A close look at two laptop bags with similar features. (February 28th, 2011)
Product Manufacturer: Standard Technical Merchandise Pty Ltd (STM)
Price: $60.00 - $100 US
- Internal and external pockets for every device or accessory.
- Good padding for MacBook or MacBook Pro.
- Built-in sleeve for iPad.
- Very well made.
- Lifetime warranty.
- No substantive problems found.
- Vertical bag does not have pouch on strap or water bottle holder.
- Easy to overload.
STM, an Australian based computer bag manufacturer, has released a number of new bags over recent months. For the past two months, Ilene and Marshall have put the Revolution backpack and the Vertical Laptop Shoulder Bag through their paces to see if they warrant your hard earned dollars. The results are positive, so please read on. While we tested these bags with our Macintosh laptops, you can load them with Windows laptops also
Revolution Medium Laptop Backpack
The STM Revolution backpack is a full-featured pack for carrying your laptop, iPad, and any other portable electronics you need. For example, on a recent trip, I carried a MacBook Pro, an iPad, iPhone, compact wireless router, an iPod, small camera, two sets of headphones, a power adapter, two books, a notebook, pens, assorted cables, and video adapters. All fit without complaint inside the Revolution - most inside its own pocket. The whole package fit under the seat in front of me on the airplane too.
A laptop bag must protect the computer, and here the Revolution shines. There is a padded compartment in the center of the backpack that seals with Velcro, and has a stiff back to protect the laptop from sharp objects in the main compartment of the bag. The laptop is suspended a couple inches above the bottom of the pack, protected from shocks in case you drop the bag on the ground, or set it down sharply.
Directly behind the compartment for the laptop is a sleeve for an iPad. The sleeve is made from a soft-brushed nylex, which STM claims helps remove fingerprints from the iPad. Whether or not it removes fingerprints, the soft lining definitely keeps the iPad scratch-free.
In addition to the laptop compartment and the iPad sleeve, the Revolution has two other compartments. A large compartment at the back of the pack is suitable for books, file folders, and other large objects up to about 3 inches thick. In the front of the backpack, there is another compartment, which has various pockets, slots, and zippers to hold a multitude of small items or devices. There's even a clip on which to put your key ring.
On the very front of the pack, there is a zippered external pocket that is lined with more of the brushed nylex. This is handy for small items (such as an iPod or phone) that you want quick access to without opening up the rest of the backpack.
A pair of elastic sleeves sits on the sides of the pack, each capable of holding a water bottle, a can of soda, or an umbrella. The right shoulder strap has a small mesh pouch near the bottom, which is a great place to stash a pair of ear buds and an iPod for easy access.
The back of the pack is padded, but with a gap in the center and covered with a mesh fabric that seems to breathe well - I have carried this backpack on warm days, and have not had a problem with a sweaty back. The waist belt tucks into a small cutout behind the padding when not in use, which means that you don't have to put up with straps dangling when you're not using them. The chest strap adjusts up and down, so you can find the most comfortable place to wear it. There is a small compartment on the bottom of the pack that contains a rain fly, which doubles as extra padding when the weather is nice. A large padded handle on the top of the bag makes it easy to carry it when you don't have it on your back. Almost all of the seams on the Revolution are internal, so there are few exposed seams to abrade.
STM offers a lifetime warranty on their bags. I owned an STM bag on which the zipper failed. I took it to a local STM store, and they looked at the zipper, said "OK," and handed me a new backpack. There was no fuss with receipts; no paperwork at all, just a brand new backpack.
After carrying this bag for a month, I like it more and more. When I travel, it holds enough that I can get by for a trip of several days without having to check luggage. In other words, I can fill up my small suitcase with clothes, rather than all the bits that I need to keep the electronics happy. Travelling to and from work each day, the Revolution is easy to sling over one shoulder or wear in a more traditional fashion, and can carry quite a bit of gear without any strain on my back or shoulders.
The STM Revolution backpack costs $100 and is available from several online retailers. It comes in either traffic stopping orange or carbon black (reviewed). I give this bag a MacNN 4.5 star rating.
Vertical Laptop Shoulder BagThe STM Vertical Medium Laptop Shoulder Bag fits 13 or 15-inch laptops; a model exists for each. While you cannot load it up with quite as much equipment as the STM Revolution backpack, it certainly fits everything you need to use your laptop, iPad, plus a few other items. While Marshall toted the Revolution, Ilene tested this vertical shoulder bag.
This bag includes the same attention to detail and quality as the Revolution bag. I find the vertical form factor seems to create less drag on my back than the typical briefcase style bag. Due to the wide 1.5" straps and the well-padded removable shoulder pad, it is comfortable to carry on your shoulder. If you prefer to hand carry it, the included thick foam handle makes that easy too. The pocket to hide the handle when not in use is one of the nice design elements that earmark STMís attention to detail.
As you can see in the photo below, there are pockets for your iPhone, camera, and iPad, so that no equipment rubs against any other, while secured inside the bag. The laptop area includes a kind of wide-wale corduroy lining, while the iPad area has the soft-brushed nylex, like the Revolution bag. I wish STM had added some of the soft lining to the first outside smaller zipper pocket, so that I do not need to put my little camera in another bag inside the pocket.
I do like the second outside zipper pocket with all its different sized elasticized pockets and inner zipper pocket. It makes carrying pens, notebooks, chargers, and spare headphones easy and accessible.
As you can see above the third outside pocket with the brushed lining holds the iPad, but there is no flap on that pocket. The next pocket carries magazines or other reading material inside a basic nylon lined pocket. The flap that covers the computer area also covers this pocket. The main outside flap covers the openings for every pocket, so the iPad pocket doesnít really need itís own flap. The main flap also includes a zippered quick access pocket that serves well to carry airline tickets or baggage tip money. The two flaps secure with a generous amount of Velcro. Yet another outside pocket can carry notebooks or other slim items, but it does not have any cover over the opening.
Unlike the Revolution, the vertical bagís computer area is not suspended nor does it have a stiff backing. While this isnít a huge concern, I am more comfortable using some kind of other case around my laptop when I use this bag. For example, I used my Booq Vyper with my now dead 15" PowerBook, and use a Speck SeeThru Case when I borrow my sonís 13" MacBook.
The bagís weight is misleading, it does not feel like a two-pound bag and its slim profile makes it lie against my side comfortable. The 13Ē bad is slightly smaller than the 15Ē one, but I use the 15Ē for both sized machines. This bag only comes in black. The water resistant 300D ripstop polyester material combined with STMís lifetime warranty means that this bag will outlast any portable I have today. The vertical small retails for $60, while the medium retails for $65. For obvious reasons, this bag is not made for the 17Ē Macintosh laptop.
The only thing missing on the Vertical Laptop Shoulder Bag is a water bottle pocket; otherwise it serves my needs perfectly. I am sure you will also find it designed to meet your needs as well. This bag also rates a MacNN 4.5 star rating.