Belkin NE-MS 12in Messenger Bag review

Price when reviewed

(Picture 2) Most notebooks don’t come with a carry case and, if they do, it’s either a flimsy affair that won’t protect it well enough, or so obviously a notebook case that it becomes a target for thieves. Here are five carry bags that not only look the part, but also allow you to carry around your expensive kit in a discreet manner.

Belkin NE-MS 12in Messenger Bag review

Belkin’s NE-MS is part of the company’s Studio range and can handle notebooks up to 12in. This makes it ideal if you have an ultraportable that you want to carry around in style. If khaki isn’t your thing, it’s also available in various other colours and materials. Despite its small dimensions, there’s plenty of room for documents (in the front and rear pockets) and your PSU, mouse, pens and CDs inside the front pouch. Behind this is a zip compartment with a removable notebook pouch. It’s well padded for protection and means you can transport your laptop in another bag if you need to. With carry handles on the top and side, our only gripe is the lack of padding on the shoulder strap. But at £17, it’s a bargain if your notebook will fit.

If it won’t, TechAir’s 5502 Messenger Bag is well worth investigating. Unlike Belkin’s, it will take a 15.4in notebook, plus it comes with a 12-month subscription to i-TRAK. This is like Belkin’s StuffBAK scheme, but you don’t have to pay i-TRAK to return your laptop if it’s stolen and recovered.

As well as being stylish and well made, the TechAir has an air cushion that protects your notebook from being damaged in a drop or knock. A zip at the front lets you increase the bag’s depth if you need to store more, and a removable Skinn organiser is a handy place to keep pens, a mobile phone and small accessories. The bag is shower-proof and comfortable to carry thanks to a well-padded shoulder strap, and it isn’t overpriced at £36.

For those who travel regularly, the L.I.P.S. Mobile Trolley Case is a good choice. It’s designed to hold up to a 17in notebook in its clever suspension system in the middle compartment. The laptop hangs in Velcro straps, so will never touch the sides even if the case is dropped. There’s enough room for overnight clothing in the rear area and documents at the front. Plus, you can put your flight tickets, passport and pens in the zip pocket at the front. It may be expensive at £81, but you can be sure your laptop will be safe.

Be-ez’s new LEvertigo Black Pearl isn’t much bigger than Belkin’s bag, but claims to take notebooks up to 15.4in, including the MacBook Pro. We found it a struggle to fit several of our 15in notebooks into it and, once in, there wasn’t much room for anything else. If your PSU is relatively thin, it should fit in the front zip compartment, leaving room for some documents in the middle pockets. But, there’s no carry handle on top – only a shoulder strap that’s made from similar material to seat belts. As there’s no padding, it isn’t particularly comfortable compared to the TechAir, and there’s little padding on the back to protect you or the notebook as you walk. It may be less stylish, but the TechAir is the better choice at this price.

Pakuma’s Akara K1 is one of the best laptop bags around. It looks like a standard rucksack, giving no hint you’re carrying a notebook, but inside there’s a well-padded cocoon that fits most 17in notebooks: up to 300 x 390 x 51mm (WDH). There’s 23 litres of internal space, but this is divided up well to allow you to store your peripherals and other possessions besides. One of the outside pockets has a sewn-in CD wallet where you can store 24 discs. The lower pocket is ideal for pens and a mobile phone, while water bottles can be stored in the side pockets. Like all well-designed rucksacks, the K1 is fully adjustable with well-padded shoulder straps, back padding, chest and waist straps. Even with a heavy load inside, it’s by far the most comfortable bag to carry here. It isn’t cheap at £49, but it’s supremely well made and lets you carry and protect your notebook and all your accessories.

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