Ballistix PTAC Laptop Cases
Ballistix PTAC Stealth Laptop Sleeve
Ballistix PTAC Matrix Laptop Shoulder Bag
After a favorable review of the Slappa Velocity Matrix laptop backpack in October 2007, I was pleased to be contacted about reviewing a few new products from Slappa. For this month, I’m looking at two products that make a great pair: the Stealth Laptop Sleeve and the Matrix Laptop Shoulder Bag from Slappa’s Ballistix PTAC line.
Stealth Laptop Sleeve
I am a big fan of products that do one thing and do that one thing extremely well, and the Stealth Laptop Sleeve is just such a product.
Available in sizes for 15″ and 17″ laptop computers, this sleeve provides good protection with an adequate amount of padding that is not so thick as to add unnecessary bulk. The only additional “feature,” if it can be called a feature, is a simple pouch on the back for holding a few documents or cables. It’s made from ballistic nylon which, according to Slappa, is both water- and tear-resistant.
The Stealth Laptop Sleeve lacks any kind of handles or a strap, which may be a disappointment to some, but I do not see this as a negative point. To me, the purpose of a laptop sleeve is just to provide extra protection to the laptop and would otherwise be carried the same as the laptop itself—either cradling the bottom like one would hold books, or riding inside of a larger bag. There are two small metal rings to which a strap can be attached, available separately from Slappa for $20.
The Ballistix PTAC Stealth Laptop Sleeve is a well-designed, no-frills pouch for laptops.
Matrix Laptop Shoulder Bag
If I were reviewing the Matrix Laptop Shoulder Bag based solely on the compartment arrangement and capacity, high marks would be deserved. Though it is roughly the size of a typical briefcase (or perhaps a smidge thicker), this bag feels cavernous inside. The main compartment is divided in two halves, each capable of accommodating a laptop up to 17″, and it is especially well suited to hold laptops inside a Stealth Laptop Sleeve. Of course, most owners don’t need to carry two laptops, so the second half of the main compartment is ideal for power adapters, cables, and/or books.
The Matrix Laptop Shoulder Bag filled with all my computing gear.
Several more compartments are on the front of the bag. There’s a zippered pouch for medium-sized equipment or more cables, plus three small compartments with their own flaps, perfect for things like pocket cameras, USB hubs, small multi-outlet power strips, battery chargers, etc., just to name a few of my own items that found a nice home in these compartments. At the top is a small, zippered pouch ideal for business cards. Two more compartments are located on each side of the bag, which I found perfect for a mouse on one side and my 3DConnexion Space Navigator knob in the other. One more compartment is incorporated into the flap and rests above the main, large compartment when the flap is closed. Then, on the back, is a zippered pouch similar to the one on the back of the Stealth Laptop Sleeve for carrying a few documents or file folders.
The inner lining is constructed the same as the Stealth Laptop Sleeve and provides a respectable amount of padding. The bag itself, like the sleeve, is constructed of water- and tear-resistant ballistic nylon.
Even though I am very pleased with the arrangement and capacity of the various compartments, I don’t see this bag as the ideal tote for laptops. My issue with the bag lies almost entirely on the design of the flap and the position of the handle. Unfortunately, I have seen many bags—and this bag joins that group—commit what I consider to be a sin in bag design. The flap connects to the bag only along the top rear edge and via two clasps at the bottom when closed. Admittedly, both the stitching at the top and the quality of the clasps is very good. However, because the handle is on the top of the flap, the weight from whatever the bag is carrying ends up being supported almost entirely by the two clasps. In spite of being high quality clasps, I’m not sure I trust that much weight pulling on them. Moreover, even if the clasps can handle the weight with no problem, the flap rides in a very unsightly position when being carried by the handle.
This is what the front of the Matrix Laptop Shoulder Bag looks like when the flap is clipped shut and the entire bag is carried by the handle.
Two additional quirks compound this problem. The handle, which is otherwise well stitched and comfortable to hold, rests rather tightly against the top side of the bag. Rather than effortlessly sliding my fingers under the handle, I have to wiggle a bit to work them under the handle. It simply needs a little bit of slack and possibly a half inch of extra length.
I’d have instead liked to use the included shoulder strap since it supports the bag’s weight via the sides of the bag itself instead of the flap. Alas, the strap could also stand for a revisit. I found that it had a tendency to slide off my shoulder easily.
Carrying the bag with its strap.
At first, I might have been convinced it was just the shape of my shoulders, but a colleague whom I asked to give the bag a test carry agreed that the strap didn’t seem very grippy. Plus, I’ve carried similar weights in other bags that either had a slip piece at the top with a better grip, or a slip piece with an inward curve that made for more surface contact with my shoulder, or both. Sure, I could lengthen the strap and run it diagonally to the opposite shoulder, yet I don’t generally need to do this with other bags, and it can be a little awkward to pull a bag’s strap over my head to the other shoulder.
I love the compartment layout of the Matrix Laptop Shoulder Bag and the quality material used in its construction, but the flap/handle/strap issue makes this bag a secondary bag at best. If Slappa designers can come up with a way for the handle to support the weight through the bag’s main sides instead of only by the flap, I’d feel entirely differently. I might even consider a bag designed exactly the same as this one, but with a flap that closes with zippers down the entire length and across the bottom instead of just the two clasps. Even though the trade-off would be a flap that might take an extra second or two to close, the weight would then be shared through the flap to the main bag, and the flap wouldn’t poof out when being carried as the current design does.