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  1. #1
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    Smart Alec vs Brain Bag

    Anyone have experience with both care to share pros / cons they found? I just got my Smart Alec and my first impression is that it might not work for me. My goal was something for work and my Dell D810 and my options are limited for something to go on my back (I hoped the Wester Flyer would be an option but it does not show up on the size list).

    I need to try the Smart Alec some more but initial impression is that it's going to be very full with my 2S brain cell, Freudian Slip, and two water bottles. Mostly I have no clue where to put my iPod that I would consider safe. I thought the Brain Bag would be overkill but maybe it's more what I need.

  2. #2
    TOM BIHN Crew (we work here) Darcy's Avatar
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    I can think of a number of places where I would put my iPod: in the zippered organizer pockets in the interior top of the Smart Alec, in an Organizer Pouch clipped to the interior of the Smart Alec or clipped inside the side pockets, or by itself (in its little protective case) in one of the side pockets.

    I'd recommend trying it more. It's surprising how much the Smart Alec can fit. And if it doesn't work, no worries: send it back for a refund. (As long as it hasn't been used out of the house!) It may not be the bag for you.
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  3. #3
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    Smart Alec + iPod

    I agree with Darcy. I have been using my Smart Alec a lot lately (with a brain cell & 13" MacBook + camera gear), and I would recommend putting the iPod in an organizer pouch (padded pouches available, if that's your preference) attached to the hook near the top.

    If that doesn't work for you, I'd go with the zippered area built into the lid.

    I do love the top outside pocket on the front of the Brain Bag, which is perfect for things like this. But if that's all that's missing to make the Smart Alec the bag for you, then I recommend the first option -- get an organizer pouch and attach it to the hook.

    I love those organizer pouches!

    P.S. -- As for me, I have an iPhone that I use more as an iPod than a phone, but I keep it in my shirt pocket or front jeans pocket.

  4. #4
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    I gave it one try and it does seem too small, especially with the Freudian Slip which I haven't even loaded up yet. With my large laptop in a 2S Brain Cell the back of the Smart Alec is taken up and it starts toward the taper in the front. To compound that, when I add my Sigg to one side and my thermas for coffee to the other (which is narrower than the Sigg), there is very little room in the main compartment. I suppose that's what I get for trying to take both water and coffee to work. But more importantly, it's hard to get the Sigg into the bag with a 2S - I had to push things around to get it to work. Does anyone else carry a Sigg and a largish laptop with this bag?

    I may try again with loading the FS to get a full idea. The Smart Alec is more comfortable and better looking and better built than my cheapo Swiss Army bag from Best Buy, but the size may not be enough.

    I don't like getting a huge bag but I can't change the fact I have a big laptop, a Sigg, and a Thermos at least to carry. I may have to consider returning the FS and not carrying documents and such.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by pretzelb View Post
    Does anyone else carry a Sigg and a largish laptop with this bag?
    In my Smart Alec, I often carry my 13" MacBook (in a brain cell, of course) and a SIGG bottle in the side pocket designed for liquids. (For those who don't know, the two side pockets on the Smart Alec are NOT identical.)

    I haven't had any problems fitting both (unless I pack a lot of other gear in the main compartment), though my laptop is relatively thin. (Not MacBook Air thin, but still thin.)

  6. #6
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    I've figured out a bit more of what is causing me a problem. I guess the overall problem is that my work laptop is a Dell D810 and it's pretty big. The 2S Brain Cell just takes up too much space I think.

    When it comes to loading the bag the Brain Cell is in the way. It took a while to figure out but the Sigg refuses to load many times. The Freudian Slip ends up catching on the Sigg and starts to push back. I end up needing to put my hand inside the main opening to push the FS down while I push the Sigg bottle AROUND the FS. The same thing happens on the other side with my thinner Thermos that I use for coffee.

    The other issue is the small mouth on the main compartment combined with my big laptop. I have trouble getting my hand inside to do all this. I also decided to put my iPod (which is in a small pouch) on the bottom pocket and this is actually hard to reach because of the small mouth and stuffed laptop.

    Not sure what I'm going to do now. It's a good bag but not sure if it's good fo rme.

  7. #7
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    Well, I guess it's time to quit work so that you can get a smaller laptop! Just kidding...

    But seriously... I gave up on the big laptop ages ago. Even with my 3.5 lb tablet, I notice the difference when it's in my Brain Bag and when it's not, even if the Brain Bag is larger than the Smart Alec. It's not just the laptop, it's all the other stuff: slipcase or Brain Cell, power cables, extra battery, blah blah blah. I don't mind hauling around a big camera: it gives me joy. A computer, meh, not so much...

    Good luck. I've had my Brain Bag since 2000, and aside from some light fraying along the edges of the shoulder strap (and barely at that), it's almost as good as when first got it. Not one seam or stitch has popped (yet).

  8. #8
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    I think it's a good bag, but I'm struggling if it's right for me. I do question some of the design ideas though. Mainly the small mouth opening and the long depth combine to make it very hard to see and grab anything in the bottom. It's kind of like being Santa and reaching deep into the toy bag looking for the right package. I also question selling the big brain cell with this bag. It does fit but it's so very close it almost kills the bag.

    I like the look of the SA over the BB, and I want to keep my bag size as small as possible to discourage me from over packing, but I'm just not sure. I'm kicking myself for not ordering both so I could make a quick decision.

    Anyone have a feel for how much larger the BB is over the SA?

  9. #9
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    This is probably heresy, but to carry my MacBook, I just stick it in a plastic bag and put it in the Smart Alec, between the back wall and the Freudian Slip. So far so good. (Of course, I back it up regularly.) Do I like to live dangerously, or did I learn that you can't guard against everything?

  10. #10
    TOM BIHN Crew (we work here) Darcy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gmanedit View Post
    This is probably heresy, but to carry my MacBook, I just stick it in a plastic bag and put it in the Smart Alec, between the back wall and the Freudian Slip. So far so good. (Of course, I back it up regularly.) Do I like to live dangerously, or did I learn that you can't guard against everything?
    That's definitely not something we would recommend. Good luck!
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  11. #11
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    I know this is an older thread but in case anyone comes across it looking for input on this subject.......

    I recently ordered a Brain Bag after an intensive search for a laptop backpack. I'm really digging it. I'm a 6'0" man and for my every day carry I don't carry a ton of stuff, but I carry a good amount of things. A 15" macbook pro in a brain cell, vertical freudian slip with files and papers, and then misc stuff. Occasionally a book, but that's mostly while traveling.

    My wife was impressed with my bag but didn't want something that big so she just got a Smart Alec that she is still evaluating to see if she wants to keep. Initial impressions are very favorable.

    For me, I put her computer in the brain cell in the Smart Alec (another 15" macbook pro) and then put my freudian slip in there, and my impression was I would be frustrated using that bag. Those two accessories consume a LOT of the 'entrance' space to the main compartment of the bag. Could you use organizer pouches to fit a lot of other stuff in there? Absolutely. And for some folks that will be a great solution. For me, I would grow frustrated.

    For me, the combo of the Brain Bag with the cinch straps is perfect. As my EDC, I have them cinched down somewhat so the bag retains a relatively compact profile. Doesn't look or feel like a huge bag. When I travel and need more space, I can let those straps out.

    I'm sure that by now the original poster on this thread has resolved his issue one way or the other. For anyone else, if you need space and want to carry some bulky stuff on top of a brain cell and a freudian slip, and your computer is reasonably large, the single primary compartment design of the Smart Alec MAY be somewhat cramped, depending on your preferences. It certainly would've been for me. The Brain Bag is perfect for me. Would probably be too big on my 5'4" wife, but the Smart Alec fits her well, and it looks nicer in person than I thought it would (i much prefer the styling of the BB over the SA).

    There you have it. Your mileage may vary.

  12. #12
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    We recommend consulting our Laptop Bag Fit Guide to find out which size of Brain Cell or Soft Cell is right for your hp laptop. The Smart Alec will fit all sizes (1, 2S, 3S, 4, 4Z, and 6) of the Vertical Brain Cell. Only Size 5 of the Horizontal Brain Cell will fit inside of the Smart Alec; the other sizes of Horizontal Brain Cell are too wide to fit inside of a backpack like the Smart Alec. The Vertical Brain Cell and the Size 5 Brain Cell will both open "on the top" when they are clipped inside of the Smart Alec, allowing you easy access to your hp laptop.


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