Waterfield Designs Syde Surface Book Case Review

Posted on April 30, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Microsoft Surface with 17 Comments

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.

There’s a second pocket on the other side for papers, a passport, and similar thin items.

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.

Used with a Surface Book, you can’t close the Syde’s top opening.

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.

With a MacBook Air inside, the Syde’s magnetic closures work fine, sealing the top opening.

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.

There are some really nice touches, like the pull strap on the bottom that helps in removing the device inside.

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.

 

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Comments (17)

17 responses to “Waterfield Designs Syde Surface Book Case Review”

  1. madthinus

    Can you try the surface book the other way around? With the hinge at the bottom maybe?

  2. jgraebner

    I love Waterfield's bags. I tried a couple cheaper options for my SP4 that I ended up abandoning, before finally realizing that the Waterfield bags are worth the extra cost.


    I have one of their more traditional Sleeve cases (with a snapped encosure) that I use as the primary case for my SP4. In that case, it easily fits into the laptop compartment on a larger (not Waterfield) backpack that I carry to work everyday. The sleeve case then helps protect it as I carry it from place to place in the office (such as to meetings). I also have the detachable strap and accessories pouch that I can attach when I am going somewhere that I just need the SP4.


    I'm extremely tempted to replace my backpack with one from Waterfield, but I haven't been able to quite figure out how to justify the cost since the Swiss Gear backpack I already have is still in good condition. I do admit to being a bit of a "bagaholic" myself. :)

  3. Rod Little

    So I was hesitant to purchase this case for fear that it wouldn't close, and I am happy to report that it is not the case! One thing I will say is that it's easier to insert the SB if the pouch isn't full, but my brother was able to get it in and close it with the hinge side up!


    Another thing to note is that it does not close automatically. but instead you close it similar to a ziploc bag.


    Lastly, this bag forces you to be a minimalist (which I am), so you will only carry the essentials. I now have a portable stand that elevates my SB so I don't have to worry about back, neck and eye strain. It definitely can not fit my Syde Case! On the flip side I've gotten comments on how good the bag looks. It makes a statement to place this on a executive table and then pull out the beautiful SB.

  4. WaterField Designs

    Hmmm. It should close. Is there a little tab in the back pocket that says "16"? Also, Gary suggests manually closing the magnets and massaging the top a bit in case the material just needs a little tweaking. It definitely should close tight.

  5. WaterField Designs

    Hi Paul,


    Thanks so much for the great review. Here's a little advice from Gary, our owner, to hopefully get your Syde to fit perfectly:

    " The Syde for the SurfaceBook should fit - and close - perfectly. The magnets can take a little time to get to know each other, and I know the seal gets tighter over time… but it should mostly for fully close up right from the start. One thing from the photos - Paul should insert the fatter hinge section down into the case first so the narrower side is up at the top."

    Let me know if this solves the fit issue.

    Thanks again!

    Heidi

  6. Igor Engelen

    I carry my work laptop around in my backpack but that's only because it's not my personal device. Otherwise I would be a bag person too.

    I have this thing with iPhone and iPad cases... ?

  7. Waethorn

    "Behold, the Surface Purse!"

  8. Mike Farley

    Ha! Another bagaholic :-)

    Personally I'm addicted to Troop distressed canvas ones - their medium messenger bag, with a cheap 13" Amazon padded sleeve inside, is my own daily companion - for the moment!

    • Paul Thurrott

      In reply to Mike Farley:

      Yep. I definitely have a bag problem. My wife finds this very amusing.

      • wallst

        In reply to Paul Thurrott:

        And I thought I was the only one ...


        I am a big fan of Waterfield. Currently using the Travel Express (w/ Strap) with the Piggyback Accessory, which clips onto the TE. The TE stores my SP4, Surface Arc Mouse, and Bose QC headphones. The PA stores the wall charger, travel charger, plus few additional cables. Note, the PA can be unclipped, if necessary. This setup has served me well across numerous trans-Atlantic flights over the past few months.


        I also own the Field Muzetto (Medium) and Outback Solo Case, though I have actually never used them. I had planned on using them business travel, but never needed to. The TE + PA combo has worked well.


        BTW, not a fashion guru, but these bags do stand out when compared to the common business black nylon bags.

  9. JC

    Is the magnetic closure water tight, would you use this in all weather conditions. Me being pedantic.

  10. Nonmoi

    I really don't get this style of Minimalism, but I guess to each of their own, this will has its audience.

  11. pathankp

    Well, this is not a Case for Surface Book. This one is a sleeve or you can call it bag. The Case or Cover is looks something like in the picture below.

    You can find the list of Microsoft Surface Book 2 Case on Google.

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