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Laptop Bags for 17-inch Macbook Pro

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I have an addiction to laptop bags. I’m not sure why, but no matter how many I have, I’m still always looking for the perfect bag: the bag that isn’t too big, but fits all my stuff. The bag that’s nice looking and let’s me organize things in a way that makes sense. I’ve come close, but I think perfection will always elude me.

Now that I’m a Mac user, my quest for the perfect laptop bag has been made more complicated: many bags that say they fit “most” 17-inch laptops do not fit my Macbook Pro. I learned this the hard way after falling in love with the OGIO Epic backpack. This bag is so big, you could fit a small child in there with room to spare – but the special side-loading laptop slot that comes with tons of fabulous padding is about a half-inch too short for my Macbook Pro.

OGIO Epic - 17" MBP FAIL
OGIO Epic - A 17" MBP EPIC FAIL

I was utterly beside myself with with the possibilities of the oasis of pockets and pouches – and organizational dream come true! And sturdy? You could take this thing backpacking in the Himalayas and it would outlast you – with a lifetime warranty to boot!

But alas – no joy once I tried to fit it into the side-loading slot.To be very clear, so there is no confusion, the OGIO Epic Laptop Backpack DOES NOT fit the 17″ Macbook Pro.

I used it for a month or so anyway, unwilling to divorce myself from the temptation of a place for everything, and everything in it’s place, but instead of using the slot for the laptop, I had to put my MBP in the large main compartment, next to my gym shoes and other crap – completely defeating the purpose of paying for a laptop backpack instead of a regular school backpack.

The stupid thing about the OGIO Epic is that the bag itself is tall enough – they just didn’t make the laptop pocket tall enough. It would have been perfect, if a bit large. I commute 4.5 hours a day, by bus and then subway and then walking, then the same in reverse to get home. I had wanted a larger pack so I could bring a change of clothes with me for bellydance and/or kung-fu classes. If the laptop slot had been just a half-inch taller, I would have finally found my laptop promised land.

Realizing I didn’t want to lug around a giant pack if it wasn’t even going to be able to be used for what I wanted, I started looking around for yet another backpack. I should mention that because of all the walking I have to do in New York City to commute every day, a backpack style bag was necessary. I’ve tried messenger style bags, and although I like them more, my shoulder just can’t handle the weight.

This time, I sat down and did a lot of research (as I would normally do – I had seen the OGIO in Best Buy while in there buying a router to try and fix my stupid %@#!&^% Airport problem.)

I checked the Tom Bihn website, which has a nice variety of interesting bags that will absolutely fit the 17″ Macbook Pro, but nothing there really rocks my socks. I also checked Brenthaven, but the backpack I was interested in was not available for 17″. Bastards.

Ebags.Com is a fabulous site, by the way. They carry such a large range of products, and most have fairly detailed customer reviews, so it really gives you a good idea of what you’re getting into. Even if you don’t buy your bag from them, its a great place to research.

I checked dozens of Mac forums and read probably hundreds of reviews on eBags.Com, and finally came across a bag I liked. I was able to confirm from at least one Mac forum post that it did in fact fit the 17″ Macbook Pro, so I decided to give it a shot.

The bag I had found was the STM Large Convertible, which sounds more like a sports car than a backpack. What I immediately liked about it was the fact that it could switch back and forth from messenger-bag to backpack – which is perfect for me. I can use it as a backpack when I’m commuting, and switch it over to shoulder-bag style when I’m presenting at conferences, etc. And the backpack straps can actually tuck away from view, making it look like a traditional shoulder-bag. (This was less important to me, but a nice perk.)

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My price range for laptop bags was in the range of $80-$180, but could be convinced to spend more if I found something truly exceptional. The STM laptop ended up running about $80, and I found it on eBay in brand new condition for about $15 less. So I not only found a bag that looked incredibly promising, but I actually undershot my budget. Woo.

After a week of impatiently waiting (and shooting my OGIO looks of disgust and disappointment when I thought it wasn’t looking) my STM arrived. Its easily half the size of the OGIO, depth-wise, but my Macbook Pro slid easily into the laptop sleeve inside the bag. The flap cover closed just fine. It did, indeed, fit like a glove.

I really like this bag – here’s my take:

Pros

  • Small profile, easy to commute with
  • Fits the 17″ Macbook Pro perfectly
  • Converts from shoulder bag to backpack
  • Comes with phone/ipod pouch on the shoulder strap (although I never remember to use it)
  • Very sturdy construction
  • Nice weight distribution – my laptop feels lighter than it is when it’s on my back

Cons

  • Smaller (which is also a ‘pro’, so take that for what its worth)
  • Straps are a tad thinner than I prefer – they do not rub or chafe though
  • Not as many pockets or compartments as I’d like – which is to be expected considering the small profile

On a final note, I would have preferred the STM use snaps or buckle fasteners instead of Velcro. While Velcro is super-handy (I love it, honestly!), I have a dog, and my dog sheds a lot. Within 10 minutes of the bag being in my house, the Velcro was matted with white dog hair. The Velcro still works fine, but it looks kinda yucky with all the hair in it.

If the STM Large Convertible isn’t your style, or if you need something roomier, check out this post on the Macrumors forums for more suggestions for bags that will fit your 17″ MBP. I found it very helpful in my research.

I don’t know that a perfect laptop bag exists – at least not for me. Sometimes I want slim and low-profile, other times I need something with considerably more room.

About the author

snipe

I'm a tech nerd from NY/CA now living in Lisbon, Portugal. I run Grokability, Inc, and run several open source projects, including Snipe-IT Asset Management. Tweet at me @snipeyhead, skeet me me at @snipe.lol, or read more...

By snipe
Snipe.Net Geeky, sweary things.

About Me

I'm a tech nerd from NY/CA now living in Lisbon, Portugal. I run Grokability, Inc, and run several open source projects, including Snipe-IT Asset Management. Tweet at me @snipeyhead, skeet me me at @snipe.lol, or read more...

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