If you’re looking for a minimalist laptop bag for your Surface Book, Surface Pro 4, or any 13-inch device, the Waterfield Designs Syde Surface Book Case is an intriguing option that integrates a traditional sleeve with an accessories pouch.
I’ve been a Waterfield Designs customer for many years, and aside from buying more of their gear than I’m comfortable admitting to, I’ve always recommended their rugged, versatile, and unique bags and accessories. What I haven’t done, until now, is formally review one of their products.
And I have to admit, this proved to be a harder task than I had originally anticipated. Waterfield’s products—“laptop bags, briefcases, messenger bags, laptop sleeves, tablet sleeves, smartphone cases, portable gaming device cases and more for the tech-savvy crowd”—are as personal to each individual as the gadgets they will carry. That, to me, is comfortable and familiar. But these bags and related items are also arguably fashion, and that’s where it gets a little weird for me.
But if I have one shopping-related affectation that will make little sense to readers, it’s that I love bags of all kinds. I love shopping and browsing for bags and related products, online and in person. And I spend a lot of time on the Waterfield Designs website.
So here’s how I approach this kind of thing: When it comes to a bag—laptop bag, luggage, whatever—it’s personal. And that means that you may instantly fall in love with a particular design while I will immediately cast it aside as impractical, unattractive, or otherwise uninteresting. Or vice versa.
The Syde Surface Book Case will be particularly polarizing.
The basics are solid: It’s made of the same high-quality materials for which Waterfield Designs is famous—distressed leather (which I adore), ballistic nylon, and/or waxed canvas on the exterior, and a devices-friendly neoprene lining on the inside. And it’s got technology that geeks will love, including a cool unique magnetic closure that latches and unlatches more easily than seems possible.
But the Syde is at heart a sleeve, not a bag. This is the most minimalist of container, something that is just big enough for the device in question, but with no room for accessories like a power supply, mouse, or whatever.
Sleeves aren’t for everyone, and they aren’t ideal in all situations. So the Syde provides a unique side-mounted pocket on one side that allows it to bridge the functional gap between a plain sleeve and a bigger and heavier laptop bag. This pocket and a removable shoulder strap provide some much-appreciated versatility. With the strap, you can carry the Syde like a messenger bag, but without it, you can use the integrated leather handles—also of high quality—to use it like a briefcase.
If I haven’t lost you yet—many will prefer a more traditional laptop bag or backpack—there is one other controversy. Despite its name, the Syde Surface Book Case isn’t actually big enough for Surface Book.
Let me explain. Waterfield Designs also sells versions of this bag for Apple’s MacBook products—and, really for any laptop—-and those versions of the bag are available in a variety of sizes. So you can choose the bag based on which laptop you use, and off you go.
Update: I’ve updated the following section as I finally figured out how to wedge the Surface Book into this case correctly. –Paul
With the Surface Book version, there’s just one size. But it’s too small to easily enclose a Surface Book, so one of the Syde’s marquee features—the magnetic closure that seals the top and protects the device—won’t work unless you do it just right. With a Surface Book inside as below, you can’t close the top. Instead, it must be positioned with the hinge at the bottom and snugly pushed all the way inside. Then, it will barely close and latch.
I tried the Syde Surface Book Case with a variety of other devices, including the Surface Pro 4 and the MacBook Air 13, and it worked perfectly with each, meaning the magnetic closure works, sealing the device inside.
To be fair, using this bag unlatched with a Surface Book would not bother me. I just think you need to know that the magnetic closure needs to be used exactly so.
The Syde Surface Book Case is available in three color versions: A black ballistic sleeve with a black leather pocket, a waxed canvas sleeve with a leather pocket, or a black ballistic sleeve with a leather pocket. (The review unit is the middle of the three, which was my preference.) The cost is $159, which is reasonable given the quality.
Put simply, the Syde Surface Book Case is pretty terrific, assuming you’re OK with a sleeve-type bag. But it’s even better with smaller, 13-inch laptops than with the Surface Book for which it’s been designed.