Laptop bags can be thought of as the unsung hero of the laptop world, carrying (pardon the pun) out an invaluable task in the transport of our latest netbooks and laptops. So when we were sent the Exspect MiBag we set about to find out whether it could do this with aplomb.
The bags come in sizes for 13-inch (400 x 350 x 100mm) and 17-inch (380 x 450 x 150mm) laptops and are sold as "customisable laptop bags to make you stand out from the crowd". This claim is based on the fact that the covers are interchangeable - meaning if you're bored with the same old black fascia you can swap it for a more vibrant colour.
The bag is effectively two-in-one with an outer "protective bag", which in fairness could be used in its own right, housing the inner sleeve itself. This inner sleeve features a variety of storage areas meaning you'll be able to carry around a multitude of pens and notepads, as well as your MP3 as there is the obligatory rubber lined hole in one of the pockets for a headphones cable. The outer bag has less pockets, but the ones it does have are bigger and more suited to files and the like.
Both inner and outer bags have protective rubber feet and the material is of a padded nylon mix, which we have to say, apart from the bag's size (we looked at the 17-incher), made it feel a little on the bulky side.
To the performance then and it fared pretty well on the whole, the lining of the inner bag was nice and made you feel that your pride and joy would be safe inside and the carry handles on both bags were comfortable, with the included shoulder strap feeling fairly sturdy. Everything seemed to fit, lock and zip together nicely.
The bulk was a bit of a problem, however, especially when cycling as the rigidity of the material didn't allow it to sit nicely on the hip - we ended up just using the inner sleeve for riding. Walking around and the bag was far more at home. It was also quite conspicuous, which a vibrant colour would have only added to - the logo was also very large and detracted from the uniqueness that the company was obviously trying to aim at with the changeable covers.
And it was these interchangeable covers that, for us, were the biggest issue, to our eyes they were a bit - well ugly and uninspired.
When you buy a laptop bag, if aesthetics are a consideration to you, you choose the pattern, colour and stick with it, customisation comes with scuffs, scratches, cigarette burns and coffee stains. If you really want to go crazy maybe even a badge or two.
The swappable fascias just seemed to add unnecessary bulk to an already bulky product as well as an extra zip - which it certainly doesn't need. The advantages of the fascias are further put into question as you'll be forking out £9.99 for each on top of the £34.99 for the 13-inch version and £39.99 for the 17-incher.
This is a shame since the bag has some nice touches such as a zip on the top and bottom on one of the pockets, making retrieving documents easier if you are not in a position to take the bag off, and magnets within the lining of the front flap for when you don't want the buckle option.
The Exspect MiBag is a decent product with some nice features, though the bulk was an issue especially when cycling - streamlined this is not.
We also felt the "customisation" feature had limited value, although it will bring a dash of colour to the product - the fascias fitting well onto the main bag, they weren't attractive or unique enough to make it a worth while addition.
This is a good quality product and will work well as a day-to-day laptop bag, but it misses on the style front, which seems to be its central aim.