In June 2006, Samsill Corporation obtained an exclusive multi-year brand licensing agreement with Microsoft Corporation. Their task, as mentioned in their press release, is to “manufacture, market and sell a broad assortment of computer bags and business accessories leveraging the Microsoft brand.” To get the word out on their products, Samsill offered The Gadgeteer Team to review any of the new Microsoft Laptop Bags.
When browsing the line of available products, there were so many types to select. They designed a bag to meet almost any consumer’s needs. The two catching my eye were the Ladies Madison Laptop Tote (Tan) and the Universal Backpack. Both appeared to meet the needs of a “â€¦business casual professional with a mobile lifestyle,” and still had a trendy, smart look to them. Julie provided my selection and Samsill agreed to send both for review. First up in this two-part review is the Ladies Madison Laptop Tote.
At first glance, I found the sleek and professional look of this tote very appealing. It appeared to be stylish enough to carry into a boardroom, yet not too large to balance all my accessories. Appearances aside, I started examining the bag closer and used it in everyday life for the past few weeks. Keep reading to find out my assessment.
Holds most laptops that are up to 15.4″ wide
Media storage and accessory panels
Outside zipper pocket
U-shaped zipper closure to keep contents secure
Fold down shoulder straps
Light-colored lining to find items fast
Product Dimensions: 17″ x 4.75″ x 13.5″
Product Weight: 1.8 lbs
Material: Lightweight 1680D nylon with leather-look vinyl
To start things off, I was shocked to discover the tote weighs only 1.8 pounds. The 1680D nylon certainly makes this lightweight, yet durable and steady when packed. Along the top, there are two leather-looking vinyl straps, an outside zippered pocket, and a u-shaped zipper.
Three-quarters down, there is tan piping along the circumference of the tote. Below this, is a leather-look vinyl to provide a stylish accent and allow the bag to stand upright.
The leather-looking straps are positioned 5″ apart on each side of the bag. The straps are 11″ tall and approximately 3/4″ thick. These definitely look sharp, but may not be as functional as they could be. The thinness does not distribute the weight like a messenger bag or even a wider strap tote. Plus, the seam of the strap dug into my collar bone and shoulder. Another point about the straps is how the vinyl material gets slippery, once the bag is loaded. This was partly due to hand moisturizer transferring to the strap and/or me wearing a silky shirt. At the same time, the vinyl has an overall slick feel to it. With these shoulder strap issues, I found myself carrying this strictly as a hand tote, which was hard on my upper back.
Moving along the outside of the bag is the zippered outside pocket. To get inside, I had to move the strap up and unzip the pocket. Inside, there is a tan interior made of parachute vinyl.
The pocket is approximately 6″ deep and 8 1/2″ wide. This size seemed convenient for holding your keys, wallet, and a few pens. As I used the bag, I kept finding myself wanting more from the side pocket. I would prefer the pocket stretch the length and width of the bag and have a couple pen slots inside. With these features, I could just quickly grab a pen or pull a folder or papers out of the side pocket. Instead, I would need to store these things inside the overall bag, which exposes my laptop and gear. Another point about the outside pocket is that you cannot get to it, if the inside of the bag is stuffed. I had a laptop, notebook, mouse, and a few random items inside. Once it was this full (as pictured below) and zipped up, I could not get into the side pocket.
I zipped up this side pocket and looked at the base of the bag. The same leather-looking vinyl used for the straps is along the bottom. I did a couple of strength tests on the material. I scratched it hard with my fingernails and poked it with a couple pens. The material did not even budge or show a nick.
I liked having the vinyl base, since it allows the bag to stand, whenever I placed it on the floor. The only addition I would like to see are some prongs on the bottom. The tote stands completely flat, which allows the entire base to touch the floor. Having the prongs would prevent this and give the perception of adding protection to my gear.
Time to look inside the tote. When unzipped, more of the tan, nylon material is exposed. This color is such a great feature, since I could quickly find whatever accessory I needed. Think about all those times you have looked inside a dark bag and wish you had a flashlight to illuminate the inside. Along one side is a padded encasement for up to a 15.4″ laptop, which is secured with a Velcro strap.
On the other side of the encasement, Samsill added a Velcro flap pocket and three, business card slots. They also placed six, multi-use pockets on the opposing side of the tote. As pictured here, the pockets can be used to hold your cables, cell phone, pens, a CD, or an external drive. And, the final features are a nylon strap to clip your keys and free space to hold extraneous items. It comfortably fits a 2″ binder or book. Anything thicker would prevent me from zipping the case.
I am a firm believer in sharing the love, especially when it comes to testing products. The thought is that what works for me, does not always work for others. Plus, getting another perspective is always a great idea. To help with this review, I asked my always-on-the-go neighbor Nancy to test the bag. Nancy brings to the table the need to carry her laptop every day, since she runs an in-home medical services company. She borrowed the Ladies Tote for 3 weeks and was pleased with certain aspects.
She was a huge fan of the professional look and how durable the material was. While using the bag, she scooted it along the floor, had it near her shedding cat, brought it inside patients’ homes, and had it loaded with her 15″ laptop and paperwork. What is amazing is that there is not one mark on the bagâ€”or cat hair. It withstood all her traveling and still looks perfectly new. If I had not seen her coming and going with the bag, I would have thought she kept it in the box.
I did not share my thoughts on the bag with her, so she could stay objective. Remarkably, we came up with the same thoughts. The straps and bottom of the bag need some improvement. She specifically felt the straps needed to be longer and wider, making it easier to carry. She also wanted something underneath the bag to absorb any banging on the ground. She just wanted some added protection to her laptop. Her last perspective was her desire to have a color other than black. I was content with the color, but she would like to have it more of an accessory and have a couple colors to use. Overall, Nancy liked the bag, but said she would not purchase one until the straps were wider and longer.
I am in agreement with Nancy and thank her for her insight! The straps were the deciding factor for me, too. I absolutely love the look, but not the feel of the straps. Having them slide off or dig into my shoulder, made this uncomfortable to use. Although I carried it with my hand, this really is not a practical option for me. I typically have two are three other items (diaper bag, purse, kid, etc.) in tow. The straps aside, the durable material, professional design, and compact tote make this a likable item. If the straps are changed, I might be purchasing a couple of these for Christmas gifts.