- Buyer's Guide
Drive By :: Booq Cobra Brief
Meet our new contributor, Michael Webb: self confessed IT geek, office professional, and all-round worldly dude – he’s travelled to more far flung places than ol’ Chris Columbus, no joke! And we’re totally stoked to have him on the team…
To a guy who’d lugged a mountain-biking backpack around for several years – juggling straps and buckles, diving into squishy pockets whose contents were only revealed on the third or fourth rummage – the Cobra Brief ($295) was a piece of simplistic beauty when it arrived on my desk.
I’d recently upgraded my work environment from a corporate cube farm to a startup-style consultancy and I could see right from the get-go that this was a bag that sweetly matched my new lifestyle. Booq’s brand spiel is about producing “high-end laptop bags for ambitious creative professionals”. They seem to have hit the nail on the head in this case.
The pitch for the Cobra Brief is that it’s a “mid-sized business laptop bag for the frequent traveller”. Now I’m no frequent flyer, but this is a piece of equipment that worked very well for my many modes of commute. It’s simultaneously rugged and classy. The softly-lined laptop compartment and chunky YKK zippers, the nylon exterior and the beautiful black leather trim – it all added up to a piece of kit I was delighted to call my own.
I tried the Cobra Brief out for a month prior to writing this review, mostly commuting between home and work but also managing an interstate working holiday.
Who It Suits
This is not a laptop bag that screams “fun” as much as it does “sharp”. If you’re forced to or choose to wear a collar to work, this may be a product that will appeal to you; it will complement everything from a neat casual outfit to a full suit. The Cobra Brief’s best features would be potentially wasted on someone who likes to spend as little time upright as possible; I loved it most while walking to work or through crowded trains and airports. If you find yourself regularly on modes of transport then this bag should make your life easier.
Who It Doesn’t Suit
If you buy your t-shirts from Think Geek in bulk or have ever considered wearing sandals to work, this bag may not suit your style. If you throw your laptop in the car, drive to work and then walk 50m to your desk and then repeat the procedure in reverse, there’s probably not a lot of benefit for you here.
I walk quite a lot when time permits, so I was very happy with the weight of the bag and the way the strap distributed the weight across my shoulder.
Other rugged laptop bags I’ve used in the past have tended to give me a few back twinges after walking a kilometre or so; I had no such problems with the Cobra. The metal buckles holding the strap to the bag are heavy duty but surprisingly light, with a smooth shape that prevented them sticking into my hips or side as many other laptop bags tend to do while I’m walking.
The silicone in the strap also prevented the bag from sliding forward or backward which is another excellent hip-saving feature. The ability to remove the shoulder strap and just use the lovely leather briefcase-style handles is also excellent for navigating crowded public transport or just looking that little bit more professional. The lining fabric on the interior of the bag is smooth, silky and gives a nice pop of color, which helps when looking for things on the fly.
As part of the new job, I’d become a Macbook Pro convert and was delighted to see that my brand new 15” toy slid as easily in and out of the jersey-lined laptop compartment (any laptop up to 15.6” will slot in nicely) as it did into my other neoprene sleeve without the risk of any scratches.
Retrieval of the laptop on trains, trams and planes was easy, and I was never fumbling to get it back in when I arrived at my destination. I found the zippered exterior pocket was a nice alternate location for my power cable and phone, too.
Having the luggage-trolley-compatible passthrough was absolutely essential for getting myself, my wife and my baby boy to an interstate destination with luggage and sanity intact.
One of the few things that puzzled me about the design of the Cobra is the exterior magazine pocket. I received the bag towards the tail end of winter and so was hesitant to store anything in that pocket lest I get caught in the rain (which I often did). The rest of the bag remained water resistant as stated on the tags, but the odd drop made its way into this open pocket. It seemed an odd choice given the weatherproofing on the rest of the Cobra – the YKK zippers are waterproof, and the exterior water-repellent – and as someone who rarely reads physical magazines or newspapers anymore I found it slightly superfluous.
As far as inner storage goes, I found the compartments quite useful but didn’t ever carry around enough items to fully utilise them. As an IT geek I abhor pens and paper and use them as little as possible; I would have much preferred the pen holders to be a extra interior pocket. Nonetheless, I managed to fit in various USB cables (Fitbit, Kindle, iPad), a Kindle, earbuds, a VOIP headset and a light jacket with plenty of room to spare.
The Cobra Brief is a beautiful bag that looks great on you, in your office and in your home. It’s a structurally sound piece of kit you can throw around a bit without worrying about damaging the exterior. It’s comfortable to lug and has plenty of interior storage, with enough compartment variety to satisfy most tastes. It’s obvious that a lot of thought went into making the Cobra a joy to travel with so if you’re a regular traveller, I recommend checking it out.