The OGIO Newt 15 (US$100) is a stylish, mid-sized backpack for day to day transportation of your digital essentials and then some. Previously, TUAW's own Steve Sande and Ilene Hoffman reviewed OGIO's 13 inch Covert Shoulder Bag ($69.99) and Hampton's Women's Tote ($70) respectively. Both of those bags garnered high praise.
My last backpack review was the Incase Compact Backpack ($79.95), which I found did a solid job of holding my gear at a reasonable price. The Newt 15 is $20 more expensive, so I was keen to see just what a $100 backpack has to offer.
The Newt 15, presumably named after the small, slender-bodied amphibian, is an apt title for the backpack. It's of a slim build (weighing 2.2 lbs), with a 6-inch depth, a good height of 18.75 inches, and a width of 12.75 inches. Its total capacity is 1050 cubic inches.
According to OGIO's website, the Newt 15 is made from 400 D Nylon / 300 D poly-cotton. On OGIO"s Amazon page, it says the bag is made from durable ballistic polyester, oxford polyester and poly/cotton fabric. I have no idea what any of that means, but the bag is really well put together and feels particularly rugged and durable. I can't say if it's in any way weather or water resistant, as I couldn't find any indication or classification on OGIO's website.
The Newt 15 has six compartments or pockets. At the rear of the backpack is a side-entry, fleece lined laptop compartment (14.5 inch H x 10.5 inch W x 1 inch D). In the middle is the main compartment, with double zips. When fully unzipped, the main compartment opens wide, allowing for good access. Inside is a padded iPad sleeve as well as two mesh compartments for storing smaller items like chargers, USB sticks, in-ear headphones, an iPhone and the like.
On the front side of the Newt 15 are two smaller compartments. The upper compartment is fleece lined, with four mesh compartments; two on either side. There's also a spacious gap between these mesh pockets for additional loose items. The lower compartment is longer, but less roomy. It has four pen holders and an additional pocket, as well as a larger space for things like glasses. There's also a key hook here.
On the top of the bag is a small, fleece lined single-zipper pocket for small valuables. Finally, on the side of the bag is a zip pocket for what OGIO describes as travel essentials. It's perfect for passports, travel tickets or anything flat that will sit flush with the back panel of the bag.
Speaking of the back panel, there are five padded bars here that cushion the Newt 15 against your back, also providing some ventilation. The adjustable shoulder straps are well padded by what OGIO calls Dual Density foam shoulder straps, for comfort and stability with heavier loads. There's also an adjustable front clasp that secure the two straps together over your torso. Take a look at OGIO's promo video of the backpack below.
The Newt 15 has what feels like an endless number of pockets, compartments and ways to organize your stuff. It took me a few days to even realize there was a side zip pocket flush with the back panel.
My 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro easily fit into the back compartment with room to spare for extra papers or anything else you'd feel comfortable placing alongside your laptop. For me, that was a bunch of loose papers. The well-padded fleece-lined compartment left me with no concern for scratches, bumps or knocks.
The main compartment is roomy, with mesh pockets to organize cables, cards, sticks and accessories in many varying ways. My iPad Air fit snugly into the sleeve and I found I still had plenty of room for my MacBook charger, iPhone charger, a journal, my umbrella and I could shove a light hoodie in there, too. As a day to day commuter, you'll have no trouble getting your essentials into the Newt 15. You may struggle, though, if you have to bring along three or four large books in addition to everything else.
In a pinch, I'd happily use the Newt 15 for an overnight trip, provided you're happy to travel light, with a small change of clothes and toiletries. That being said, it's amazing that the Newt 15 accommodates all this content for its size and weight.
The travel pocket is a nice touch, though anything thicker than a passport and some tickets does become noticeable as a bulge against the back panel, making for a lob-sided fit.
I found the bag to be comfortable to wear, though there was a bit of a 'wear-in' period and it did take me a few days to adjust the straps to a setting that felt snug, but not uncomfortable on my shoulders. Once there, though, I found the Newt 15 to be a tremendously resourceful and comfortable bag. I also got a few appreciative remarks towards the Newt 15's Dark Static color and minimalist styling.
Commuting around London with the OGIO Newt 15 was a pleasure. The bag is ideal for day-to-day travel as well as the odd overnight excursion. The backpack's materials and the way it has been put together emanate a durability and ruggedness, which, overall, gives the Newt 15 a premium feel. There's still a question mark around its weather resistance, and it does take a fair bit of adjusting to get comfortable. But compared to the Incase Compact Backpack, which has solid, but baseline features, a rather understated appearance and no frills, the Newt 15 excels in looks, quality and functionality.