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September 24, 2004

{     Tom Bihn - Brain Cell - Laptop Sleeve     }    

I recently received the greatest gift ever given to me- a 12" G4 iBook. High on the iLife, I immediately set out to find a bag or sleeve worthy of my machine. For members of the uber-fetishistic cult of Mac, this is no simple task, and given that I'm rocking the 12-inch I needed something specially fitted. After much looking and debate and research (see below for further comments), I finally found what I was looking for with Tom Bihn. Simply put, the Brain Cell is the finest laptop sleeve I've ever laid hands on. It's slim design and unassuming appearance belie the level of protection it provides your notebook- offering hard-sided sheathing and a unique shock-absorbent suspended insert, this is some serious next-level gear. My iBook fits snugly inside, nestled in the padded folds, safe from scratches, dings, drops, Republicans and other potential evils. The "cereal-box" flap closure seals securely and stays shut, utilizing Velcro-like strips of Applix, so there's no zippers or snaps to rough up your smooth surfaces. The Brain Cell's simple and straight-forward design is almost minimalist; eliminating extraneous bells and whistles in favor of a single flat stretch-mesh pocket on the front, reinforced web-strap handles and sextuple-stitched "D" ring clips for shoulder strap attachment. Six different sizes and six different colors (from Steel to Wasabi) are offered to accomodate any taste or need. It would look equally comfortable at a gallery opening or a WTO protest. I find it's appearance a perfect compliment to the iBook aesthetic, and my wife did not hesitate to describe the Braincell as "sexy", confirming my belief that this product transcends the boundaries of both geek and chic. I've been test-driving the Brain Cell for a couple of weeks now, using the optional Absolute and Terra-grip shoulder straps, and have nothing bad to say. It is comfortable on my hip and adds no additional weight to the already feather-light 12-inch iBook. I've scraped it against brick walls and metal door latches (accidentally of course) without so much as a scuff. It's horizontal design allows me to toss it in my messenger bag when I need to pack along additional gear (keyboard, mouse, discs, etc.) and the sleeve was designed to be compatible with other Tom Bihn products, snapping securely into a variety of larger bags for those who want ultimate protection and maximum portability. They also offer a vertical sleeve, The Monolith, for those of you who like it that way. At this point I can't imagine ever needing to replace it, though it's worth pointing out that Tom Bihn is so confident of their product that they offer a lifetime guarantee on everything they manufacture. (Tom Bihn products are manufactured in the US, out of Port Angeles, Washington.) My experience with the company thus far has been nothing short of outstanding, from the quality of their products to the exceptional service I've received online and on the phone. Their website is one of the most informative of all those I visited in my quest for the perfect sleeve- offering a wealth of information on the product, its construction, sizing and pricing while remaining accessible and easily understood. I could not be more impressed. Special thanks go out to Darcy Hudgens, whose excellent customer service is only slightly eclipsed by her extraordinary taste in music. And lest you think I didn't do my homework, I'd like to share some thoughts on some other manufacturers I considered: Booq= Of all the other companies I looked at, they were the one from whom I expected the most. The sleeve itself is pretty decent, though nowhere near as tough as the Brain Cell, but they only offer it in the vertical format, and that just didn't work for me. Timbuk2= Way 2 expensive, way 2 tacky. Acme= Truly the Paris Hilton of laptop sleeves- much too thin and extremely over-rated, but draped in beautiful and expensive designer duds. Brenthaven= I just can't handle that Wall Street refugee briefcase-bag look. I've heard nothing but good things about the quality, but I'm just not the executive-leatherboy type. Shaun Jackson Design= Great idea, and maybe I'll be ready for that some day, but for now it's a bit too much like my fourth grade Trapper-Keeper. Kensington= Their SaddleBags are highly lauded, but I just can't deal with the whole convertible backpack/shoulder bag craze that's sweeping portage culture these days. Shinza= Their Zero Shock does look cool, but I just don't feel comfortable buying my protective laptop sleeve from a manufacturer of rechargeable mini-RC cars. Call me crazy.

     » See the Brain Cell in all its glory
     » Tom Bihn


I like the looks of this. You really did your homework. I just opened the back of an issue of MacWorld and said "Hey, that looks cool and cheap enough." I settled one of the "MacAlly": horizontal bags and then ended up using it as my only bag, quickly wearing the fuck out of it in several places.

So, why didn't you put links to the other company websites? I haven't even seen most of those.

Posted by: benjamin at September 25, 2004 5:53 PM

How do you feel about Tom Bihn's Brain Cell?

Posted by: Marsha at December 23, 2004 11:15 PM

Hey, just wondering if anyone out there knows where i can get my hands on a marware sportfolio sleeve for 14" ibooks... i would rather buy one in person than on the web...

Posted by: kenz at September 16, 2005 9:53 PM

well, i just pulled the trigger on a brain cell. thanks for the input. i had considered a few of the options you compared to the cell. i would agree with various of your impressions.

thanks again. id be interested in whatever subsequent revelations you might experience as to the brain cell.


Posted by: em at December 10, 2005 12:17 AM
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