Think Tank Photo Retrospective 15 Laptop Bag

I think I can relate to how women look at shoes and purses after using Think Tank Photo’s gear. Their bags are always designed for purpose, functionality, durability and style without compromising any of the above traits. While the bags aren’t cheap, you get what you pay for in a Think Tank product and that is piece of mind. It’s no surprise that when they recently released a new laptop bag, I would clammer to get my hands on it. Not long ago, I wrote a review for their “My 2nd Brain” line of laptop bags designed specifically for Apple products. As I noted in that review using the bag to its capacity gave it a bit of a dense feeling due to its small size. That bag, when used with the accompanying shoulder strap placed the laptop in a vertical carrying position unlike traditional bags which carry a laptop in a horizontal position.

Think Tanks’ follow up to that bag, the Retrospective 15L is more in line with a traditional laptop bag but has the quality, features and comfort that the company has built their reputation on. Like several of their other bags, these bags come in black, blue and Pinestone (a greenish gray color) and are offered in two sizes for a 13″ or 15″ laptop. I’ve always stuck with black bags in the past so I wouldn’t draw attention to myself but I felt like trying something different and went with the Pinestone cotton canvas version.  What a refreshing change this was!  This bag is a bit larger than the “My 2nd Brain” bag and does everything that bag was designed to do and much more.

The cotton canvas exterior has a distressed appearance but is still stylish yet water resistant.

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The Retrospective line of bags have a flap top access with velcro fasteners but feature Think Tank’s sound silencers that cover the velcro for a quiet and quick access when noise suppression is necessary (like in a library or classroom). Located on the underside of the flap is a business card holder which I have found to be very convenient.

Think Tank Photos's sound silencing system for their velcro is a welcomed option. Exposed on the left, silenced on the right.

Think Tank Photos’s sound silencing system for their velcro is a welcomed option. Exposed on the left, silenced on the right.

On the inside of the bag is a dedicated laptop/tablet sleeve and deep pocket section capable of holding several notebooks or computer accessories. Also located in this section, is a zippered pocket to hold printed documents or any number of small items that you could wish to carry with you.

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The laptop sleeve is depth adjustable and the compartment is deep enough to store any computer accessories, a couple of books or your lunch.

The laptop sleeve is depth adjustable and the compartment is deep enough to store any computer accessories, a couple of books or your lunch.

The front pocket section has designated pen/pencil sleeves, card holders, a small pocket which holds the protective rain cover for the potential downpour and a section capable of holding a portable hard drive, memory card reader or other small items.

Lots of options in this pocket. For now, I store two portable thunderbolt drives.

Lots of options in this pocket. For now, I store two portable thunderbolt drives.

This bag comes prepared for the rain, sleet and snow!

This bag comes prepared for the rain, sleet and snow!

On the back side of the bag is smooth sided zippered compartment which could hold a iPad like tablet, document folder or magazine.

Document holder or easy access to a tablet.

Document holder or easy access to a tablet.

The shoulder strap is ultra comfortable and one of the best I’ve ever experienced on a bag.  The straps non-slip pad features a breathable mesh cushion with a rubber like grip strip to hold the strap securely on your shoulder. My one concern with this shoulder pad is how durable the grip strip will be over time and heavy use.  I plan on using this bag for the long haul.

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After several weeks of use, I’ve grown very fond of this bag and have experimented with the capabilities of the bag by not only using it to carry my laptop.  I’ve used it to carry clothing and lunch without issue. I’ve found it to be the perfect everyday laptop bag that is stylish, yet not too flashy. Where the black version works in every situation, the blue and Pinestone versions are best suited for the creative artist, urban dweller or student.

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PROS: Comfortable, well designed and universal for the Mac or PC user.

CON: Shoulder strap durability over an extended time could possibly be problematic and the smaller hand strap seems a bit to thin for the intended purpose.

Think Tank Photo “My 2nd Brain”

Think Tank Photo recently introduced a new line of bags designed not for your camera, but for your computing needs, more specifically, your Mac-centric computing needs. They call it “My 2nd Brain” and it comes in four different sizes with three color options; black, harbor blue and green mist. The model I was sent is their largest, designed for the 15” Mac Book Pro, but they have other sizes which will accommodate an iPad and iPhone, the 13” Pro, the Mac Book Air and the 11” Mac Book Air.

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The exterior appears very minimalist in design and function, almost as if its purpose was to hold just the laptop but when you begin to open up the YKK zippered compartments, you start to think, “what else can I put in here?”

The largest of the bags, the M2B15, which sounds like a character from Star Wars, is designed to hold your laptop, iPad and iPhone along with all the cords, accessories and power packs that Apple would ship with their products with additional room to spare.

The iPad compartment is located in front and is sized just for the iPad by itself but has soft materials so as not to scratch or harm your tablet. It will fit with one of Apple’s Smart Covers but nothing thicker. I regularly use a leather portfolio to carry my iPad around but was forced to remove it and replace with a smart cover to make it work. This was not a deal breaker for me. An alternative storage solution is to use the document sleeve in the back of the bag, which places it along the laptop so it is rigid and flat.  This section is wide enough to support a folio case.

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The iPhone compartment, which can handle all generations of the iPhone is nice to have if you want to be completely be device free like in an airport security screening. Personally, I tend to keep my phone on me so in the future I might find a different use for this compartment.

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Once loaded up and placed on my shoulder, my first thought was that I wished I had a Mac Air as my 15” Pro with disc drive suddenly felt heavier than I had anticipated on the shoulder. It wasn’t the fault of the bag design but with an iPad and all accessories in the bag in such a compact form, I was reminded of the behemoth laptops of yesteryear. I felt that if Think Tank came up with a backpack strap accessory like they did with the urban disguise camera bag, it would be perfect for commuting by foot or on a bike. To be clear, I experimented by attaching their shoulder harness v2.0 but it didn’t fit quite right with the d-ring placement on this bag.  It forced it to sit much lower on my back than it should. In its current form, it works perfectly for short distances like walking from the parking lot into an office or around a college campus.

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Here’s everything I was able to get into this bag.

M2B15-1309021-JLP- 579 Apple MacBook Pro 15″ with protective skin and power cord

Apple iPad

iPod Classic

iPhone 5 w/ powerd cord

Buffalo 1TB Thunderbolt Portable Drive with cable

Think Tank Photo Pee Wee Pixel Pocket Rocket (To hold memory cards)

Lexar USB3.0 Card Reader and cable

Sony RX100 (not pictured)

Micro-Fiber cloth

Think Tank Red Whips

Business Cards

Pen

PROS: Designed to hold everything Apple makes for the portable MAC user.

Slim design

Quality build

Water Resistant

CONS: A bit dense when fully loaded

The designated iPad compartment can only hold the ipad. It would be best placed closer to the laptop.

AREAS FOR IMPROVEMENT:

A backpack or sling strap accessory could improve long-term usefulness.

IN SUMMARY: Custom designed for the MAC fanatic who wants a catchall bag for all of their devices. A happy medium between Think Tank’s Shapeshifter Camera backpack and their Artificial Intelligence laptop sleeve.

Here are the tech specs and materials directly from Think Tank’s site:

Gear Profile:

Fits 15” Macbook Pro® + any iPad + iPhone, power supply w/ AC cable, portable drives, network cables, USB hub and connection cable, earbuds, monitor adapters, memory cards, pens, business cards, and other small items.

Technical Specifications:

  • Exterior Dimensions: 10.2” W x 14.8” H x 2.6” D (26 x 37.5 x 6.5 cm)
  • iPad pocket: 8.3” W x 11″ H x 0.8” D (21 x 28 x 2 cm)
  • Laptop compartment: 9.8″ W x 14.3″ H x 1.4″ D (25 x 36.3 x 3.5 cm)
  • Weight w/ all accessories: 1.5 lbs (0.7 kg)

Materials:

Exterior: Durable water-resistant fabric, plus fabric underside has a polyurethane coating for superior water-resistance. YKK® RC Fuse zippers, nickel-plated metal hardware with brushed aluminum finish, 420D velocity nylon and 600D brushed Polyester, dual-cross buckle, herringbone webbing, 3-ply bonded nylon thread.

Interior: 210D silver-toned nylon lined, Nylex lined iPhone and iPad pockets, clear mesh pockets, 150D hexa mesh pockets, closed-cell antilon foam, 3-ply bonded nylon thread.

Don’t forget, as my friend when you click on these links and order $50 or more of Think Tank Photo gear you receive a free gift, such as a Pixel Pocket Rocket memory card holder.