I wasn't expecting the delivery of my new Ristretto till tomorrow, but to my delight, there was a knock on my office door announcing that I had a package to pick up. And there it was--the last plum and wasabi Ristretto was now in my hands. In case you are on the fence about plum in the cafe bag, let me say that it is a lovely color. It's a bit brighter and lighter than a royal purple, and the contrasting wasabi lining is a perfect foil for it.
So first things first: as a computer bag, it is ideal. The main compartment of the bag contains a steel grey colored padded sleeve that fits my Toshiba Portege R-705 like a glove. What I particularly like about the sleeve is that it doesn't close with velcro but instead has a flap that tucks around the computer--three cheers for a velcro-less sleeve! It will be easy to remove for TSA inspection and equally easy to replace after going through the xray. I've been using a neoprene sleeve in my Imago, but it's a bit awkward getting the sleeve in and out at the airport. Short of the ease of the Checkpoint Flyer, this has got to be the most convenient set-up imaginable for getting the computer through security, since you can whisk the computer in and out of the sleeve in a jiffy. The second reason I don't like velcro is that, when you have a sweater or the like tucked near a velcro-clad sleeve, the fabric is forever getting snagged by the velcro. Also, I hate having to make a loud ripping sound whenever I'm getting my computer out. So eliminating velcro is a real plus.
There's plenty of room in the main compartment alongside the computer sleeve. I put my Eagle Creek mini umbrella, my Sennheiser noise cancelling headphones, a pair of sunglasses in a case, and my business card case in, and there was a bit of room to spare. There's a key lanyard attached to a o-ring in the compartment, and an extra o-ring as well. It's well designed to customize with pouches, so you can organize it to your needs.
The secure zippered pocket would be perfect for tickets, paper copies of reservations, my passport wallet, and similar thin stuff. The front of the bag is the open pocket, with two pen slots and two open pockets for phones and small items, and plenty of room for miscellaneous goodies. It's possible to get a water bottle in there, but then it spoils the sleek lines of the bag. Oh, and there's another o-ring there.
The back pocket will take an 8 by 11 file folder, or a magazine if you wanted, but with a fully loaded bag, it won't take anything that is very thick. I tried unsuccessfully to tuck a one inch thick folder into it--no dice. I was getting a little greedy, I guess. Honestly, I am really surprised at how much besides the computer the bag can hold. It probably won't replace my Imago as a 'personal item' on long haul flights, but for shorter flights, I can see using it for that purpose. It's noticeably lighter than the Imago--being not made of ballistic nylon makes it a lot less weighty--but if my cafe bags are any indication, it's built to last forever.
It's so light and comfortable with the included strap that I don't really think I will bother with my Absolute strap. I did try it with the Absolute strap briefly, but it didn't seem markedly better than the included one. (Since I have three Absolute straps anyway--one that I use with the Imago, one with my Tristar or Western Flyer, and one with my Zephyr, I will always have at least one of them close to hand if I change my mind.)
So, first impression is that the Ristretto is a terrific bag if you have a 13 inch skinny computer. Add the Toshiba Portege R-705 to the list of computers that work here.