The Tom Bihn Buzz is a sling-style notebook backpack that really challenged what I thought a notebook backpack should be. It's very small, designed to carry just the essentials. I've used it exclusively for about three weeks and while I wasn't sure I could pull it off at first, the Buzz grew on me and has become my favorite short-haul and light-load pack.
Tom Bihn is as much about style as they are about quality and function. While the Buzz is far from pretentious, I started to feel sorry for people that bought plain old black backpacks from the big box retailers. Few notebooks give owners a chance to be different, but with accessories like this, it's a different ballgame. While the Buzz does come in plain black for the IBM X-series owners, the sling bag also comes in crimson, olive and plum.
The pack is well made, from quality fabrics to heavy-duty zippers with capped pulls. Tom Bihn took a few extra steps though, coating the interior with urethane for water resistance and the exterior with a water repellent finish. You won't want to stand in the rain, but a light drizzle won't fry your notebook and other gadgets either. If you need more protection, they sell a spray on wax that can even more aggressively protect the contents of your Buzz.
The strap slings exclusively over the right shoulder, clipping above the left hip. The buckle is large and easy to feel for without looking, releasing the bag from its hold on you. The strap length is adjustable, best fitting people who are between 5'2" and 6'3". The comfortable wide strap is thinly padded, maintaining the overriding sleek feel of the bag. On the strap near the chest a pouch is mounted to hold a mobile phone, MP3 player or other smallish gadget. Should you need to get inside the Buzz while wearing it, the sling design lets you just spin it around your body for full access to both compartments. If you're in and out if your bag a good deal throughout the day, this is a fantastic feature.
The Buzz has two zippered compartments on the front, a holster designed for a water bottle or small umbrella, and a loop at the top of the shoulder strap. The bottle holder has openings at the bottom that won't collect bottle sweat and even provides two straps to ensure a cozy fit.
The main compartment is designed to hold only the smallest notebooks and tablets. My unofficial measurements conclude that the compartment is roughly 11 inches wide and 12 inches tall. I think most notebooks up to 13.3" will fit in nicely; a 14" widescreen will be pushing it. The padding around the notebook compartment is a little light, about 1/4" in the back and much thinner in the front, around the sides and bottom. It's sufficient for light travel, but if there's much of a chance of a jarring ride, the Buzz isn't the best fit. Once nestled inside the main compartment, the notebook is secured by a lip that helps to hold it in place.
The main compartment also has room for a few items to float around. I've been using that space to carry a magazine at times, and my PDA and USB hard drive at others. There's plenty of room for a book or a few files; anything you need for the day.
The front pocket has two pen/pencil slots, a larger pocket for something like a PDA (I've been using it for an air card and business cards), a smallish pocket perfect for Carmex and gum and a snap hook for keeping track of keys.
Like I said in the beginning, I wasn't sure I could get along with the Buzz because it was much different than any other notebook pack I've reviewed. The design is surprisingly nice though, not just because it's hip, but because it's functional as well. The entire pack is light, so it's easy on the back, and the ability to flip it around to access the pockets instead of taking it off is a nice usability perk. While you can't slam everything in this bag, that's not the point, Tom Bihn has other products for that need. The Buzz is designed to get you through the day with the essentials, and it does the job in supreme fashion.
The Buzz comes in four colors and retails for $90 from Tom Bihn. The Buzz product page.
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