Tech, Autos, & Gear in Layman's Terms Since 2006


April 25, 2011 • Reviews

Review: Skooba Design Harmony 15″ Tote

My office is business formal attire, which means men wear suits and ties and women wear pantsuits/skirt suits. However, men have a leg up here, since men’s suits typically have pockets big enough to hold wallet, keys, etc. Women’s suits, not so much. Apparently we’re only going to keep the world’s tiniest stick of gum in there. In any case, this means it’s always key to have a nice bag with you at all times. Do you opt for a small purse plus a briefcase, or do you find a bag that’s stylish enough for everyday carrying but roomy and functional enough to use as a laptop bag/professional bag?

Skooba Design thinks it can step up and be that hybrid with its Harmony  15″ Tote; does it succeed? Read on to find out!

Skooba Design set out to make this the perfect professional bag. From their description:

? Designed by women, for the way women really work and travel.

? Holds all 15″ laptops, some 16″ and ultraslim 17″ like MacBook (maximum laptop size 15″x11″x1.75″)

? Loads of organization spaces for everything from books and files to “handbag stuff”, camera, iPod and much more. Even clear windows for your favorite photos!

Let’s start with  bag’s appearance. It’s a mix of faux leather and fabric, but the faux leather looks fairly believable — unless you get really up close and sniff it, which seems like a weird way to start a business meeting, so it’s unlikely to happen. All the zippers, hinges, clips, etc are shiny metal, and they stand out as a nice contrast against the black of the bag.

Both sides have a padded, quilted black and white pattern, which is matched by the included laptop sleeve. I really like the quilting, as it takes the bag from “basic black” to something more interesting without being flashy or unprofessional. There is minimal branding, with a shiny “S” logo on the front, and a “Skooba” tag on the shoulder strap. Everything about the bag oozes quality. There are no uneven stitches or off spots, and there are even metal “feet” on the bottom, which is a classy touch that keeps the bag raised a bit when set on a dirty office floor.

Along the back of the bag is a pocket perfect for magazines, newspapers, etc. The only misstep here is that it’s closed by velcro. Personally I think it would feel and look a bit better if there were magnet closures here instead, but that’s a minor point.

Moving to the top of the bag, there’s a zipper along the whole length, with magnetic snaps on both ends to give slightly more space if you’ve really overstuffed it.

Inside is where the Harmony really shines. There’s a big area that’s roomy enough for the included laptop sleeve (fits up to 15″ laptops) along with a file folder or a portfolio. I didn’t test it, but I’d guess that you could easily fit a change of clothes for the gym or an overnight trip in there, especially if you weren’t carrying a laptop. There’s a divider area with a zippered top that can easily hold thin files or paperwork, but on the other side is the real star of the bag; an open area with tons of organizer options along both sides. There are slots for pens, a cell phone, a wallet, a zippered area, two elasticized pockets and, inexplicably, three clear pockets for pictures.

I like the idea of three picture slots, but I have two issues, one practical and one more philosophical. The practical issue is that these are buried inside the bag, and you need to hold it open to even glimpse them. A more practical use would be to make them business card holders instead, especially since most people carry family photos on their smartphones, and therefore wouldn’t need to keep wallet-size photos handy in a laptop bag.

My other, more philosophical problem, is that because they’re not terribly useful they feel like someone just slapped them in the bag because it’s “for women” and therefore family pictures should be included somehow. This is a professional bag, and this sticks out like a sore thumb as something that snuck into the design without a lot of thought into why; but that’s my only soapbox complaint.

The included laptop sleeve is very nice. As I said above, it matches the pattern on the outside, but it’s not just a cheap add-in. According to Skooba Design, it is TSA “Checkpoint friendly”, so in theory you don’t need to remove your laptop at the airport. In addition, it includes little metal loops and a shoulder strap, so you can carry the sleeve without the whole bag. There are no extra pockets or organizers on the sleeve, so if you’re using it then you are traveling light, but it’s certainly well-built and nice enough to carry into a meeting without raising any eyebrows.

Finally, to carry the Harmony you have the option of a shoulder strap or two grab handles. Personally I prefer shoulder straps, but the two handles are comfortable as well. Because they aren’t padded, you might want to stash the shoulder strap in case of heavy loads, but having both options is certainly a plus.

Overall, I really liked the Skooba Design Harmony. It strikes a nice balance between laptop bag and everyday bag; it gives you enough storage and organizer options to ditch a separate purse, and looks nice enough to carry into a meeting without looking like a geek. Add in the value of the laptop sleeve, and it is an absolute must in a professional arsenal.

The Harmony 15″ Tote is available direct from Skooba Design.

MSRP: $149.95 (Currently on sale at $104.95)

What I Like: Excellent build quality; lots of room for storage; many organizer options; included laptop sleeve is a great value

What Needs Improvement: Velcro on the outside pocket; faux-leather; weird plastic picture windows

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