Booq occupies that section of the premium-notebook-bag space where its prices are just within the realm of rationality for the average buyer—a few comfortable steps below the ultra-premium-leather and diamond-studded bags that you hear about but would never actually buy (or see) in real life. The Mamba Shift M backpack is the latest Booq bag, and it’s designed for those who want to carry an iPad, a portable keyboard, and a MacBook.
The Mamba Shift M features dual storage areas in a slim design, accented with diagonal lines and hidden pockets on either side. There’s also a small zippered compartment on the front. If I were a betting man, I’d put money down that Booq’s designers were inspired by the ship from Flight of the Navigator for the overall aesthetic—it looks like a sleek, futuristic bullet, and I’m a little disappointed that it cannot change shape or take me 20 miles into space. (Yes, I know 20 miles is not actually enough distance to get into space; it was a movie, darnit.)
The Mamba Shift M accommodates up to a 17-inch MacBook Pro (which is precisely the MacBook Pro I own). The main storage compartment is spacious enough to fit a book or two and a hoodie or thin jacket, and four small pockets at the bottom of this storage area are each large enough to fit smaller objects such as Apple’s MacBook power adapter or an external battery pack for your iPhone.
Another pocket near the top of the main compartment can hold small essentials such as pens or earbuds, as well as a removable pouch which can store more assorted goodies. Since I am a pocket man, this pouch approach is always a toss-up in my opinion. I like to have everything in its place, and Booq surprisingly skimped a little on accessory pockets this time around in favor of the (admittedly convenient) pouch.
Another pocket on the front of the pack can fit quick-access stuff—plane tickets or your phone, for example—and there are clever, pleasantly secure pockets on each shoulder strap for a mobile phone and other trinkets. A couple pen pockets in the main storage area fill out the basic backpack necessities.
The real appeal of this bag is that it has two custom pockets in the main storage compartment for customers with an iPad (or a Kindle or other similarly thin gadget). One thin pocket fits an iPad, and the other is properly sized for carrying Apple’s Wireless Keyboard. (One of the bag’s other pockets can be used to carry a portable stand with which to prop up your iPad while working.)
However, any books you toss into the bag will sit right on top of the keyboard pocket, and that pocket’s padding is not thickly padded. General day-to-day commotion probably isn’t going to ruin your keyboard, though I haven’t used the bag long enough to feel completely confident about that. At the least, be sure you turn off your keyboard when you stow it to avoid the accidental iPad lock-out problems that Macworld’s Dan Frakes ran into with Apple’s Wireless Keyboard.
My biggest complaint is over the Mamba Shift M’s lack of a dedicated water-bottle pocket—neither of the two side pockets is wide enough for much more than a phone or other thin object. I’ve come to consider such pockets to be a fundamental necessity of a backpack, though opinions, of course, will differ.
Overall, I’m a fan of this bag. Booq knows how to make gadget transportation comfortable and stylish with soft (but not overly fluffy) shoulder straps and lumbar support, and this bag is no exception. I never found myself getting fatigued while carrying the bag around town, even with my MacBook Pro, iPad, keyboard, and extras in tow. (Though it’s fair to point out that I regularly lug around a 17-inch MacBook Pro on the bus and my bike.) I recommend this backpack for anyone who wants a one-bag-fits-everything solution for carting around a multi-device portable office.