Skip to Content
Skip to Table of Contents

← Previous Article Next Article →

ATPM 11.08
August 2005


How To




Download ATPM 11.08

Choose a format:

Accessory Review

by David Blumenstein,

Brenthaven Pro 12/15


Developer: Brenthaven

Price: $149

Requirements: 12″ or 15″ laptop

Trial: None

More than two decades, half of my life, has been spent on the quest for the ideal computer bag. Along the way I have encountered many, many bags, in all form factors, sizes, and styles. As I advanced in years, I recognized that my tastes and needs have advanced as well. For a long time I was obsessed with the backpacks and really colorful bags, which would stand out from the crowd and be considered funky. At this point in my life I am looking for something a little more reserved—and definitely on my shoulder, not my back.

For this purpose, I shall focus on computer shoulder bags and only those that I deem worthy of review. There are far too bag makers and vendors out there hawking items of dubious quality. Our computers are far too valuable to be entrusted to just any bag. I should say at this point that some of the better bags I have come across in my travels did not start out their lives as computer bags. There are a number of mountaineering companies who have designed some really nice gear and with just a little bit of tweaking can be much more than serviceable.


Brenthaven’s Core Protection system is a compartment outfitted with a removable and adjustable padded foam sleeve. The sleeve is comprised of hard-sided panels, and snaps in tightly to the interior notebook compartment. Brenthaven claims its protection is “unparalleled” and that it acts as a cradle protecting the computer from impact on all four corners and two sides. While I was not about to use my very own PowerBook as a test subject, the manufacturer kindly points out that this system will provide for the “maximum defense from unexpected drops, bang and bumps.” It sounds nice, and while it is assuredly more protection than most bags offer, I am not about to unexpectedly drop, bang, or bump my PowerBook in their bag. Thank you very much.


The bag is not going to win any points for style. It is basic black, and its shape is boxy. Nobody is going to confuse the 12/15 Pro with anything other than a computer bag. Any criminal bent on acquiring a notebook computer is not going to have look far when you enter the room with this bag on your shoulder. The exterior is made of military grade ballistic nylon and is no worse for wear, even after three grueling weeks with me carrying it on New York’s sweltering sidewalks and steamy subway system.


I pack a lot in my computer bag—I reckon more than most, indeed more than the average road warrior. Apart from my notebook there is my MP3 player, headphones, digital camera, portable hard drives, spare battery, AC adapter, mobile phone, digital memory, memory adapters, cables, and a set of international power adapters. For this reason, the first thing I look at inside any bag, is where they expect me to store all of my gadgets and peripheral equipment.

Brenthaven’s 12/15 has more than enough pockets and compartments, but they are not well thought out, nor are they really well constructed. It is a shame that a better job could not have been done sorting this area out. Granted, I could fit all my devices inside, but then getting to them in a constructive manner was simply a lost cause. I was not impressed with the interior design at all. It resembled a host of other bags, and were it not for the isolation system and the feel of its exterior, this bag would hardly stand out from the crowd.

I really wanted to like this bag more than I do, but alas, that is not the case. Buy it because it is a workhorse, because it will both isolate and protect your notebook; however, if style and/or functionality play any role in your decision making process when purchasing a computer bag, do look elsewhere.

Reader Comments (7)

Lynn R · August 1, 2005 - 23:29 EST #1
Brenthavan bags have always impressed me especially in terms of protection.

I needed something with enormous protection for my 15 inch PowerBook that would survive my loaded car trunk or an accidental drop and also be very business looking. Over the years, I have been very happy with a Zero Halliburton DZ5 with a Tom Bihn Brain Cell inside holding my laptop.

After 9/11, I live out of my Timberland Windfall Laptop Plus when I fly. The zero Hailiburton case screams to be stolen and be searched. I tossed out the nice laptop sleeve and replaced it with my Brain Cell (I like the suspension system it uses) that I trust. The Timberland is the only tote I could find that will hold my Brain Cell with laptop, books, snack, camera equipment, and other personal essentials while being small enough to let me also take a carry-on case. I found that other dedicated computer bags were not as versatile while flying.
David Blumenstein (ATPM Staff) · August 2, 2005 - 08:53 EST #2

As I mentioned in my piece, it is not all about protection. If it were my review would have been markedly different.

I expect to be getting a decent amount of feedback via online comments and direct emails regarding readers' respective computer bag decisions and solutions for their particular "road warrior" needs.

The following bag manufacturers and designers have come up often in discussion over the years when the "ideal" computer bag is mentioned.

WaterField Designs ->
Cargo Bag (shoulder)

Tom Bihn ->
Empire Bag (shoulder) Brain Bag (backpack)

There is an entire sub-discussion going on about sleeves and this has become rather contentious. There are those who are purists define a sleeve as a removabe pouch for their computer. There are others, who believe that the sleeve should not only offer an increased layer of protection and isolation, but also server as a bag which can be worn and carried on its own.

I look forward to far more comments and welcome readers' suggestions for their ulimate computer bag. Please include the Company Name followed by their URL and the model name of the bag(s).

durjoy (ace) bhattacharjya · September 1, 2005 - 06:34 EST #3
Enjoyed your review, David.

I purchased a very expensive Brenthaven Bag years ago. It was shortly before they offered cheaper versions of their bags through Apple.

After a few months of use, I decided that the backpack was too heavy and impractical for daily use. The bag was so poorly weighted and balanced that it would tip itself over. I called Brenthaven to fix the bag, but apparently it was "designed" like that.

So much for their "lifetime" warranty.

I gave the bag away and bought a Spire USA bag. Incredible bags, incredible customer service. Highly recommended.

My Spire USA backpack and my Tumi garmentbag have earned my trust over the years-- won't buy another Brenthaven in my "lifetime" .

Alec Gold · December 1, 2006 - 12:09 EST #4
I've used several Brenthaven bags in a few years now and I really like them. The fact that I'm now buying my third is not because they wear out, but because I've used three laptops in 1,5 years. Took me a while to realise my PC's well eeehm, they suck a bit. But anyhow, the brenthaven bags might not be the most funky, flashy or such a thing bags, they do protect your stuff very well have ample room for other things (unlike the Crumpler Wack-o-Phone I got with the macbookpro) and they look very business like. Nothing wrong with that.

About customer service? Well, I rather have the most lousy customer service that I never need, than a superb customer service that I need!

Tumi and Spire are btw not much cheaper, if any cheaper at all. And a Tumi wallet I once had was looking very worn down within a year and ripped at the seams after 14 months orso. So much for another top-brand.
John Blackwood · December 29, 2006 - 10:30 EST #5
I guess we laptop users are ALWAYS looking for the perfect bag to protect our laptops and hold all the other stuff that we carry - and there seems to be more and more of that!

Has anyone tried any of the BOOQ Bags? - specifically, one of the folee models? They are on the pricey side of laptop bags but they seem nice, at least to look at on the web site.

ATPM Staff · December 29, 2006 - 11:29 EST #6
John - we reviewed a number of Booq products over the years. Just type 'booq' in this site's search box and you should find them.
Can · May 18, 2007 - 17:37 EST #7
I've had a couple of laptop bags over the years and really try to keep these things down to size. Otherwise, you'll find yourself lugging 25 pounds of junk everywhere you go.

I am a big fan of the new streamlined swiss army bags, though they are a bit tight if you're a road warrior and drag extra peripherals and accessories about.

I've also had the leather Tumi though they do tend to not wear so well and my laptops never fit very well in it. Not to mention the price.

I actually have the brenthave 12/15 right now and was borderline on it until I realized I could rip out the protective sleeve, which slims the bag quite nicely.

Protection is not a real issue for me as my laptop gets traded out every 18 months anyways and NEVER gets checked. Maybe I carry a little extra risk for doing that, but none of my prior 7 laptops has ever suffered for the extra abuse.

I think I'm gonna roll with this Brenthaven for a while. I do wish it came with a bit more flash than black mesh. A swatch of meshed blue to distinguish it would be nice...

Add A Comment

 E-mail me new comments on this article