Velocity Matrix Laptop Backpack
ATPM has been host to a considerable number of backpack reviews authored by people who have described pretty clear opinions about what they want—and what they don’t want—in a backpack. I, on the other hand, have absolutely no aficionado tendencies where backpacks are concerned. What I know is that every backpack I’ve considered purchasing that was designed to accommodate a laptop computer seemed to either be too small to accommodate all the items I wanted to bring, or so large that it might be mistaken for a pack you’d use on a multi-day, backwoods hiking trip.
The Slappa Velocity Matrix backpack.
When the Slappa Velocity Matrix appeared on the ATPM review items radar, I remembered that I had seen another write-up about it. It finally seemed to be the backpack I wanted—one that would hold about the same amount as my tried-and-true laptop case, yet not be so cavernous that everything simply fell into a pile at the bottom of the bag.
This laptop case has served me very well for many years, but I’m finally ready for something that can hold just as much and also be hands-free when I’m on the go.
If you’ve been reading ATPM for a while, you might remember my review of the Incase Sling Pack. While I do still periodically use the Sling Pack, my need to carry more than what it can hold tends to leave it on the sidelines while my “big bag” makes the journey yet again.
The Sling Pack’s left shoulder-only design was my favorite attribute because of a shoulder injury that prevented me from carrying much weight on my right shoulder for very long. Five years later, the shoulder is much better, and I can use standard backpacks.
Size comparison between my trusty travel case and the Velocity Matrix.
Without taking literal measurements, the Velocity Matrix appears to have no more capacity—and possibly a little less—than my old travel case. But appearances, say it with me, can be deceiving. Without looking or feeling like an enormous backpack, the Velocity Matrix is extremely spacious. This backpack quite happily accepted every last item that I transferred from my travel case. When I had finished, the Velocity Matrix was, astonishingly, carrying the following:
- 15″ MacBook Pro
- spare power adapter (the large version before Apple finally started selling the smaller ones again)
- Apple AirPort Express
- Apple USB modem with a phone cable
- DVI to VGA adapter
- standard size USB optical mouse (I hate miniature mice)
- a half dozen blank CDs in slimline cases
- earbuds, power adapter, and USB cable for my iPhone
- 5G iPod
- A/V cable (3.5mm jack to triple RCA connectors)
- an assortment of RCA/quarter-inch/3.5mm audio connection adapters
- an assortment of FireWire and USB cables
- two Ethernet cables
- Podium CoolPad laptop stand
- USB thumb drive
- several pens and markers
- Leatherman multi-purpose tool
- travel-size Mag-Lite
- compact first aid kit
- small bottle of Advil
- pocket novel
- collapsible Frisbee (gotta have some something to toss around once in a while, right?)
The fully loaded backpack.
Wow! All of this really did go into the bag, and there was room to spare! In fact, as the Slappa promotional shots indicate, I could easily accommodate two laptops in this bag and probably would only have to rearrange a few of the above list of items without removing any. So the Velocity Matrix clearly had at least as much, if not more, capacity as my travel case. Since there’s a well-stitched handle on the top of the backpack, there’s an extremely good chance it will permanently replace the case.
The handle feels well-stitched and comfortable.
You might be thinking that with all of those items tucked away in the backpack, the thing must be wicked heavy and/or uncomfortable to wear. You’d be thinking wrong. Notice that the laptop is the only thing in that list of any considerable weight, and only things that weigh a fraction of the laptop’s weight comprise the runners-up for heaviest items—such as the iPod, the Leatherman, the AirPort Express, and the two power adapters.
As for comfort, my only initial concern doesn’t seem to be a concern at all. I was worried about the design of the shoulder straps, specifically where they connect at the top. That connection runs from one shoulder to the other, just below your neck, and I had the impression that its edge would press into the base of my neck.
The upper portion of the shoulder straps.
What this piece actually does is spread the weight out a little bit so that instead of resting entirely on your shoulders, a little bit of the weight goes across your upper back.
This flap of material, rather than digging into your neck, actually distributes and cushions the weight.
The straps themselves are curved inward, a more ergonomic design that helps keep the backpack securely in place. However, this inward curve may not be entirely agreeable with some women.
Inward-curved straps may help secure the backpack while wearing it, but may have been designed only for males.
Maybe I’m just too accustomed to the travel case and too inexperienced with backpacks (I never used backpacks in school, opting for tote bags instead), but I somewhat wished the sides of the Velocity Matrix were stiffer so that it would stand up a little better on its own. When I open it to get things in or out, it sort of collapses on itself a bit unless I lean it against something. The front zip-open compartments also just completely flops around when it is completely open, though this might be a benefit when placing an odd-sized object in that space. This, however, is just my observation and may be typical of this style of backpack.
The “floppy” front compartment cover.
Immediately apparent when I first received the Velocity Matrix was that the material used on the exterior is tough, even if it does collapse on itself as mentioned above. Slappa describes it as “thick rubber exoskeleton plus hydro-repellant and puncture-proof BuckBlast suede.” I can vouch for the weather-repellant properties of the material, but I’m not sure I’m ready to start poking it with a sharp object.
Inside almost every compartment, virtually every inch is covered in soft material that won’t leave you worrying about the contents getting scratched.
The zippers include a piece of material stitched over the ends. This material keeps the ends from snagging on anything and allows the zipper handles to be tucked into place.
The primary compartment for a laptop uses this soft material wrapped around a stiffer material that cocoons your computer. Its size can easily accommodate a 17″ MacBook Pro. As for my 15″ laptop, I may consider purchasing a sleeve of some sort—not because I feel the extra padding is needed, but just to not have the computer riding loose in a compartment that is so much larger.
I was very pleased with the laptop compartment, except for the cover flap which seemed a bit oversized. When open, the hook-and-loop fastener patch on the flap has a tendency to stick to other parts of the interior lining.
The compartment on the back side of the Velocity Matrix that rests against your back is lined with a soft, smooth, plastic-like material. Slappa calls it a “Stay Cool” material intended for keeping liquids from getting warm. This particular compartment may not, however, be where you’d want to store a water bottle.
Another compartment, located directly in front of the one that holds a laptop, seems ideally suited for placing a few books, making the Velocity Matrix a good backpack for students.
The back of the case sports a thick-padded Slappa hand logo. In spite of the unwieldy shape, it’s a comfortable pad you can wear against your back for long periods of time.
The Slappa hand slap logo forms a thick and comfortable pad against your back.
On the bottom, two hard plastic strips offer some protection against scuffing the BuckBlast suede material that comprises most of the backpack’s exterior when you set it down.
Hard plastic strips reinforce the bottom of the Velocity Matrix.
One last little perk is the inclusion of a pouch with a metal clip designed to attach to nylon strips on the backpack’s front straps. This pouch can carry an iPod, a phone, or any small device to which you’d want quick access.
The clip-on device pouch.
The pouch shown attached to the shoulder strap.
Unfortunately, its design seems suited only to giving an easily accessible storage location for such devices. It’s not terribly conducive to actually using a device when it is still inside the pouch since you’d have to completely remove it to access any button controls. Likewise, there’s really no good way to have a headphone cable attached to an iPod that’s riding inside the pouch.
Finally, on the Velocity Matrix’s overall aesthetics, I’m a bit on the fence. The overall shape and black color are great, but I’m not sure on the pattern of the white stitching surrounding the exoskeleton rubber. But everyone’s tastes are different. I’m sure there are some who think the pattern looks great.
Since I can see this backpack permanently replacing my old travel case, I obviously must like the design of the exterior pattern well enough. But what I like most is its ability to hold the above list of items, plus have room for additional gadgets in the future, while keeping my hands free and not feeling as though I’m carrying something the size of a duffel bag. Slappa has several choices in tote bags, as well, if a backpack doesn’t suit you. But, if you’re looking for color choices, you’ll have to search elsewhere. Slappa only makes computer cases in black, with dark grey accents on some models.