority on a subtle look and ultimate capacity than über-portability, the Cobra.XM is your bag, baby.