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ATPM 13.02
February 2007


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Accessory Review

by Frank H. Wu,

Python XL System


Developer: Booq

Price: $270

Requirements: MacBook or MacBook Pro

Trial: None

I remember when ballistic nylon was novel. I ordered a briefcase made of ballistic nylon made by a little shop in Vermont that advertised in the back of the New Yorker magazine. The proprietors were artisans who handmade their goods, and they even accommodated my special request for a set of straps that would allow me to wear the briefcase like a backpack so I could use it while riding a motorcycle.

Nowadays, ballistic nylon is common. The little shop in Vermont is no longer advertising in the back of the New Yorker magazine, and presumably it is out of business. Regular nylon is passed off as ballistic nylon, so even if the genuine material is still durable it doesn’t have the same cachet anymore.

Yet there are companies that use ballistic nylon to produce superior products. Booq is one of them. I’ve acquired more laptop bags, cases, and sleeves than I can count, and there are only few companies that show the same quality as Booq. It is innovative, serious in commitment to top-notch design, and boasts very good customer service. It is a good fit, literally and figuratively, for Apple. Tumi was once great, but it seems to have remade itself as a company more concerned with fashion than design, changing shapes and colors every season. Brenthaven remains reliable, and its backpack offerings are excellent choices if the independent sleeve carrying option is not important and if the simpler design is appealing.

So I’ve liked Booq products since I began using the Vyper sleeve for a PowerBook. A search of the Web persuaded me there didn’t seem to be anything better than the Booq Python backpack on the market. Like a kid studying the Sears “Wishbook” before Christmas, I looked at the Booq Web site obsessively before I finally decided for certain I wanted to order the Booq Python system.


When it arrived, I was not disappointed. The Python has two main compartments, plus a detachable daypack with its own removable carrying strap. The front compartment—i.e., that closest to the wearer’s back—is thin and meant for the laptop to slide into. It holds a Booq-brand Vyper case, but it has enough tolerance to accept other cases. The middle compartment is more capacious. It has numerous internal pockets—the profusion of pockets distinguishes this backpack. I have never seen any bag of any nature with more pockets. It will take some time to figure out a system to ensure the optimal use of these spaces. The interior is lined in a thin nylon fabric. There also is a key clip dangling from the top of the middle compartment.


There are two side compartments, with a zip-up portion and a pocket. And there are two little compartments on the sides of the back, to the left and the right of the detachable daypack. There is an almost hidden pocket that is just big enough to hold a few magazines, hidden directly on the back, with a zipper on one side.


The construction is sturdy throughout. All the zippers are reinforced and have dual pulls. The detachable dayback and the middle compartment have a nicely done rubber-reinforced slit to allow cables to pass through, allowing you to have an iPod or other device inside the backpack and run headphones or other cords out. The middle compartment has an additional zip-open flap at the top to allow quick access without fully unzipping the sides. The straps are wide and modestly padded. There is a sternum strap and a waist strap, along with a carry handle covered with what seems to be leather-like material.


The backpack comes in multiple configurations. There are sizes to fit any Mac notebook. Another option is to order it as I did, in the system configuration. That package includes the backpack with the Vyper sleeve, plus the new Anaconda case for an iPod or similarly sized device. The laptop compartment is meant to take a sleeve of some sort. It might be possible to drop a naked laptop into it, but that doesn’t seem to be the best practice on a regular basis. I’ve been using the backpack with my old Titanium PowerBook, while my MacBook Pro is in the shop. It works fine with a JR Hill leather sleeve over the Titanium PowerBook, and it’d likely work fine with any PowerBook or MacBook. The Vyper case, incidentally, is terrific even on its own. The iPod case attaches with Velcro on one of shoulder straps.


There are only two issues with the Booq system, one likely of general interest and one likely a personal concern.

The first issue is the padding level in the laptop carrying compartment. It may be my particular paranoia, but I prefer slightly more padding than is built into the bottom. (The Brenthaven sleeve system seems superior at least in the last iteration that I owned.) Any problem is easily remedied, however, by inserting a thin strip of foam at the bottom of the area. I always save the high-quality foam that comes with products, and it was easy enough to rummage in the closet and find a piece to fit.

The second issue is the sheer bulk of the backpack and its detailing (a few plastic orange tabs with the Booq logo and a bit of orange piping). Carrying it around, I feel as if I look like a geek headed on a polar expedition. A person who has a job in a more formal setting may find this backpack isn’t businesslike enough. Of course, almost any backpack makes me look like a student (for better or worse, time will cure this.)

Perhaps the best endorsement of the Booq backpack is from other observers. My nephew, who also has a couple of Apple machines of his own, looked at it with admiration during a recent family get-together. That is enough to demonstrate its functionality and stylishness. After all, it isn’t easy to impress a nephew.

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