I’m not much of a shopper, usually. When it comes to clothes, the quicker I can get in and out of a store, the better, so far as I’m concerned. Same with shoes, or cars, or appliances, or pretty much anything, really. Although Judie has made some headway over the years in helping me to see the beauty of quality accoutrements for my gear. Nice laptop bags. Vaja cases for my iPhone. Things like that. But usually, I’m pretty immune.
However, when I wrote up the news item for Finnish company Normincie’s new high-end laptop bags, I must admit I experienced a bit of that “want”. They looked so beautiful, even to a lunk-headed guy like myself. I mean, look at that thing up top, there; it’s a beauty, don’t you think?
Anyway, I was pretty durned stoked to get a chance to test this lovely thing out. To find out what I thought, read on!
The case was shipped in a plain brown box, and I was a little worried (“400 bucks and all I get is a cardboard box?”) . . . until I opened the box and found the bag itself inside a very nice cloth bag of its own:
That was a nice touch, and added a bit of elegance. Which, let’s face it, is something that you look for in a high-end item. But now that we’ve got it out of the sack, let’s take a look at it.
The bag has two main compartments; one for papers and other skinny kind of stuff, and the main compartment (above), in addition to a small zippered compartment on the front of the bag for your passport, tickets, wallet, and whatnot.
There is also a luggage strap on the back of the bag–you know: one of those strap things that you can sleep the handle of your wheeled bag through so your briefcase doesn’t topple off while you’re negotiating the airport.
The main bag compartment is divided into two with a folding, padded, velcro divider that clicks into place with a magnetic snap.
And of course the most obvious feature is the handle–unlike most other laptop bags with soft handles made of padded leather or some such, the handle on the Normancie is made steel, with a rubberized, padded grip. This handle is going to be a deal maker or breaker for you, depending on what you think; it provides a huge amount of stability and solidity to the bag, as well as reinforcing the bag itself. On the other hand, it’s a big hunk o’ steel–maybe it’ll get in your way, or you don’t want something that solid. It’s up to you. I, personally, loved it–I like a bag that feels like it can stand up on its own and stand up to some abuse, and the steel-reinforced Normancie absolutely feels like that. But it might be too much for you. You have to decide.
The strap that goes with this handle is also pretty unique.
It has this bullet-plug thing that slips through a circular hole in the metal handle. I was worried that the plug would slip out while I was carting the bag around, but that wasn’t the case. The strap itself is nicely padded and very comfortable–honestly, it’s probably the most comfortable laptop bag strap I’ve ever used. It’s a little thinner than your ordinary strap, and the padding covers a good bit of it, so that probably helps.
Okay, so it looks good. How does it handle all my junk? While I don’t travel as much as I used to (thank goodness!), I have plenty of experience in what makes a bag helpful for the airport haul. I carry my laptop (MacBook Pro), power brick, lots of cables, wallet, keys, pens, iPad, Bluetooth headphones, and all the other paraphernalia of a hardened technogypsy road warrior.
The gist is this: this bag has a slimmer “form factor” (as we say in The Biz) than most of the cases I’ve used. It doesn’t accordion out in the back or front, and this keeps it relatively slim.
The good thing about this is obvious: it’s slim! The down side is, when you’re traveling, you kinda have to squeeze your stuff in there a bit. It’s tight. So the question for you is: does the slimness of the bag make up for the fact that you have to squeeze your stuff a little and so the interior is a bit tight? Or would that drive you crazy? Don’t get me wrong: my stuff all fit in there–my big 15″ MacBook Pro laptop, my Skooba cable stable, my headphones, my iPad, and all the rest.
There are a number of pockets for stuff–not quite as many as I would wish, but a goodly number, including one that might have been designed with the MBP power brick in mind. But it was tight.
Me? Well honestly, after a period of time, I decided that living with a bit of tightness was more than compensated for by the smaller size; it was easier to heave in and out of cars, planes, taxis, and the like. And damn, it’s a nice looking bag, too. Plus the fact that it has that big handle means that it stands up on its own; I wasn’t constantly having to lean it against stuff to prevent it from flopping over. But that’s something you’ll have to decide for yourself.
And of course after a bit I found the most efficient method for fitting everything in. Oh, check it out; the iPad fits perfectly in the slot on the back! Hey, my cable stable rests right on top of the power brick in the main pocket! Etc.
One thing I like about my current bag is that it’s “checkpoint friendly”, i.e. I don’t have to haul my laptop out it every time the TSA needs to violate my 4th Amendment rights. The Normincie is not designed like that, but the padded pocket in which you put your laptop is held in place with a magnetic strap, making it really easy to open, flip down the flap, and just let your laptop right through sitting lightly on top. Is it the same as those translucent “checkpoint friendly” pockets? No. But it’s still not a bear to deal with. And the TSA folks didn’t give me any problems over it.
Quality-wise, this is an absolutely rock-solid bag. The material is tough and sturdy, the zippers and pockets seem designed for hard use, and of course the handle seems like it’s made for home defense–I kept checking to see if it had a hidden stiletto in it somewhere. This is a high-quality product, no question about it.
So there it is; an excellent bag with really eye-catching design that seems durn sturdy, and does a great job holding all my crapola while still being reasonably compact for my road-warrior duties. Is it worth the extra scratch? Well, that’s hard for me to judge for you. Yes, $400 (more or less) is a lot of money for a bag. On the other hand, for something you use every day, something that’s beautiful–even beautiful enough for a mook like me to see it–and something that, it would appear, will last for years and years? Well, I think it’s worth it, just like my Mephisto sandals and my Facionable slacks. But you should judge for yourself. For me, though, it’s a beauty.
What it is: Normincies laptop bag
What I liked: It’s beautiful; it holds all my stuff; lots of good pockets!; thoughtful design
What needs improvement: It’s durn expensive!; would love a “checkpoint friendly” model
MSRP: For the 15″ Cordura I tested, €349.00 ($457.00) list, €283.74 ($372.00) for non-EU residents; for all model prices, see the Normincie web site
Source: Normincies donation