The heated debate over whether an iPad can replace a Mac as a day-to-day workhorse shows no sign of abating. One way of evading the crossfire is to plump for both, but to do that you need a bag that can conveniently accommodate the two devices for when you're on the move.
Pad & Quill's Small Briefcase ($219) is one of the Minneapolis company's latest compact leather and canvas solutions for carrying an iPad Pro and a 13-inch MacBook Pro, along with more traditional study/business miscellanea, so we looked at whether it can live up to its billing.
Pad & Quill puts lots of effort into its packaging, and the small briefcase was no different. Little touches like the well-designed welcome tags, manufacturing backstory and genuine craftsman's signature on the stitching continue this tradition. It's fun to open and sets up the product as a nice gift option.
The bag itself is handcrafted from full-grain leather and water-repellant canvas. I received the smart-looking whiskey and charcoal color, which goes well with dark chino and leather fashion styles. One immediately obvious characteristic of the canvas is that the material preserves its original folds and creases, presumably a result of the crafting process. This gives each bag a distinct look, which could be either uniquely endearing or unsightly, depending on your taste.
The "parachute grade" nylon stitching where the two materials meet is neatly done, and cleanly applied across the seams on the handles and the leather overlay, which fastens using a single rounded nickel knob.
On one side of the bag there's some leather branding fixed to the bag with nickel rivets, and the handles are stitched inside a quick-access "newspaper" pocket, which also comfortably holds a couple of paperback books.
The leather shoulder strap (not included and costs $39 extra) is adjustable and removable, and fastens onto either side of the zipper using big, shiny, traditional-looking nickel buckle hooks. The strap itself has a wider padding where it meets the shoulder and has a robust feel to it.
Opening the leather overlay reveals another bit of branding underneath and a Japanese polished nickel zipper, which boasts some pretty strong teeth. The unzipping action also has a satisfyingly rugged feel, which complements the sturdy stitching either side, while a fold of leather inside protects the contents of the bag from the zip.
Opening up the bag, there's one internal divider that comfortably houses an iPad (up to 12.9-inch), and two pockets on its front that are sizable enough to secure, say, a portable hard drive and a MacBook charger. There's also two pen loops, so Apple Pencil owners have somewhere for that to go, too. The main compartment opens up easily and is lined with the same waxed canvas as the rest of the briefcase body – it's good for a 13-inch laptop but it's too small for a 15-inch MacBook Pro.
I set out to pack the briefcase with a 13-inch MacBook Pro, an iPad mini, two chargers, four medium-sized books, SoundMAGIC P30S portable headphones, an Angelbird SSD2go drive, a small umbrella, and a couple of Moleskine notebook-sized items.
Everything fit nice and snug inside. I could have added a couple more books into the main compartment quite easily, but when I tried it the extra weight started to exert too much of a pull on my shoulder after walking around for a while. A couple of wrapped sandwiches instead would probably be okay though.
One thing to note is that I quickly regretted inserting my Mac without a protective cover – the big zipper teeth grated loudly along the edges of the unibody case upon removal. A horrifying sound indeed. Thankfully it didn't leave any noticeable marks, but it was enough for me not to attempt it again without putting the laptop in a nylon sleeve, which fit inside with everything else quite happily.
Overall I was impressed by the Small Briefcase by Pad & Quill. A couple of friends complemented on its stylish leather/canvas combination, and agreed it was a smart, fashionable, yet classic commute bag for around town.
It's a convenient, water-repellant solution for people who like their tablet and laptop to go wherever they go, the fastening mechanism makes it easy to access your stuff, plus there's ample extra storage space for books, notepads up to A4 size, lunch, a drink and whatnot. Just watch your unibody aluminum MacBook on that hungry-looking zipper.
- Stylish, classic look
- Comfy strap (as long as you don't overpack)
- Robust design with easy access
- 25-year warranty
- Pre-worn canvas look may not suit some
- Zipper teeth sound awful against aluminum Macs
How to Buy
The Small Briefcase by Pad & Quill costs $219 and can be ordered from the company's website.
Note: Pad & Quill supplied the bag to MacRumors for the purposes of this review. No other compensation was received.