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Tom Bihn Smart Alec and Monolith Computer Bags Review
Tom Bihn Smart Alec and Monolith Computer Bags Review - PCSTATS
The names may be a little kitschy, but the bags themselves are well made and fairly well thought out.
 83% Rating:   
Filed under: Notebooks Published:  Author: 
External Mfg. Website: Tom Bihn Oct 14 2004   Max Page  
Home > Reviews > Notebooks > Tom Bihn Smart Alec

This is your Monolith. Protect It.

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 laptop?

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 matter.

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.

Impressions. Insights.

From our 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

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Contents of Article: Tom Bihn Smart Alec
 Pg 1.  Tom Bihn Smart Alec and Monolith Computer Bags Review
 Pg 2.  Inside the Smart Alec
 Pg 3.  — This is your Monolith. Protect It.

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