Today the editors at Notebook Review are taking a closer look at the Laptop SleeveCase from WaterField Designs available at sfbags.com. This slim, messenger-style laptop bag is offered in a variety of sizes to accomodate just about any laptop and is available with a number of cool options and accessories to make your bag truly unique.
The two SleeveCases we're showing you are designed for the Alienware M14x and the Lenovo IdeaPad Y570 but Waterfield Designs offers the SleeveCase in more than 100 different sizes. The San Francisco based Waterfield Designs factory produces these laptop sleeves in half-inch increments to help ensure a custom fit for each laptop. When you're looking for a protective laptop sleeve a general guideline to remember is that the sleeves with the best protection are usually the ones with the best fit. You want the padding inside the sleeve to wrap around your laptop like a snug blanket.
The SleeveCase is available in vertical orientation like the two cases in this review with the opening on the top (great if you plan to use the SleeveCase with a backpack) or you can get the SleeveCase in horizontal orientation if you plan to use it with a Messenger Bag or a briefcase. Prices for the SleeveCase start at $49 but it's easy to increase that cost to $123 if you select some of the premium options like the protective flap, shoulder strap, accessory case and genuine leather trim you can see on the SleeveCases in this review.
The SleeveCase itself is wrapped in a high-grade ballistic nylon shell and cushioned with an equally high-grade neoprene foam. We really have to stress the exceptional quality of the materials used in the SleeveCase. Waterfield Designs takes great pride in the fact that its bags are made in San Francisco by an American workforce that takes great care in every stitch and every seam. If you have a chance to look closely at a Waterfield bag and compare it to a typical cheap laptop bag you'll notice that the stitching is virtually perfect in the Waterfield bag instead of something that is thrown together on an assembly line overseas by an underpaid workforce.
One of the main reasons that laptop sleeves have become increasingly popular is that you don't need to take your laptop out of a protective sleeve when going through airport security -- the Warterfield SleeveCase is TSA Checkpoint Friendly. If you care about keeping your laptop in like-new condition then you don't want to pull it out and toss it into a dirty plastic bin at the airport checkpoint. That being said, $49 is a modest price to pay for some extra protection for an expensive laptop.
This Bag Means Business
Although the D-rings and shoulder strap are optional extras for the SleeveCase, it's worth drawing your attention to the simple durability of the hardware. You aren't getting cheap plastic parts or low-cost metal that a small child can break by stepping on it. The metal D-rings and snap hooks feel like they will hold firm even if you decide to use the shoulder strap to slide down a mountain zipline (not a recommended use for the shoulder strap).
Speaking of the optional shoulder strap, the "Suspension Strap" is either a 1-inch or 1.5-inch (depending on SleeveCase size) black nylon strap with adjustable metal clips and a cushioned shoulder pad with a non-slip underside. The strap is very comfortable and works perfectly whether you have the SleeveCase hanging from one shoulder or if you are wearing the bag across your chest.
If you plan to use the SleeveCase as your primary laptop bag instead of just putting the SleeveCase inside a larger bag, then we highly recommend that you purchase the optional SleeveCase Piggyback. The $25 Piggyback is an accessory bag for carrying extra items like power adapters, a mouse, USB flash drives, etc.. You just hook the Piggyback to the D-rings on your SleeveCase and you instantly transform a basic laptop sleeve into a fully functional notebook bag.
Waterfield Designs even offers an optional mini-strap for the Piggyback, which allows you to use this little accessory bag as a very small shoulder bag. However, the Piggyback is only big enough for a small tablet, a large smartphone or a small camera -- the Piggyback is not meant to function as a laptop bag by itself.
People who look at WaterField laptop bags usually find themselves in one of two camps: You either think WaterField is horribly overpricing its laptop bags or you think these premium cases provide excellent value for your money even if they can get a little expensive. Honestly, our editors see it both ways.
Yes, you can buy a WaterField SleeveCase for as little as $49, but that starting price doesn't come with the fancy leather trim, the protective flap, the D-rings and shoulder strap or the "Piggyback" accessory case. In short, you get a very simple sleeve for your laptop. On the other hand, things like quality leather, perfectly stitched ballistic nylon, solid metal hardware (if you get the shoulder strap) and a custom fit for your individual laptop are things that a bag manufacturer has every right to charge extra for when you place your order.
It's that high level of personal customization and premium materials that makes the biggest difference ... the simple fact is that you can order a very basic SleeveCase that fits your laptop perfectly if you just want an affordable sleeve to protect your laptop. Likewise, if you want the higher quality materials and accessories then you can add those and pay more. You have the options.
When you consider the high-quality materials used and the exceptional care taken in the construction of each bag, we give the Waterfield SleeveCase our highest recommendation.
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