Developer: WaterField Designs
Price: $38-$42 (depending on size)
There aren’t a lot of things that a laptop sleeve has to do, so I want to apologize in advance for this not being much of a review. But that’s really the crux of it: it has one task, to protect your laptop while it’s in a bag that has no padded laptop compartment of its own, and if it doesn’t do it well, it’s not a good sleeve.
WaterField Designs’ SleeveCase is a great laptop sleeve. It’s pretty much 100% sans frills: a padded pouch to slide your computer into, with a velcro strap that covers the top and a small pouch on the back for a power adapter.
I was initially skeptical about the utility of any particular style of laptop sleeve over any other. You see, isn’t one sleeve just like another?
The answer is, no. The first advantage of the SleeveCase over my workhorse sleeve, a really convenient Spire Boot, is that the Spire sleeve has a full-width enclosure, and, consequently, a full-width Velcro patch, and the SleeveCase has a two- or three-inch wide strap across the center. This did not make itself obvious as an advantage until I went to get my laptop out during class, for the first time, and I didn’t have to hear the endless crackling of the sleeve opening. WaterField offers a flap as a $15 build-to-order option, but has a narrow enclosure—I have yet to figure out what the advantage to this option would be.
The other is that it is apparently quite durably padded, but it’s somewhat less thick than any of the other sleeves that I’ve used. This means that it fits more comfortably in any of my other bags, and anything that reduces physical bulk is a good thing. Even if it’s not necessarily lighter, cutting down on bulk always makes me happy. And a happy Wes is a Wes who is pleased with a product.
Now, in the beginning, I requested the SleeveCase to go along with the Racer-X, and was politely informed that one does not use the SleeveCase with said bag. It has its own padded compartment. I can see the advantages to this. However, I carry any number of bags, most of which don’t have a padded compartment of their own, and this is an excellent sleeve. It’s not necessarily the least expensive I’ve seen, but what you get in exchange, like a ballistic nylon exterior and excellent construction, which makes it worthwhile. And, as I note in my much longer review of the Racer-X, the customer service at WaterField Designs is excellent.
The SleeveCase comes in a whole range of sizes, depending on a very complex chart. My advice is just to ask, before you buy it, because I haven’t ever figured out what the difference is between some of the numberings, in the time that I’ve spent preparing for this review. You can choose horizontal or vertical orientation, add a flap and a shoulder strap, and buy a “piggyback,” a pack to hold other stuff dangling off the front of the SleeveCase with a shoulder strap.
My own experience with this sort of bag is that, if you intend to carry your laptop over your shoulder in a slim bag like this, the SleeveCase is not the right bag: the shoulder strap is a nice option, as is the piggyback, but I don’t know if the case feels quite sturdy enough to stand alone, and I’d hate to have my power adapter and iPod rattling along. There are plenty of bags that are designed to be carried over your shoulder and have more storage space built-in, for less money.
On the other hand, if you’re in the market for a case to stick inside another bag, this sleeve is probably right for you. It’s not stylish, but it’s durable, well-made, slimmer than most sleeves, and doesn’t make as much of a loud crackling noise when you remove it.