Provides: Laptop transportation and protection
Minimum Requirements: Up to 17″ MacBook (won’t accommodate all 17″ laptops)
NokHoo Pretty Smart laptop backpacks are the handiwork of New York based designer Nicole Roberts, who says she learned a lot working for big textile companies, and built on that experiential knowledge during a two year sojourn in Thailand. Ms. Roberts says her Thai adventure was what indirectly what launched her into the laptop bag business; the night before she left for the Orient, Nicole bought a new computer, looked around for a suitable laptop bag, and found she couldn’t find one that combined form and function to her satisfaction, so she decided to make her own. “One thing led to another,” she said, “and NokHoo laptop bags were born,” adding that she’s traveled extensively with the bags, and they’ve stood up well through much wear-and-tear.
Nicole tells me “NokHoo” is the Thai word for owl, and because owls are both handsome and wise, she thought it seemed like the perfect name for her new line of “Pretty Smart” laptop bags.
NokHoo backpacks combine practicality and utility with tastefully exotic good looks, first rate materials quality, and fine workmanship. They come close to being an objets d’art — or at least fine examples of handcraft.
Currently, Nicole Roberts makes four NokHoo backpack models: a “Raining Paradise” model in periwinkle blue, the Etruscan Red “DeLoverly” with its bird and butterfly-themed hand embroidery and beading, the “Toasted Sesame” colored “Sirrush” NokHoo with its dragon motifs, and the “Icarus” model in gunmetal grey. Broadly speaking, the first two will likely appeal most to female users, while the earth-toned Sirrush and Icarus have more masculine themes. I chose an Icarus for our test unit. Functionally, all four models are identical.
Considering how roomy it is internally, the NokHoo backpack is surprisingly compact in external dimensions, measuring 11”x16”x8” and weighing in at just three pounds empty. Even small-framed individuals should find it comfortably manageable, but it can still hold a lot of stuff.
Feature-wise, starting at the outside, the NokHoo’s adjustable shoulder straps are padded with what feels like half-inch closed-cell foam sheathed in the same rugged fabric used for the case’s outer skin. An interesting wrinkle is a snap-on, Velcro-closure pouch sized just right to hold an iPod or iPhone that can be positioned either low or high on the left-hand strap’s outer face. There is no belly-band, but the case is small and well balanced enough that you probably won’t miss that feature, even on longer treks. There is also a convenient handle-loop at the top for carrying the pack briefcase-style on shorter hauls or when just shifting it around.
Both sides of the NokHoo case have a net pocket of about half the case’s height with elasticized closures — useful for carrying water bottles and other incidentals to which quick access is handy.
The NokHoo backpack’s front face features a foldover flap decorated with each model’s respective thematic motif in combined silkscreen, embroidery, and beadwork, with a smaller silkscreen design on the front of a small, Velcro-closure pocket on the lower right corner that is accessible without opening the main flap.
That main flap secures with a metal quick-release buckle whose robust good looks and pleasantly smooth, positive action says quality hardware.
Releasing the buckle’s clasp and folding back the flap reveals a three-quarter depth zipper-closure compartment large enough to hold peripherals and other bits like optical discs, mice or, or even an iPad (but watch out for that metal key fob) or modestly-sized books. There are also two pen/pencil sleeves on the left, opposite the little outer pocket.
I also found it could accommodate several portable laptop stands or lap desk products such as the X-Stand, and I was even just able to get it zipped closed with a Lapworks Futura folding lap desk inside. Inside the front face of this compartment is a full width net pocket with a vertical zipper closure that will be especially useful for storing cables neatly (or that iPad more securely).
Opposite the main case body’s front face are two open shallow pockets, a handy metal quick release key fob, and four more pen/pencil/stylus loops—these ones elasticized. Immediately behind this outer compartment is an inner, nearly full-depth zipper-closure pocket for slim items like file folders.
Inside the Nokhoo backpack’s main body are two full-dimension compartments. The rearmost one is the designated computer compartment, generously padded on all sides with what feels like 3/16-inch closed-cell foam and with a Velcro-closure retainer strap. It’s large enough to accommodate any Apple laptop up to 15 inch display size, and I found my big old Pismo PowerBook fit neatly with lots of room to spare for the extra width of a 15-inch MacBook Pro.
Actually, the other, frontmost compartment is plenty big enough to accommodate a second laptop, as you can see from this photo, with both the Pismo and a 12″ iBook comfortably accommodated, and there’s still certainly enough room in there for an iPad (or two or three with suitable padding!).
The front compartment can also hold bigger stuff like larger laptop stands, file folders, magazines, books, or what-have-you. It also has a zipper-closure full-depth pocket on its front wall.
The entire NokHoo interior is lined with a soft-texture cotton fabric in various patterns, depending upon the model chosen. There are also internal water-resistant membrane linings to protect your laptop and your back. You can’t beat the look and feel of natural fabric, and the entire NokHoo case is 100% cotton material, giving it a high-end quality look and feel. The instructions specify hand-washing with cold water and mild detergent, bleach, then hanging to dry.
When reviewing a product, one feels obligated to find something to criticize, but I had trouble coming up anything to not like about this NokHoo backpack. I suppose one might note they’re so strikingly attractive that they are more obviously computer cases than would be evident with more ordinary-looking backpacks, so the risk of attracting unwanted attention from thieves would be greater, and the $150 price tag is on the steep end of the spectrum for laptop luggage, but that’s the consequence of extraordinary good looks, high-quality fabrics and hardware, and hand craftsmanship, none of which come cheaply.
Other than those caveats, it’s pretty difficult to see where you could go wrong. The NokHoo’s design, appearance functional practicality, and quality are all superb. A solid five star rating, a big thumbs-up, and a smile.
The four different NokHoo backpack models are:
Raining Paradise – Inspired by the paintings of Gustav Klimt, Raining Paradise is sure to turn heads. Vertical lines of hand embroidery and beading on a textured Periwinkle blue surface give this bag a unique look.
DeLoverly – When birds and butterflies mingle with hand embroidery and beading on an Etruscan Red background, the result is DeLoverly. Elegant details, unique textured fabric and smart design combine to make this bag both feminine and practical.
Sirrush – Legend has it the Babylonians were protected by a dragon they called Sirrush. Cool layered artwork recalls the legend in a Toasted Sesame shade.
As noted, Nokhoo backpacks are priced at $150.00 and guaranteed to be free from manufacturing defects for life. If your NokHoo bag has a problem due to materials or workmanship, the company will replace or repair it ASAP (of course not to include typical wear and tear or bag abuse). Also, if it turns out not to be what you were hoping for, your bag can be returned within 30 days of purchase.
Buyers from the US, Canada, Europe, Australia and Thailand can order directly from the website. If you’re buying from other locations in the world, contact NokHoo for shipping costs. All payments in US currency — buyer pays customs and taxes.