iPad Air

Review: Muzetto Leather Messenger Bag

This review is of the Muzetto Leather messenger style bag by Waterfield Designs. Some people (including my own kids) call this a "man purse" but I call it necessary. I like to be able to carry everything I need with me so I can get things done without being in the situation of..."I don't have that VPN token and adapter, so I'll do it when I get back to my desk". For several years I have been carrying around the Chrome Classic Messenger and even after years of use and abuse the darn thing still looks brand new. So why did I feel the need to switch bags? Two main reasons...I had heard about this new bag that Waterfield had come out with called the Indy. It was a bag designed after the bag that Indiana Jones wore around in all of his movies (how cool is that?). So I had this bag on my wish list for quite some time, but just couldn't justify spending $180 on a bag. Fast-forward to this past Christmas where I had some Christmas cash given to me as presents (apparently I'm tough to buy for so I get a lot of gift cards and cash). I finally decided to pull the trigger on a new bag. But what about my 2nd reason for wanting a new bag? The 2nd reason was that my existing Chrome bag was just a little too big and most of the time I couldn't find anything in it. Isn't that the whole purpose of carrying things around with you...you know, finding and using those things when you need them.

Choices

The main decision I had to make is on which size of bag to get. I have an iPad Air and a 13" MacBook Air that I needed to carry in the bag so the 13" Laptop Muzetto seemed like the right choice. However, it turns out that the size of the 13" bag was designed to accommodate both a 13" laptop and and case around that laptop. I carry my laptop around without a case so I didn't need the extra room, but was the next smaller Muzetto bag going to be big enough for a 13" MacBook Air without a case? I did a ton of searching on the web and it was really tough to figure this out. I wanted the smallest bag I could get away with so at the end of the day I had to take my chances and just order the smaller 11" Laptop Muzetto and hope for the best. As you can see from the picture gallery above my MacBook Air fits nicely within the bag and the flap on the bag still closes quite naturally over it. Perfect fit in my opinion. Remember that Indy bag that originally got my attention? It was way too small to carry a full-sized laptop around in, so it just wasn't going to work for me. But that's when I I found this other great bag that Waterfield Designs makes...the Muzetto.

The other choice was material (go with leather or waxed canvas) and I went with leather. I carry my bag both for work and around on weekends so I needed it to be both rugged and professional looking. The rugged leather makes it perfect to be able to carry around for the day at work even for those rare times that I need to wear a coat and tie but it also looks at home with me when I'm running around with it on weekends in shorts and a tank top.

Who is this bag for?

If you are looking for a good quality bag for the least amount of money THIS IS NOT A BAG FOR YOU. You must be willing to pay for quality. I don't want to come off as elitist here. This is not some bag made in China that is pumped out of some production line. This is a hand-crafted bag made right here in the USA (San Francisco) so you are paying for the kind of detailed attention only a human hand can give to a product like this. $179-$259 is not too much to pay for a bag that you use day in and day out in both professional and casual settings. This thing is with me at all times so I wanted it to be something I really love carrying around. The other important aspect of this bag is that it is a minimalist bag. You must be willing to make tough decisions about what you carry with you and leave the rest somewhere else. This is a very slim bag and is not made to stuff it full of things. The whole concept behind this bag is for it to be incredibly slim and professional looking so be prepared for that.

What I Like

  • Quality leather, feels good but not too soft
  • Smells amazing (I love the smell of leather)
  • Padded front pocket is perfect for carrying my iPad Air (no case, slides right in)
  • Large zippered pocket in main compartment
  • Leather looks better as it wears

What I Don't Like

  • Noise shoulder strap (more on this later)
  • Not enough storage for small items (I solved this one too, more later)

Noisy Shoulder Strap

A few weeks after getting my bag I started noticing a slight "creak" or "groaning" when I walked with the bag over my shoulder. It started getting worse over time and before long it was incredibly annoying. There was some kind of friction between the shoulder strap and the metal D-ring that attached the strap to the bag. You could feel a vibration from that friction while walking and it translated all the way through the strap into your shoulder. Not pleasant. So I emailed Waterfield. Instead of getting a "canned" response back I got a human to respond...the company founder Gary Waterfield. In fact, right there on the Waterfield website is a tab labeled "Hey Gary" that opens up an email message so you can email Gary directly. Many companies these days try to hide direct contact email and phone numbers and instead push you to FAQs. Make no mistake, there are humans behind these Waterfield Design products and they care deeply about customer service. Gary told me he had similar problem with his own Muzetto bag and one of his customers actually solved the problem for him:

 Good to hear Skip.  I had the same issue with my Muzetto
 early on - I tried WD-40, Olive Oil but the sound didn't
 go away - then a customer told us about the Baby Powder
 and…. stealth.     

So I tried the baby powder fix and it worked like a charm. For a while I had to reapply the baby powered every few weeks and now I apply it every couple of months (if that). The easiest way to apply the baby powder is to sprinkle some of the baby powder on a Q-Tip and then use the Q-Tip to apply the powder to the top of the D-ring where the ring rubs against the shoulder strap.

I have to admit, this was a pretty big drawback against this bag. I'm not sure why this happens other than I think in order to have really high quality materials (rather than some kind of coated plastic) you end up with materials that will rub and need to be broken in. Since I intend to carry this bag for a very long time I don't mind breaking the bag in a bit and applying some baby powder from time to time as needed. A small price to pay for something that will hold up against abuse for a long, long time.

GRID-IT

The other negative against this bag is lack of small storage pockets. There is a small padded pocket in the outer-most padded section of the bag (meant to carry smart phones) and then a zippered non-padded and much larger pocket on the inside of the main compartment of the bag. The problem I ran into is that I had so many little "bits" and "bobs" that I have to carry around and use daily:

  • 2 VPN tokens
  • Secure USB drive
  • Blackberry cable
  • Lightning Cable
  • iPad Stylus (Pencil by 53)
  • MacBook Air power adapter brick insert
  • Headphone jack adapter piece
  • Headphones
  • Etc...

Originally I bought a Waterfield Gear Pouch, but I found that having just one main compartment in the pouch and a small zippered pocket wasn't enough options to store all the little pieces in such a way that I could actually get to them quickly. So for Christmas my wife had a rather brilliant idea and she bought me a GRID-IT (specifically she got the 7-inch small iPad case version CPG7). A GRID-IT is basically a small rectangular flat board (it is very soft but stiff) that is made out of a bunch of interlocking woven rubberized elastic bands. You then shove your small items under one or several of these elastic bands and the bands hold these items in place against the board. The GRID-IT that my wife got for me fit nicely into the back pocket of my Muzetto and holds all of the little objects that were forever getting lost inside my old Chrome bag or the one of the main compartments of the Waterfield Gear Pouch.

Summary

Buying a bag like this is much more of a personal decision rather than a technical-based one. All I can do is explain what led me to making this purchase in hopes that it will help you make a similar decision. This bag isn't for everyone, but it has ended up being the perfect bag for me. I will also say that having a bag like this one with a really nice slim but padded pocket to carry around my iPad Air in was a deciding factor for me to NOT use a case with my iPad Air. Another really big plus for me with just how much smaller and slimmer this bag was, as compared to the Chrome I used to carry, was for airline travel. The Muzetto is so easy to toss over your shoulder and take on a plane. It fits so nicely under even the smallest airline seat allowing room for you to put your feet under the seat in front of you in addition to the bag!

Review: Bodyguardz Armor for iPad Air

During the holiday sales I picked up one of the Bodyguardz Armor for iPad Air. This past November I wrote a post about how I was experimenting with NOT using a case with my iPad Air. Well, the Bodyguardz Armor is most certainly not a case, so my experiment continues. I did, however, want to have some minimal amount of protection for my iPad Air. The Bodyguardz Armor seemed like it might fit the bill. What is the Bodyguardz Armor? It's essentially a carbon fiber looking sticker that you put on the back and sides of your device to protect it from scratches and dings. It also comes with an anti-glare screen protector/film for the front of the device. Installation was easy, peel back 1/4 of the adhesive sticker and adhere that 1/4 of the film to the installation surface and once you are happy with the placement you peel back the rest of the cover over the adhesive and press down the rest of the way.

What I like:

  • Adds virtually no weight or bulk to your device
  • Offers some scratch protection
  • Gives the back of the iPad a bit more grip, making it easier to quickly grab and carry
  • Screen protector substantially reduces glare making the iPad much more usable in highly lit areas
  • There is an option to either cover the mirrored Apple logo on the back of the iPad or leave it as is

What I don't like:

  • Perfect installation of the back skin is almost impossible, they need some kind of a guide to help you place it correctly
  • Mirrored Apple Logo sticker is equally challenging to install perfectly
  • Armor film was scratched pretty easily by a sharp edge of one of my iPad stands, so it's not as tough as it's name implies
  • Anti-glare film reduces the clarity of the retina screen

Overall I'm pretty happy with the Bodyguardz Armor. The first time I tuned my iPad on after installing the anti-glare film I almost took the film off. I immediately noticed a pretty large degradation in the screen image quality. (To be fair, this is a known down-side for an anti-glare screen protector) But I decided to give the film a try for a while and I'm glad I did. I got used to the reduced image quality and soon realized that the anti-glare and anti-fingerprint properties of the film far outweighed the negative aspect of the reduced resolution. Not everyone will agree with me that this is a good trade to make, but because of how often I use my iPad and where I use it... it was a good trade-off to make. The Bodyguardz Armor is not for everyone. If you are even slightly hard on your electronic devices you will want something with more protection. If you are a stickler for having the absolute best image quality on your iPad screen you won't like the anti-glare film but you may still want to buy the Armor and just not use the film. If you are like me and just want some minimal protection and something to make your "naked" iPad standout a bit from everyone else's iPad, this might be the product for you.

2014-01-22 - bodyguardz skin.jpg

The Naked iPad Experiment

I am currently conducting a highly scientific experiment involving my iPad and nudity. Ok, that sounds really bad. Let me start over... I am attempting to use and carry around my new iPad Air without a case. This is a pretty terrifying prospect for me because I take my iPad EVERYWHERE. However, when you think about it, that is even more of a reason to consider going "caseless: with an iPad...especially with incredibly light and thin iPad Air or iPad mini. Apple has gone the extra mile to take every millimeter and ounce out of these devices and what do we do? We slap a case on this new gorgeous device from a manafacuturer than in many cases did not take the same care in design that Apple did (don't get me wrong there are some amazing quality cases out there).

So what drove me to make this decision? The biggest driver for me was the purchase of a new messenger bag (or "man purse/murse), the Muzetto Leather from Waterfield . I've been drooling over these leather messenger style bags for a couple of years now and I finally bit the bullet and used my birthday cash this year and bought me one. I'll be writing a review on this bag soon, but in summary this is an amazing bag. However, there are certain compromises. The best design feature of this bag is that it is very slim...minimalist. So it really forced you to filter out all the stuff you would normally carry in a larger bag and carry just those things you really need to carry. Since I pretty much have to carry my work issued MacBook Air at all times this didn't leave a lot of room for me to have much of a case on my iPad and have it still fit in my Muzetto. But, since the Muzetto has a really nice padded pocket in the front specifically for tablets I kinda already have a built-in case for my iPad...my Muzetto bag. So when I bought my iPad Air last month I bought it without a case and have been using it this way ever since.

The Results

I've been going ceaseless with the iPad Air for over a month now and so far it is working out fine. My previous iPad was the iPad mini and I used the BookBook case from TwelveSouth and loved it. I would by lying if I told you I didn't miss the study feel of carrying around an iPad as an old-style leather book. It was really nice knowing I could literally take my iPad with me anywhere and know it wasn't going to be damaged and most people didn't even know it was an iPad. But by giving up the leather book form factor case I gained a lot more portability in that the iPad is quite a bit lighter and easier to hold for long periods and much less bulky. I haven't hesitated one bit in taking my iPad everywhere with me, even without a case and it still looks just as new now as it did the day I took it out of the box. Granted I am pretty careful with my devices). If I leave the house or am going from meeting to meeting at work I always have my Muzetto bag with me anyway, so in that sense my iPad is being carried around in a protective case (the bag). I did just purchase a skin, the Bodyguardz Armor. It hasn't arrived yet as of this writing as I bought it on sale over the weeknd of Thanksgiving. I bought this because I wanted some added texture (grip) on the back of the iPad and som scratch/scuff protection. The Bodyguardz Armor also comes with an anti-glare screen protector, and while these can degrade the image quality some they also significantly cutback on the glare and reduce fingerprints (which in my opinion reduce image quality even more).

The other aspect of going ceaseless is not having a built-in stand for my iPad. This one really had me concerned. I liked being able to take out my iPad mini and use the BookBook to prop it up on my lap and be able to take notes. Now that I don't have a case I can't do that...or can I? I now find myself thumb typing in portrait mode more often than not and for the times I need to type a large amount of text I just lay the iPad down on my lap flat and it works just fine. So surprisingly I have not missed my case in that respect. It was really handy using the case to watch movies on an airplane or even for reading because that would free up my hands to hold a drink or hold food. Now I end up typing on a flat tray table when doing work or just holding the iPad when watching a movie or reading. Not having a built-in case hasn't been a problem on my frequent airplane trips either. The other main iPad stand use I have is at my desk at work and home or at the dining room table. Several years ago I made some solid wood iPad stands and I am now getting much more use out of those now that I don't have a case on my iPad. I keep one stand at home and one at work and the work great for when I need a stand at these locations. So far I haven't had a need to carry any kind of a portable stand with me and I'm hoping it stays that way.

Conclusions

My naked iPad experiment so far has been a success. Apple designed the iPad to be touched and held and depending on how you use your iPad a case may do nothing but get between you and a beautifully designed product. Apple has literally spent millions in R&D to make the iPad as thin and light as possible and if you add a case to the iPad you counteract some of that design. Like anything deciding to use or not use a case has its benefits and compromises. I've told you what seems to work well for me, now it's your turn. Post a comment me below and tell me your thoughts on using a case or going caseless, I would really love to hear what other people are doing!

Switching Back to a Full-Sized iPad

The weekend that Apple released the iPad Air I made the decision to go from using an iPad mini back to using a full-sized iPad. Last year I posted about why I switched to the iPad mini. I absolutely loved my iPad mini, so why did I go back to a full-sized iPad and buy the new iPad Air?

Which iPad Should I Buy?

So what's new and why should you care? If you are thinking about buying your 1st iPad, upgrading your current iPad or buying an iPad as a gift for someone then you probably do care and because there are more options from which to choose it can be a bit confusing. I'm going to try and break down the current iPad line as simply as possible for you.

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