Short version: There’s lots of mass produced, low quality, netbook sleeves and bags out there. Generally speaking, you get what you pay for. But what about something made by one guy, his sewing machine, and a dream? Can a home made product sold on the internet hold up to the same standards as products made by Crumpler, or Timbuk2? Can the little guy be competitive in the market with companies that spend more on staples than what he spends on materials a year? I say: yes.
In the interests of being honest, I feel it’s important to share the fact that the maker is a personal friend of mine. He did not know, however, that the bag that I ordered was going to be reviewed. I got it off his website just like a regular customer.
Now, a little back story on this product. The creator of the Psyopper bags is a computer enthusiast named Brad, and after buying a Dell Mini 9 a few years back he was looking for a quality netbook sleeve in which to carry it. After going the cheap route, and reading about the complaints and problems that other people were having finding something that would last – he took things into his own hands. After many attempts, the first version of the netbook fitted sleeve was born. Being an active part of the Dell Mini enthusiast community, Brad started offering his products for sale a little over a year ago, and has made a few changes based on customer response. He’s currently on the 3rd generation of his basic product.
That brings us the product that I have today. Since I needed a case for my Dell Mini 10v with a 6-cell battery, the case that I ordered is customized to that particular design. The stitching is extremely well done, and it obvious even by holding the bag that it’s quality. All of the Psyopper products are custom made, of top-shelf materials. This means the shell is 1000 Denier coated cordura nylon, the lining is high quality polar fleece, the straps are Milspec webbing, and the velcro could probably hold a car door shut. You can also order Psyopper’s products with a PALS grid (which is currently used by the military). Now, it’s important to note that my particular bag is customized to fix the Mini 10v, with the extended life battery. As such, it will only work with this particular netbook, however if your order your bag to fix a standard 9 or 10 inch system it should fit with no problem. In fact, Brad tells me that his sleeves have be used successfully with Acer and Asus products, with no problem. And speaking of that customized fit, the bag holds my netbook very securely. I carry my netbook with me quite often, and at no point have I ever felt that it might be in danger of falling out of the bag, or not properly protected.
I chose a few add on options for my bag, including a shoulder strap, front pocket, and a USB key holder. This did add to the price, but is well worth it since I now have enough room to store the power supply for my netbook in the case, as well as my trackball. I actually use the USB holder to store a card reader, since my netbook is primarily for when I’m out taking pictures. The basic version of the netbook bag starts at $25, and from the order screen you can choose the closing type, the internal lining color, the trim color, etc. This is for the basic bag, with a velcro patch to hold it closed. After you work out the basics, it gets a little dangerous. For example, when I ordered my bag I included an additional pocket (for $10), a carry handle ($5), dual USB stick holder ($10), and a 1″ detachable shoulder strap ($8). I also needed to add the 6-cell battery feature, which added an additional $5 to the cost. I’ll admit, I went a little crazy, the cost of my bag came to a total of $63 when it was said and done. Was it worth it? Absolutely. For $63 I got a bag that’s custom tailored to fit my computer, with all the features that I want, and without extra stuff that I don’t.
Conclusion: The cottage industry is not dead. I would feel comfortable comparing Brad’s Psyopper products to anything from Crumpler, or Timbuk2, and I think his product would come out ahead. In this day and age of mass production, it’s good to remember that there’s still the little guy out there. In fact, when you compare the features the Psyopper product is very price competitive with the big guys.