I recently got a hold of one of an unusual and unique laptop backpack from Built NY. Unlike traditional ones that are usually bulky and outfitted with many pockets, Built NY took the minimalistic approach. Their laptop backpack resembles their popular neoprene laptop sleeves more than anything else. In fact, it’s essentially just that with straps to go over your shoulders. I’ve always enjoyed trying out innovative designs especially those that stand out. After about a month of use, here’s what I found:
What does it fit?
If you’re considering picking up one of these to replace your existing backpack, it will force you through a difficult transition. As a college student, I usually have a lot of random things stuffed into my backpack. These aren’t limited too but often include a Dell Mini netbook, graphing calculator, pencils, pens, erasers, a water bottle, textbooks, a sprial-bound notebook, headphones, and sunglasses. With the Built NY backpack, I’m forced to carry only a laptop. I could most likely squeeze in a notebook, book, or folder as well. The top of the bag unzips for access to a large compartment which fits up to 16-inch laptops. There’s also a small secondary compartment accessible from on the side of the bag for storing a laptop’s power supply. There’s also a small pocket for storing headphones or sunglasses on one of the shoulder straps. For the most part, the only thing you’ll want to be storing in this backpack is a laptop, nothing else. And there’s a reason for that: comfort and looks.
Comfort and Quality
When you think of a laptop backpack, you expect something that’s well padded. Unfortunately there’s absolutely no padding between the backpack and you. It’s just the thin neoprene material. If you have a rugged laptop with sharp edges and possibly stubs on the bottom, you’ll have a remorseful time with this backpack. However it won’t be an issue storing something smooth and rounded such as a Macbook Pro or a compact netbook. For the most part, the bag holds a laptop quite well. But that’s it. Using the small storage compartment on the shoulder strap is quite uncomfortable. I was also annoyed with the carry handle which naturally folds down and ends up between you and the backpack. I found myself having to take of the backpack to adjust it. The neoprene material seems quite durable. It’s fairly resistive to water and dirt. While there’s slightly thicker padding on the bottom to absorb impact, there’s not nearly enough to adequately protect a laptop. It’s not on par with a true laptop backpack. In addition, I was disappointed with some of the workmanship as well. The stitches weren’t double or triple reinforced. It seems as though it could fall apart after some wear and tear. Even the zipper was often stubborn and wouldn’t close or open smoothly. Despite those issues, which should be improved on in a future iteration, it’s still the simplest back pack I’ve come across. There’s no unnecessary bulk.
I’ve never received so many pauses and mixed responses when getting feedback about something. While I thought the bag simply looked unique and stands out, others had more to say. Just about everyone eventually described the Built NY Backpack as a bullet proof vest or a CamelBak water bladder. Unfortunately it can’t stop bullets or store water. While the bag looks unusual enough, it can easily begin to look horrible if you throw your laptop’s power supply into the secondary compartment. Wearing it with anything other than the laptop or something that has a similar form factor takes away from its streamline design since it bulges.
While I had plenty of criticism, there’s plenty of pros too. This bag forces you to travel light. When I was using it, I almost never took anything I didn’t need with me, which I would have done with a traditional backpack. The streamline design is definitely an interesting look. The simplicity and style will have people asking questions. It’s actually a lot more convenient than carrying an over-the-shoulder messenger bag. However this product isn’t for everyone. In fact, there’s only a small niche that would probably be interested since it can hold only a laptop. I definitely will not line up to pick one of these up, but would might be more interested if it were a bit more affordable and if some more padding gets added, the stitches get reinforced, and the carry handle gets redesigned. The Laptop Backpack will run you nearly $50 for the medium-sized model. While that’s a bit pricey, it’s still a great bag for those that have an active lifestyle and want to commute with a light load.