View Full Version : Review: rooCASE compact messenger bag "for MacBook Air 11.6in"

Dec 31, 2010, 01:48 AM
A month ago, I received the Waterfield SFBags' $25 Suede Sleeve for my 11.6" MacBook Air, and I was quite disappointed (http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=1053222=) with its glaring lack of quality.

Trying a different approach, I decided to spend as little money as possible on a new sleeve or case, so that I would have next to no expectations and therefore avoid disappointment again. Browsing Amazon.com, I found this rooCASE messenger bag (http://www.amazon.com/rooCASE-Netbook-Carrying-MacBook-11-6-inch/dp/B004C4IHEQ/ref=sr_1_4?s=electronics&ie=UTF8&qid=1292132086&sr=1-4) that claimed to be for the 11.6" MacBook Air, and was just $12USD (plus $11.99 shipping to Canada). Was it too good to be true?

In short, the answer to that question is no...it's surprisingly a solid messenger bag, though not without its issues (mostly to do with space, or lack thereof). But in terms of production quality and attention to detail, this random brand is definitely comparable to much more expensive ones, and worth every penny. I fully recommend it for the light traveler or student. Read on if you're interested in more details and pictures.

http://img510.imageshack.us/img510/8125/49046591.th.jpg (http://img510.imageshack.us/i/49046591.jpg/) http://img221.imageshack.us/img221/3592/29417033.th.jpg (http://img221.imageshack.us/i/29417033.jpg/)

According to the Amazon.com page, the bag's dimensions are 12.5" x 2.4" x 9.9". I never actually measured it myself and just assumed that it'd fit my MBA along with some papers and accessories. Kind of a bad move...

The bag is certainly slim and light, and unsurprisingly, was not custom designed for the MacBook Air; I wasn't fooled, but it's false advertising for the unsuspecting customer. The zippers and strap hooks are thick and won't snap; the detachable shoulder strap has good padding (though a bit stiff, will probably shape after prolonged use); and the top of the bag is in (fake) leather and has leather handles, with a button to snap them together. A large outer zipped pocket is great for storing your phone and wallet.

http://img221.imageshack.us/img221/2135/29774365.th.jpg (http://img221.imageshack.us/i/29774365.jpg/) http://img24.imageshack.us/img24/1695/96426718.th.jpg (http://img24.imageshack.us/i/96426718.jpg/) http://img89.imageshack.us/img89/7218/52128856.th.jpg (http://img89.imageshack.us/i/52128856.jpg/) http://img571.imageshack.us/img571/7964/51280459.th.jpg (http://img571.imageshack.us/i/51280459.jpg/) http://img338.imageshack.us/img338/6320/48547763.th.jpg (http://img338.imageshack.us/i/48547763.jpg/)

Inside, a solid slice of foam padding splits the bag into two sections, one for the Air and the other for accessories and whatnot, with two pouches and two pen holders. Looking closely, you notice that middle padding actually has a separate top "cuff", which contains a piece of cardboard to maintain shape when you slide the Air in. Impressive.

http://img638.imageshack.us/img638/3715/98715746.th.jpg (http://img638.imageshack.us/i/98715746.jpg/) http://img152.imageshack.us/img152/4376/37869329.th.jpg (http://img152.imageshack.us/i/37869329.jpg/)

Shortcomings are evident when assessing size; stuffing an 11.6" Air into the bag is quite actually pushing its limits, and while it fits snugly inside, the unit comes into very close proximity to the zipper line. Thanks, rooCASE, but I'm not sure I want to find out how well aluminium Macs withstand plastic scratches! Unless you have something like a Zagg skin, the Air's gotta slide in unwrapped (Suede Sleeve doesn't even fit); that's questionable, too.

http://img707.imageshack.us/img707/4755/18989019.th.jpg (http://img707.imageshack.us/i/18989019.jpg/) http://img715.imageshack.us/img715/6717/84170197.th.jpg (http://img715.imageshack.us/i/84170197.jpg/) http://img818.imageshack.us/img818/1041/47281512.th.jpg (http://img818.imageshack.us/i/47281512.jpg/)

As a student looking to use this bag mostly for class or similar light travel, I tested how well the bag fits typical items: a Magic Mouse, the included MBA power supply, a WD My Passport Essential SE, a magazine, a comic book, a Harry Potter book, and a standard-size water bottle.

The most ideal packing situation is the Air with a mouse, and a portable hard drive OR a power supply. Including both, as you can see below, makes things fairly tight. FYI, the power supply fits best in the outer pocket.

http://img819.imageshack.us/img819/7486/93871472.th.jpg (http://img819.imageshack.us/i/93871472.jpg/) http://img832.imageshack.us/img832/6319/18282387.th.jpg (http://img832.imageshack.us/i/18282387.jpg/) http://img232.imageshack.us/img232/4661/70430364.th.jpg (http://img232.imageshack.us/i/70430364.jpg/)

It's also possible to slip in a magazine (equivalent to a light stack of papers, like an essay to hand in) or a comic book along with the accessories.

What doesn't fit at all is any decent-sized book, let alone Harry Potter, nor music score, nor a water bottle. I'm slightly disappointed that I'll have to carry the bottle in my hands, as the bag feels like it could handle light spills.

http://img43.imageshack.us/img43/416/52586365.th.jpg (http://img43.imageshack.us/i/52586365.jpg/) http://img63.imageshack.us/img63/4993/76791737.th.jpg (http://img63.imageshack.us/i/76791737.jpg/) http://img14.imageshack.us/img14/7120/88158448.th.jpg (http://img14.imageshack.us/i/88158448.jpg/)

An aesthetic peeve of mine is the rooCASE logo and weird slogan emblazoned across the front corner; "EASY MOBILE BUSINESS"?? Clearly made in China. I resolved to scratch the slogan off with a knife and Sharpie over it, and got a bit carried away. (I dislike visible logos/graphics.) It's still slightly noticeable, but that's all right — if anyone questions me, I'll distract them with my Air. ;)

http://img148.imageshack.us/img148/3778/80574599.th.jpg (http://img148.imageshack.us/i/80574599.jpg/)

Overall, I am very pleased with the rooCASE messenger bag for the 11.6" MacBook Air. It's constructed very well for the price and holds the basic accessories you need. Because it's not designed specifically for the Air, though, it offers a too-close-for-comfort fit prone to scratches and doesn't allow for carrying much else. That senior year cumulative thesis? Stick it in a manilla envelope and hold it in your hands. Nonetheless, the Air is a machine built for ultra-portability; why shouldn't its case be as well?

Score: 9/10 — Highly recommended for students/light travelers


Impressive build quality
Perfect for carrying the Air, a Magic Mouse, a power supply, and maybe a light magazine
Good padding inside and out
Detachable shoulder strap
Strong, buttoned-down handle for secure carrying
Easy to clean/maintain
Very inexpensive at $12USD


Not actually designed specifically for the Air
Inane brand "slogan"
Can't fit a book or a water bottle
Zippers might scratch
Brown straps for a brown bag? Fashion faux-pas
Expensive shipping to Canada

Note: I'll be posting this review on the Amazon.com page as well.