As a bag geek, I'm always excited to see something new and novel kinds of cases. While walking around the show floor at Macworld back in January, I was delighted to come across something I've been looking for as long as I can remember– a soft sleeve with rigid protection. The case in question turned out to be the Shuttle from Higher Ground, and I've had the chance to use and review it for the past month or so. The first thing that strikes you upon examination of the case is the exquisite build quality. I've bought multiple bags from multiple manufacturers, but I very rarely see a bag with this level of craftsman ship. Heavy-duty zippers, waterproofed rip-stop nylon, and molded rubber handles give me confidence in Higher Ground's lifetime warranty.
Shuttle has two main compartments, one main padded compartment surrounded by a rigid skeleton, and an exterior unprotected pouch. Accessed by zipper, the main compartment contains removable padded foam laptop risers, straps to secure your notebook, and storage slots for 10 CDs or DVDs.
Shuttle is designed to be used on your lap with your notebook still in it, something with which I've never quite been all that comfortable with. I always worry that the back heavy bags will topple over and fall off my lap. Another issue with this configuration is the question of what to do with the straps which would otherwise hang out over my lap and impede my typing ability. Eventually I found it best to just pick the laptop up and fold the straps underneath it, which solves one problem but creates two others– I have to pick up my PowerBook and make sure not to drop it while folding the straps (defeating their claim of "full time protection"), and the straps reduce the airflow under the computer, essentially defeating the purpose of the risers in the first place.
The external flap has zippers down both sides to allow for easy access to anything stored within it, a zippered pocket for pens and pencils, as well as three larger mesh pouches for larger items such as backup drives or iPods.
Although the Shuttle ships with a single shoulder strap, it can also be configured via an extra strap-set ($10) to be worn like a backpack. I found the backpack configuration to be a bit snug, but I'm a big guy– less bulky users shouldn't have any issues.
Overall, the Shuttle is a high quality case who's Achilles heel is the fact that it was designed for a different era. I don't know anyone who carries around optical media, and the space taken up for the CD/DVD slots could be much more effectively used for document storage. Lets face it, as much as we want to live in an all digital world, we all still have to deal with paper every now and then, something which the Shuttle doesn't seem to recognize.
Nonetheless, I feel comfortable recommending the shuttle to anyone looking for a slim case with lots of protection at a reasonable price.
The shuttle is available in sizes from 12"-15", and goes for $40-50.