Friday August 12, 2005 10:58 pm
Tom Bihn Monolith Review
Gear Live has reviewed bags made by the Washington State based Tom Bihn, and we have been quite impressed by them. We recently had the opportunity got to check out two more of their bags - the Monolith and the Brain Bag. The review is being done as a two part series and this first part is focusing on the laptop toting Monolith - a great solution for todays widescreen laptops. For a through review of the Monolith and our impressions over the last two weeks, read on.
The Monolith is a vertical form factor laptop bag very similar to the Brain Cell (the Monolith is vertical for widescreen laptops and the Brain Cell is horizontal for 4:3 aspect ratio laptops). It features a hard shell coated in Dupont Cordura, and a neoprene suspension system inside to cradle your laptop in a soft and safe embrace. I reviewed the size 4 Monolith as it was a perfect fit for my 15” PowerBook. The PowerBook fit inside perfectly - not loose at all, but not so snug that the suspension system won’t protect it from minor bumps or small drops. The interior has a soft fabric that will protect any laptop from scratches or dents and soft flaps to protect your laptop from the possibility of being scratched by the durable zipper Tom Bihn adds to seal up the Monolith. It’s important that you select a Brain Cell or a Monolith that provides a proper fit. If you happen to be in the Seattle area stop by their retail store and say “Hi” - they are more than happy to help you pick the proper bag to fit and protect your laptop.
The Monolith features clips for attaching a shoulder strap (TomBihn has several different styles available for purchase) as well has strong handles for picking up your laptop and carrying it around. I selected theTerraGrip shoulder strap which features a rubberized grip to comfortably place the Monolith and its precious cargo on your shoulders. The back side of the Monolith also features two small loops for connecting the Monolith to other bags in their line.
Tom Bihn bags have a genius connecting system that enables laptop users to have a choice about the gear that they carry. Both the Monolith and the Brain Cell can clip into other bags, or be carried independently. When clipped into other bags the Monolith offers a secure area for your laptop protecting it from the rest of your gear. Because of the way that the Monolith clips into larger bags like the Brain Bag you actually get more protection as the Monolith’s suspension system is now suspended in a larger bag.
USING THE MONOLITH
Because the Monolith gives you the choice of being a part of a large carry-all bag, or being a minimalist bag when you just want to carry your laptop to work or to a coffee shop for some WiFi the Tom Bihn system is extremely practical and powerful. During my two week review process some of the days I took the Monolith as a part of the Brain Bag system and some of the days when I didn’t need to carry my camera, papers, additional gadgets, and such I just took the Monolith and was able to travel light. With a comfortable shoulder strap it was easy for me to grab my PowerBook , sling it over my shoulder and always have it with me perfect for that quick Gear Live post on the road. The Monolith provides a near-perfect “grab and go” bag that provides enough protection for the digital life you store on your laptop. Aimed at the mobile warrior the Monolith has found a permanent place in my gear collection. Because the Monolith can connect into larger bags its perfect for someone with a lot of gear to carry (I’m a photographer and constantly need to have a large camera body and 2-3 lenses + a slew of misc accessories with me at all times) as it provides protection for the bag, and storage capacity for your gear.
There is only one minor niggle I have with the Monolith - the Brain Cell has a small pocket on the front of it perfect for carrying a power cord or your cell phone - the Monolith has nothing. Although the monolith is designed for a laptop and a laptop alone it would seem easy enough to add a small pocket, or a way to clip one an accessory bag to the Monolith.
It was easy to give the Monolith high ranks. Between the friendly customer service at the Tom Bihn store in Seattle, the solid and well thought out construction made of durable materials, and the sense of security that I got using it I am a very happy reviewer. The Monolith would have gotten a 10/10 like its cousin the Brain Cell if not for the lack of a pocket. Gear Live highly recommends this unique laptop carrier.
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