Bag of the Week: Spire Dart

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Notebook sleeves, which protect your portable while inside another bag, are great, but they have one significant drawback: they pretty much require you to carry that other bag—few sleeves have any pockets of their own, so they offer no way to carry your power adapter or any other accessories. But sometimes you don’t need your full road-warrior ensemble; you just want to grab your laptop and a couple key extras.

Spire recently sent Macworld a sample of the company’s $50 Dart , available in black or grey, and it’s a good compromise between a sleeve and a larger bag. (Our sample was designed for the 13-inch MacBook, but versions are also available for 15- and 17-inch MacBook Pro models.)

Without its removable shoulder strap, the Dart looks very much like a basic, ballistic-nylon sleeve. The zippered main compartment protects your laptop with a layer of foam padding; the sleeve isn’t rigid like some others, but it offers protection from everyday bumps and low-altitude drops. A pair of thin, padded handles gives you something to hold onto, a feature too many sleeves omit. When used as a sleeve, the Dart is slim enough to fit inside most larger bags.

But the Dart includes three additional pockets without adding much bulk. A large, zippered front pocket provides approximately the same amount of space as the laptop compartment, but collapses flat when empty; inside this compartment is a detachable key fob. A smaller zippered pocket on the front of the Dart can accommodate your laptop’s power adapter (sans Apple’s bulky cable attachment) or an iPod and headphones; unfortunately, this pocket isn’t padded. Finally, a rear pocket, secured via a Velcro flap, has space for a few files or magazines.

The included removable shoulder strap is thin to save space (and to match the bag’s svelte profile), but includes a comfortable shoulder pad. And I like the thick, swiveling strap attachments, which feel sturdier than the clip-on connectors used by many bag vendors. The Dart also comes with Spire’s lifetime warranty, although you may not need it—one of my Macworld colleagues has been using the same Spire laptop bag for six years or so and still swears by it.

Overall, the Dart is a good bag for those who want a sleeve-like case for protecting their laptop inside a larger bag, but who sometimes want to carry just the laptop and a few accessories. It doesn’t offer as much protection as Brenthaven’s Metro, another “just the laptop and some accessories” case I’ve covered, but the Metro is considerably bulkier—it’s not designed to be used inside another bag. And the 13-inch Dart weighs just over 1 pound, which, though a bit heavier than a basic fabric sleeve, is fairly light given the features.

UPDATE 4/23/07: Added information about included key fob, which was missing from the orignal sample we received.

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