Tom Bihn seems to have an
inner and outer bag for each of his creations, and they all have rather
kitschy names. There is the "Freudian Slip" that fits into the Smart Alec if
you need more pockets, or perhaps you only need the "Brain Cell" for a small
In any event, I
hope you've realized by now that I'm not too enamored with the obnoxious and
annoying names Tom Bihn has chosen for its products. Though just like ordering a
Venti, Grande, Tall or Short, you haven't got much of a choice in the
Monolith is a semi-soft shell case for a notebook, and Tom Bihn offer different sizes so you can pick the one that will fit your notebook best. The one
we are looking at is the "Size 2 Monolith," which fits the
full sized Acer Travelmate we use in the PCstats labs here. The Tom Bihn Monolith
retails for $40USD, and comes in black or smoke (gray).
The Monolith is made
from 500 denier Cordura and comes in 3 different sizes. The sides and base
of the case are built with a layer of corrugated plastic on the inside, and
the smaller sides padded with stiff closed-cell foam.
Inside, there is an additional layer of soft foam
to protect the notebook from bumping around by itself too much. A #9 YKK zipper
closes up the Monolith which has loops specially designed into it so that the
clips on the inside of the Smart Alec can lock in.
With the Monolith in the Smart Alec in this fashion, the notebook and
case are held firmly against the back of the knapsack, and this
keeps the weight suspended from the shoulder straps, as well as neatly keeping the inside
of the case in order.
Since the Monolith opens from the top, you don't even need to
remove it from the bag to get at your laptop. If however you decide to
carry around your notebook separately from the Smart Alec knapsack, it only
takes a few seconds to un clip the Monolith and carry it off alone into the
'Freudian Slip of the night.'
In either situation, the notebook
is protected from minor bumps and bangs, scratches and the like by the multiple
layers of padding and Cordura. Construction quality of both items is very good, and all internal seams have been finished to
prevent fraying with time.
To finish the seam, the manufacturer wraps a band of seamless woven nylon over the
sewed edges, and sews it down. The end result is protected seam that won't fray
with years of abuse.
time with the Alec knapsack in the daily commute, and even in the airport for a
quick business trip, I can say it has held up very well.
Even though they are sold separately, I'd highly
recommend anyone with a notebook interested in the Smart Alec knapsack also get the protective notebook
case. Heck, even if you aren't interested in the bag itself, the Monolith case is a
good bet. Though it is a little bulky, you can breath easier during travels knowing
that your notebook is protected by multiple layers of padding.
The Monolith case is also really handy in
that you can pull out the notebook without having to take all the other junk out of the bag
first. To get at your computer all you have to do is pull back the zipper, and pull out
the notebook. Simple, and quick.
While using the Smart Alec on a recent business trip, I didn't worry that I might only have a few moments to use my notebook before
boarding a flight because it was so easy to the computer back in the bag. I'm sure you know
the feeling of "aah, why bother getting the notebook out - I have to pull out all that junk
first..." Not the case here.
Ultimately, while the
Smart Alec lacks all the small pockets (zippered or otherwise) that we really could have used on
the inside, it does cover all the bare necessities pretty well. This is a 24 liter capacity bag, and
so for day-to-day travel between home and work it should offer most business professionals, or active travelers sufficient
space for the electronic necessities; adaptor cables, discs, power bars, mice, and whatever else you need to
keep that notebook going strong.
The Smart Alec excels when paired with one of Tom Bihn's notebook cases, offering good protection for
your electronics against the elements and whatever the road, or commute, dishes at you. A clean design and
when adjusted, comfortable straps gets the Smart Alec high marks. And while the old travel case may
suit the trench coat crowd better, the Smart Alec knapsack certainly makes up for the shortcomings of its annoyingly
undescriptive name in the end. Bottom line, this is a useful and well made backpack for lugging around a
computer, or moderate amounts of whatever else gets you through the day - all the while with
a healthy dose of style.
More information on Tom Bihn's Smart Alec and Monolith
bags can be found at www.tombihn.com