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Of course you can pick up a $20 bag at OfficeMax for your laptop, and end up with the same one as every other cheapskate on the plane playing solitaire on with their ThinkPad, with zippers that bust, too many stupid pockets, and just no protection for your investment of several hundred/thousand bucks.
On the flip side, I have just purchased my second beautiful RacerX from Waterfield Designs, the first was for my personal iBook and the new one for my G4 laptop at work. These bags are elegantly and smartly designed, as they have been crafted for use by San Francisco bike messengers (the RacerX has a grip that feels like a rugged Mountain Bike grip). The computer compartment is way padded to keep your laptop secure from major bumps and bangs.
Yeah a WaterField bag will set you back more, but why lug around a $1500 machine in a bag with the durability of a trash bag? And they look so cool.
But more than that, when you order from Waterfield, you get a personal email thanks from "Gary" the owner, and it is not a form e-mail, because he has replied directly to my replies twice. Even the invoice arrives signed with a thanks.
With a solid product first, and personal attention to boot, they have me easily hooked as a returning customer. I would think they teach that kind of stuff in business school, but since Waterfield's attention and service seem to be the minority, I would say most businesses skipped that day of class.
I love my RacerX, both of 'em!