With expectations firmly in check, the Edge Ultra Portable Backpack is a comfortable and inexpensive means to lug around a netbook.
Netbooks don’t exactly live up to their billing as ultraportable devices. You can’t take them everywhere and they don’t fit in a pocket or small purse. Factor in a power supply, mouse and any other accessories, and an “ultraportable” netbook suddenly requires a case or backpack, just like a large laptop.
Case and backpack maker Mobile Edge gets this, and as evident by its $50 Edge Ultra Portable Backpack, it also gets that an inexpensive netbook shouldn’t require a pricey case. But does its Edge Ultra Portable Backpack provide enough protection, comfort and functionality for everyday use? Read on to find out.
Edge Ultra Portable Backpack Specifications:
Build and Design
At first blush, the Edge Ultra Portable Backpack resembles a biker bag, complete with an all-black exterior, decorative aluminum grommets and tough Nylon ribbons and loops. It definitely looks heavy-duty, but the thin lining in the inner compartments suggests it might be less rugged than it appears. And while it completely handled the stress of daily use for the month I tested it, I managed to snap a few stitches around the shoulder straps with some strong tugs.
The front features a large center pocket, big and deep enough to comfortably fit my fist up to my wrist, with a Velcro-secured cover and modest padding. Just above it and a Mobile Edge branding decoration is a rubber headphone cord hole leading to an inside pocket. On top sits a nylon strap with a thick rubber grip.
The Edge Ultra Portable Backpack is divided into two main compartments, each with two metal zippers and nylon pulls with textured plastic tips. The front compartment is the smaller of the two, and it features two pockets, one zipper sealed on the front side connected to the headphone cord hole, obviously meant for an MP3 player, and another pocket and series of pen holds on the inside flap.
The larger compartment sports a bigger and more heavy-duty zipper set, and inside houses a stiff plastic sleeve and stretch Velcro strap to hold and secure a netbook or small laptop. Written in bright white on the sleeve is “Checkpoint Friendly,” presumably to remind security agents the Edge Ultra Portable backpack is TSA compliant.
The padded straps run in an elongated S pattern and feature the same nylon loops found on the bag’s front side. Attached to one loop is a small, removable cellphone case, which easily fits an iPhone or Blackberry.
The Edge Ultra Portable backpack’s moderate padding and relatively-small size make it comfortable to lug around, either with both straps attached or flung casually over the shoulder. It’s well balanced and the shoulder straps remain taut, secured by the plastic fasteners. I biked more than 40 miles at a time with the straps tight around my shoulders without ever having to adjust them. However, this may have less to do with build quality than the fact that the backpack isn’t large enough for heavy loads that would loosen the straps. The bag is also quite firm thanks to the padding and maintains its shape, even when overstuffed with clothing.
However, The Edge Ultra Portable backpack presented some minor discomforts. The shoulder and back padding doesn’t breathe well, leaving large sweat stains after casual use, and the cell phone pouch is positioned very high on the shoulder strap, making quick access awkward.
The most glaring issue with the Edge Ultra Portable Backpack is the netbook pocket size; it’s just too big for an 8-inch ultraportable or even a standard 10-inch netbook. The stretch Velcro strap in place to secure it from bouncing up and down does little to keep the device from sliding side to side. A length-wise strap or removable padding would go a long way to making the backpack more netbook-friendly. I actually stuffed a towel in there to keep my 10-inch Lenovo S10-3 in place.
Larger netbooks and small laptops - anything from 12 to 13 inches - will fit snuggly in the pouch, but are too large for the compartment. I had to stretch the bag and apply a little force to zip the backpack up over my 13-inch work laptop. I would also hesitate using this backpack for an iPad or eReader as there is very little padding on the front side of the sleeve to protect a touchscreen.
For those interested in flying with the Edge Ultra Portable Backpack, it’s not as convenient as the “TSA compliant” designation suggests. Even though Mobile Edge describes it as being “checkpoint friendly,” you can’t simply roll the Edge Ultra Portable Backpack through the X-ray machine and proceed to the gate. You still have to open the bag and remove any objects on top of or underneath the laptop. Even then, you might still have to take out your netbook if the agent can’t get a clear X-ray picture or you are selected for rescreening. At best, it saves you the minor hassle of removing your laptop or netbook and placing it in a dedicated bin.
Also, be aware that some product photos of the Edge Ultra Portable Backpack show two mesh water bottle pouches on either side, others do not. As far as I can tell, there is only one SKU in this product line, so there might be a difference between what you see and what you get. The unit I reviewed does not have them, and it’s a shame. I drink nearly a gallon of water daily, and I want quick access to it when I’m biking to work or hustling through an airport.
Finally, even though Mobile Edge makes no claims the backpack is waterproof, the Edge Ultra Portable Backpack did an admirable job shrugging off light rainfall. More than once I was caught in the elements biking to work, and each time, the contents of the bag remained dry. That is, with the exception of my wallet, which I stored in the front pocket. There, the large and seemingly useless aluminum grommet let the water pour right in, soaking my cash and ID.
Just like a netbook, the Edge Ultra Portable Backpack is small in size and limited in features. It doesn’t have the many pockets and frills of a high-end backpack and will only hold a netbook, a few accessories, pens and maybe a set of gym clothes, certainly not shoes or anything wider than a few inches. It’s also not as rugged as its appearance suggests and has a few too many decorative grommets for my taste.
However, for someone looking for an inexpensive netbook bag, the Edge Ultra Portable Backpack is a passable option for moderate use. Just don’t consider it for any laptop larger than 12 inches. While it will fit in a “Checkpoint Friendly” sleeve, the bag is just too small.
* Ratings averaged to produce final score
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