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NokHoo Pretty Smart Laptop Backpack - 'Book Mystique Review

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

by Charles W. Moore

Were I limited to making just one observation about Nicole Roberts’ NokHoo laptop backpacks, it would probably be that of the dozens of computer and electronic device cases I’ve reviewed over the past 13 years, the NokHoo cases come closest to being an objets d’art, or at least fine examples of craft.

There are a lot of good computer cases on the market. There are the Waterfield very avant garde and West Coast stylish bags out of San Francisco. Targus, of course, makes an eclectic and extensive range of intelligently-engineered and quality constructed bags and backpacks, and Uniea’s silk laptop, iPod, and iPhone case series are backpacks quite special, to name just a few notable examples.

However, Roberts’ NokHoo are refreshingly original, and she’s managed to combine thoughtfully imaginative practical innovation and utility with attractive, somewhat exotic looks, first rate materials quality, and fine workmanship. An out-of-the-park homerun all round.

The “somewhat exotic” part is no coincidence. Ms. Roberts, a career textile and product designer, says she learned a lot working for big companies and more during a two year sojourn in Thailand. The night before leaving for the Far East, Nicole bought a new computer, looked around for a suitable laptop bag, and found she couldn’t find anything that married both form and function to her satisfaction, so she decided to make her own. As she puts it, “One thing led to another and NokHoo laptop bags were born.” Nicole says she’s traveled extensively with the bags, and that they’ve stood up well through considerable wear-and-tear.

In case you’re wondering, NokHoo is the Thai word for owl and because owls are both handsome and wise, and she thought it seemed like the perfect name for these bags.

At this point there are four NokHoo backpack models to choose from, and picking a favorite was a bit of a challenge (see the Appendix at the end of this review for specs. and profiles of each one). I particularly like the “Toasted Sesame” color of the Sirrush NokHoo, but I’m not especially fond of dragon motifs. Blue is my favorite color, and the Raining Paradise model in Periwinkle is very attractive — definitely my wife’s favorite of the range, but perhaps more appropriate for female users, so I settled on the Gunmetal gray Icarus model for our tester.

Considering how commodious it is internally, the NokHoo backpack is surprisingly compact in its external dimensions, and even smaller-frame individuals should find it comfortably manageable.

Checking out the NokHoo’s features starting at the outside, the backpack’s adjustable shoulder straps are padded with what feels like half-inch closed-cell foam sheathed in the rugged fabric that is used for the case’s outer skin. An interesting wrinkle is a snap-on, Velcro-closure pouch just the right size to hold an iPod or iPhone that can be positioned either low or high on the left-hand strap’s outer face. There is no belly-band, but the case is small and well balanced enough that you probably won’t miss it, even on longer treks. There is also a convenient handle-loop at the top for carrying the pack briefcase-style for shorter hauls or just shifting it around.

Both sides of the NokHoo case have a net pocket of about half the case’s height, with elasticized closures, that will be useful for carrying water bottles or other incidentals to which you want quick access.

Moving forward, literally, the NokHoo backpack’s front face is highlighted by a foldover flap emblazoned with each model’s individual thematic motif in combined silkscreen and embroidery, with a smaller silkscreen design on the front of a small, Velcro-closure pocket on the lower right corner that is accessible without opening the main flap, the latter secured with a very substantial and robust metal quick-release buckle that also has a pleasantly smooth action, bespeaking quality hardware.

Releasing the clasp and folding back the flap reveals a three-quarter depth zipper-closure compartment large enough to hold peripherals and other bits like optical discs, mice, and even modestly-sized books. There are also two pen/pencil sleeves on the left, opposite the little outer pocket.

I also found it could accommodate several portable laptop stand or laugh desk products such as the X-Stand and I was even just able to get it zipped closed with a Lapworks Futura folding lap desk contained. Inside the front face of this compartment is a full width net pocket with a vertical zipper closure that will be especially useful for storing cables neatly. p

Opposite on the main case body’s from face are two open shallow pockets, a handy metal quick release key fob, and four more pen/pencil/stylus loops, these ones elasticized. Immediately behind this frontmost compartment is a nearly full-depth zipper-closure pocket for slimmer items.

Inside the backpack’s main body are two full-dimension compartments. The rearmost one is the designated computer compartment, generously padded on all sides with approximately 3/16 inch closed-cell foam and with a Velcro-closure retainer strap. It’s large enough to accommodate any Apple laptop up to 15 inch display size, and I found my old Pismo PowerBook fit neatly with lots of room to spare for the extra width of a 15 inch MacBook Pro or PowerBook.

Actually, the other, frontmost compartment is plenty big enough to accommodate a second laptop, as you can see from this photo, with both the PIsmo and a 12” iBook comfortably accommodated.

If, as is likely, you go with just one computer, the front compartment can hold bigger stuff like larger laptop stands, file folders, magazines, books, or what have you. It also has a zipper-closure full-depth pocket on its front side.

The entire NokHoo interior is lined with a soft-feel cotton fabric in various patterns, depending upon the model chosen. There are also internal water-resistant linings to protect your laptop and your back. You just can’t beat the look and feel of natural fabric, and incidentally, the entire NokHoo case is 100% cotton. The instructions specify handwashing with cold water and mild detergent, bleach, then hanging to dry.

As a product reviewer, one feels a certain obligation to find something to criticize, but honestly, I’m having a lot of trouble thinking of anything to dislike about this NokHoo backpack. I suppose one criticism one could make is that they are so strikingly attractive that they are more obviously computer cases than would be evident with less flamboyant and prosaic looking backpacks, so risk of attracting the unwanted attention of thieves might be greater, and the $150 price tag is a tad steep for a laptop case, but that’s the downside of good looks, and hand craftsmanship and high-quality materials and hardware don’t come cheaply.

Other than those caveats, it’s hard to see where you could go wrong. The design, functional practicality, and quality are all superb. A solid five stars out of five, and a big thumbs-up.

Right now NokHoo exclusively carries backpacks but plan to expand their form factor options in the future.

NokHoo bags are priced at Price: $150.00 and guaranteed to be free from manufacturing defects for life. If your NokHoo bag has a problem due to materials or workmanship, the company will replace or repair it ASAP (not to include typical wear and tear or bag abuse).

Also, if it’s not what you were hoping for, your bag can be returned for any reason within 30 days of purchase.

Buyers from the US, Canada, Europe, Australia and Thailand can order directly from the website. If you are buying from other locations in the world, contact NokHoo for shipping costs. All payments are in US currency, buyer pays all customs and taxes.

Shipping Costs
Continental US Ground $9
Continental US Rush $23
Alaska/Hawaii/US Territories Express $25
Canada Ground $25
Europe/Thailand/Australia Priority $40
Add $3 for each additional bag.

For more information, visit:
http://www.nokhoolaptopbags.com/about.shtml

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Appendix

NokHoo Pretty Smart Laptop Bags Specs. And Profiles

Currently there are four different NokHoo models.

Raining Paradise

Inspired by the paintings of Gustav Klimt, Raining Paradise is sure to turn heads. Vertical lines of hand embroidery and beading on a rich textured surface give this bag a look that is absolutely unique.

Smart features:

* Textured heavyweight cotton exterior with contrast print inside.
* Padding throughout bag saves your laptop and your back.
* Interior padding is water and shock resistant.
* Main section has separate laptop pocket and secret zip pouch.
* Zippered front section provides multiple pockets made for cds, business cards and gadgets.
* Detachable phone pocket on strap.
* Elastic side pockets for easy access.

Color: Periwinkle
Bag Dimensions: 11”x16”x8” (WxHxD)
Fits Laptop: 10.5”x16”x1.5” (WxHxD)
Weight: 3 lbs
Warranty: Guaranteed to be free from manufacturing defects for life
Shipping: 5-10 business days

Price: $150.00

DeLoverly

When birds and butterflies mingle with hand embroidery and beading, the result is DeLoverly. Elegant details, unique textured fabric and smart design make this bag both feminine and practical.

Smart features:

* Textured heavyweight cotton exterior with contrast print inside.
* Padding throughout bag saves your laptop and your back.
* Interior padding is water and shock resistant.
* Main section includes separate laptop pocket and secret zip pouch.
* Zippered front section provides multiple pockets made for cds, business cards and gadgets.
* Convenient front pen and accessory pockets.
* Detachable phone pocket on strap.
* Elastic side pockets for easy access.

Color: Etruscan Red
Bag Dimensions: 11”x16”x8” (WxHxD)
Fits Laptop: 10.5”x16”x1.5” (WxHxD)
Weight: 3 lbs
Warranty: Guaranteed to be free from manufacturing defects for life.
Shipping: 5-10 business days

Price: $150.00

Sirrush

Legend has it the Babylonians were protected by a dragon they called Sirrush. If the Babylonians could name this bag, we’re pretty sure Sirrush would be it. Practical styling and durable fabric protect you and your laptop from harm, while cool layered artwork makes you a legend in your own time.

Smart features:

* Heavyweight cotton exterior with contrast plaid inside.
* Padding throughout bag saves your laptop and your back.
* Interior padding is water and shock resistant.
* Main section includes separate laptop pocket and secret zip pouch.
* Zippered front section provides multiple pockets made for cds, business cards and gadgets.
* Detachable phone pocket on strap.
* Elastic side pockets for easy access.

Color: Toasted Sesame
Bag Dimensions: 11”x16”x8” (WxHxD)
Fits Laptop: 10.5”x16”x1.5” (WxHxD)
Weight: 3 lbs
Warranty: Guaranteed to be free from manufacturing defects for life.
Shipping: 5-10 business days

Price: $150.00

Icarus

In Greek mythology, Icarus flew on brilliantly crafted wings made of feathers and wax. NokHoo’s Icarus shares that spirit of creativity and craftsmanship-comfortable fit and useful details combine with print and metallic embroidery to create a heavenly bag (just don’t get too close to the sun).

Smart features:

* Textured cotton/lycra exterior with contrast stripe inside.
* Padding throughout bag saves your laptop and your back.
* Interior padding is water and shock resistant.
* Main section includes separate laptop pocket and secret zip pouch.
* Zippered front section provides multiple pockets made for cds, business cards and gadgets.
* Convenient front pen and accessory pockets.
* Detachable phone pocket on strap.
* Elastic side pockets for easy access.

Color: Gunmetal
Bag Dimensions: 11”x16”x8” (WxHxD)
Fits Laptop: 10.5”x16”x1.5” (WxHxD)
Weight: 3 lbs
Warranty: Guaranteed to be free from manufacturing defects for life.
Shipping: 5-10 business days

Price: $150.00

bookmystique@pbcentral.com

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