Good backpacks arenit as easy to come by as you might think, and a good backpack thatis also a good computer bag is even harder to come by. Spireis Torq manages to do both quite nicely, and despite a couple minor issues, managed to leave me happy and impressed.
The Torq is designed to holder larger laptops, and can easily accommodate a 17-inch MacBook Pro. That size, coupled with some of the bagis other features, means it weighs a bit more than some other laptop backpacks. Empty, weire talking three pounds.
The trade-off for the weight is functionality. The Torq includes a removable padded sleeve for your laptop that you can use as a secondary bag when you need to travel light. It also includes a shoulder strap so you can keep your hands free when toting just the sleeve. That modularity proved invaluable when I needed to cart my 15-inch MacBook Pro around, but didnit need the extra storage the full bag offers.
The Torq includes a removable carrying sleeve. You pick the size for your laptop.
The Torq is divided into three compartments: A front organizer compartment with pockets for iPods, cell phones, cables, and other odds and ends; a middle compartment that holds the removable laptop sleeve; and a large back compartment. It also includes two mesh side pockets, and a vertical zippered pocket that works great for holding plane tickets, magazines, or a paperback book.
The front compartment is full of storage pockets.
Comfort is a big thing, and the Torq holds up there, too. The bag supports itself well, and the adjustable shoulder straps distribute weight efficiently. The padded hip belt is a big help with heavier loads, and the entire harness -- shoulder straps and hip belt -- all tuck away should you plan to use the bag as carry on luggage.
While I found the Torq comfortable to wear, large-chested women may disagree. The shoulder straps are curved to follow the shape of your torso, but they arenit curved aggressively enough to fit everyoneis chest. On the other hand, there are plenty of computer backbacks on the market that donit offer harness systems that match the quality and comfort I found in the Torq. Like any backpack, you should try one on if possible to see if the fit works for you.
The Torqis laptop and back compartments are fully padded.
The attention to the little details in this bag are great. The stitching is strong, the YKK zippers all move smoothly, the zipper pulls are easy to grab (and are included on internal pockets, not just the external zippers), and the grab handle is reinforced with a rigid core. This bag is just flat-out well designed.
The Torq also sports heavy duty metal rings at various points on its exterior. These are handy for attching clip-on gear pouches, but they are also strong enough to use with that extra shoulder strap. I carry enough gear that slinging the Torq over my shoulder like that would probably be uncomfortable, but if you are up to it, knock yourself out.
One of the first things I do when checking out a new bag is to open it up and look at every seam I can get at. Raw fabric edges -- meaning exposed cut fabric edges -- at the seams can lead to fraying, and fraying leads to weak points in the bag. Weak points can eventually lead to blow-outs. Fair warning to bag manufacturers everywhere: Watch your seams closely... I am.
The Torq does a great job of covering and protecting its seams everywhere except for the openings to the three main compartments. Since the fabric at these zippers is doubled over for reinforcement, it isnit likely that youill experience a blow-out. It would, however, be nice to see these raw edges protected.
Despite my minor complaints, the Torq has managed to make me reconsider my bag choice for running around at Macworld Expo. A week on the expo floor can be a killer if you are carrying an uncomfortable and difficult to use bag, and because of that I have always carried Eagle Creek bags on my back. Next year, however, might be different.
The Bottom Line
If you are looking for a roomy, durable, and comfortable computer backpack, take the Spire Torq for a spin. This is one bag thatis designed to be in the game for the long haul. It does weigh a bit more than I would like, and there are a couple of raw seams, but the Torqis versatility and solid design bear out the attention to detail that the Spire engineers put into this bag.