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The first time I put on the Synapse (which Tom Bihn sent to us in an electric purple called “Plum”), Robbie called from across the office, “So you finally joined Prince’s New Power Generation?” Sigh. All kidding aside, finding a great bag for your MacBook is challenging. Messenger bags are stylish, but lugging a full one around all day can get tiring. Tom Bihn’s Synapse is a compact backpack that’s easy to carry, fits a MacBook, and offers a well-thought-out design that’s a step above your average backpack. And it’s available in many other shades--assuming that you don’t actually want to be mistaken for The Purple One, that is.
At 16x11.5x7.9 inches, the Synapse is a compact bag. Despite its small size, we had no problems using it to carry a 13-inch MacBook, power adapter, cables, and other accessories. That still left plenty of room for notebooks, file folders, a couple of magazines, keys, sunglasses, and other personal items. While it’s not specifically designed with a laptop compartment, the laptop sleeve was invented to handle that function in great bags like this, and Tom Bihn, of course, offers padded sleeves that start at $30.
The compact Synapse holds a surprising amount of your stuff, and it's comfortable to wear even when it's stuffed to the gills.
As far as stowing everything goes, the Synapse features five separate zippered compartments. The main compartment easily fit our sleeved laptop, and the back is padded for comfort. There’s also an internal pocket for a bit of organization. Twin vertical side pockets can hold smaller items--and one side features pen slots, while the other has an ultrasuede-lined pocket for an iPhone or other delicate gadget. The large center pocket is sized to fit a one-liter water bottle. A smaller zippered pocket on top is perfect for your wallet, plane tickets, or other small items that you might need to grab quickly, and there’s a generously sized bottom compartment. All close with splashproof zippers, which have a rubbery covering that prevents water from seeping through.
In daily use as a commute bag, the Synapse was a success. Its small profile was a huge asset on crowded trains. We would have liked a few small internal zippered pockets for better organization, but you can accomplish much the same thing by adding organizer pouches ($5–$20) to the O-rings in each pocket. At 120 bucks, the Synapse is a much larger investment than some might want to make in a backpack, but the quality of materials and construction of the bag--which is manufactured in Seattle--is undeniable.
Buying the Synapse is an investment--but its solid construction leaves us confident that we'll probably never need to take advantage of the lifetime guarantee.
COMPANY: Tom Bihn
REQUIREMENTS: Stuff to carry. A fat wallet.
Compact. Easily fits a 13-inch MacBook without looking like a computer bag. Well designed and sturdy. Chest and waist straps are completely removable. Comfortable to wear. Customizable with optional accessories.
$120 is a lot to spend on a backpack, no matter how great it is. A small pocket or two inside the main compartment would be nice.