We wouldn't quite call it an annual tradition just yet, but this winter does mark the third in a row where Ona has released a scrumptious new laptop / camera bag just before the all-important holiday season. Following the original Union Street messenger and the Camps Bay backpack is the Brixton Leather -- a leather-clad iteration of the company's more compact messenger case. For those unfamiliar with the brand, it specializes in high-end, high-quality bags that both ooze class and hold the things that bona fide nerds care about. The internal compartments act as a paradox from the traditional-looking exterior, being thickly lined with customizable padded inserts that are sure to treat your smartphones, hotspots, ILC cameras and DSLR lenses with care. Oh, and your ultraportable laptop. Join us after the break as we take a closer look at one of the world's finest gadget bags.
Ona Bags Leather BrixtonSee all photos
Design and construction
This is why you spend more -- significantly more -- on an Ona bag. If you're a highfalutin city dweller that needs to nail the first impression on a daily basis, you'll understand the value in spending more on a bag that exudes style. For those in a less bombastic role, you'll need an awful lot of personal warm-and-fuzzy to justify the $419 MSRP. Now that we're beyond that, it's worth pointing out that there is precisely nothing about the Brixton Leather that isn't top-shelf. The Italian tanned leather is coated with a light, practically invisible wax, which proves extraordinarily useful when schlepping through the rain. Much like the company's other bags, this one too sheds water like a champ. It's too pretty to take out into bad weather, but should bad weather find you, at least you can dash knowing your contents are protected.
The bag just feels amazing to the touch. The leather is soft enough to draw oohs and aahs from those who caress it, but stiff enough to retain its shape when you plop it on the ground. The carry strap contains a heavily padded, slidable portion that makes hauling a load that much easier, and you can clip things down with the two metal clasps on the front. The strap can be retracted for those who prefer the "over the single shoulder" look, or let out for the "toss it across my back" approach. In practice, both worked fine, but we ended up preferring the latter approach. Why? Weight.
The biggest negative here is physics. Fine Italian leather is spectacular, but it's heavy. Compared to cloth bags with no rigidity whatsoever, this bag is going to be a far bigger burden on the wearer. Even empty, there's no mistaking that you're hauling something around. It's not a dealbreaker by any means, and those who only have to walk short distances before finding a subway floor to rest it on won't mind a bit. It's just something to keep in mind -- you wouldn't want to use this as your day pack for an hour-long hike.
The Brixton Leather is a hair smaller than the Union Street, as it's designed to hold only a 13-inch laptop. That said, we were able to squeeze our non-Retina 15-inch MacBook Pro into the compartment sans issue, and those with slimmer Ultrabooks or a 15-inch Retina MBP should see practically no resistance at all. Not surprisingly, a 13-inch MacBook Air fit in there with a bit of wiggle room to spare. Perhaps the nicest addition to the Brixton compared to the Union Street are the two tall pockets along the front. Each one is ideal for holding a 7-inch tablet (iPad mini, Nexus 7, Kindle Fire HD, etc.), or one of those "paper notebook things" that Luddites still swear by. (We kid, we kid!)
Internally, you'll see four padded compartments to slide things like phones, mobile hotspots, lenses, ILC cameras, cabling, etc. We slid a NEX-C3 into one without issue, and found plenty of spare room for portable hard drives, headphones, and those other travel essentials. Each of these dividers can be removed or moved via the Velcro on each end, making the space endlessly customizable. On the back side, there's a sturdy leather carry handle as well as another open slit (non-padded) -- this reviewer found it ideal for sliding in an iPad and Bluetooth keyboard. On the left and right, you'll find two slits. These are fairly deep -- deep enough to easily house a 4.7-inch smartphone, for instance. Sadly, these pouches are still not built how we'd prefer. The top rib is nearly inflexible. So, you can shove your handset down there, but good look trying to pry it out, particularly if you've got plenty of kit inside already. We'd prefer an accordion style approach that makes it easier to access the inside of each slit, but alas....
At $419, the Brixton Leather is on the extreme high end of what we'd reasonably pay for a messenger bag. There's no question whatsoever that this bag is aimed at a very specific class of customer -- a class where there aren't a lot of individuals present. But in truth, we can't think of too many other outfits that are serving the niche. Elite-class bags that are geared to handle laptops, cameras and other technology aren't easy to find, so it's pretty awesome to see this particular option hitting all the right notes. For the busy professional who is willing to invest in a bag that'll last a lifetime, and look good long after its wearer stops caring, this one's easy to recommend.
It's soft yet rigid, and it holds an astonishing amount of kit. You'd never guess how much stuff you can slip in here by glancing at the exterior. Yes, you'll need to be okay with hauling around a fairly heavy messenger, and you probably won't ever find a good use for those two side pockets, but everything else about this thing screams precision. And, if you're looking for the perfect holiday gift for that dude or dudette who you really owe one to... well, you needn't look further than the source link below.
- Stunningly beautiful
- Rigid yet soft
- Customizable padded inserts
- Side pockets are too stiff
If you've got the cash, there's hardly a sexier messenger bag out there that caters to your rotating gadget arsenal.