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15-inch MacBook Pro Retina and BrainBag/Ego/SuperEgo

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    15-inch MacBook Pro Retina and BrainBag/Ego/SuperEgo

    Hi folks,

    I'm thinking of changing my current laptop/EDC bag for a Tom Bihn model, I think I have narrowed it down to either a Brain Bag or an Ego/SuperEgo. I like these models because they can carry a Brain Cell for my laptop and they have a place on the outside to strap a small umbrella.

    I will mainly be carrying: laptop, iPad Air, cables, charger, sunglasses, umbrella, and some pens, notepad, etc.

    I currently use a Brenthaven laptop rucksack, which is a fine bag, but I've had it for ages and just fancied a change, and a bit more colour.

    I'm currently waiting it out because I really want a wasabi interior and I'm just not excited enough by the current selection of black/black/black/black/black/black/steel to pull the trigger on an order. But while I'm waiting I'm trying to decide what my final choice will be, so I'm ready to order as soon as new colours become available (sound familiar?).

    I have just got a 15" MacBook Pro Retina, which I will be carrying in a Brain Cell, however I have my laptop in a Tech21 hard shell, so I'm thinking of getting the size 4Z Brain Cell instead of the specific retina version, as I read here that the retina version was quite a tight fit, so using the size 4Z for the slightly bulkier previous model MacBook Pro should hopefully give it the space for the hard shell.

    1st question then is has anyone else used the size 4Z Brain Cell with a hard shell (something like the Speck or Tech21 shells) on their MacBook Pro? Does it fit OK in the 4Z Brain Cell?

    2nd question is regarding the Ego/SuperEgo. I'm having a hard time working out if the Ego will be a good fit for the 4Z Brain Cell or should I go for the larger Super Ego? I don't really want a super huge bag unless I really have to. I've read as many reviews as I can find and it sounds like the Ego might be large enough, but just wondered if anyone had any other opinions.

    So, all I have to do then is decide if I prefer rucksack or messenger, and then what pouches I might find useful...

    Thanks for any insight folks,


    Originally posted by gambcl View Post
    So, all I have to do then is decide if I prefer rucksack or messenger, and then what pouches I might find useful...
    I *just* happened to read this very illuminating thread an hour ago. Super Ego v Brain Bag. It talks about the relative ease of use of backpacks and messengers and how to stay healthy while carrying a heavily-loaded messenger. Been thinking of printing it out myself!


      Originally posted by adalangdon View Post
      I *just* happened to read this very illuminating thread an hour ago. Super Ego v Brain Bag. It talks about the relative ease of use of backpacks and messengers and how to stay healthy while carrying a heavily-loaded messenger. Been thinking of printing it out myself!
      Thanks, I had read that thread and wondered if my own habit of carrying my current laptop rucksack by only one strap might be storing up problems for the future.


        I was hoping for a colored option for the interior of the Ego as well, but decided I wasn't going to wait for a maybe. I gather that the Ego is not a big seller for them these days so they may have narrowed it down to a single color for that reason. I also justified it in that TB bags seem to have ridiculous resale, so if another color eventually comes up I may just replace it then...

        One thing I would mention is to consider if you really want a brain cell? The 4Z size especially is going to make a big dent in the interior volume of that main pocket in the Ego. I personally opted for the much slimmer cache instead as I wanted to keep room to carry other items, and have realized after years of traveling that I really don't need THAT much protection for my laptop. The cache is padded, the main bag is padded, and in your case you have a protective shell. Do you need another layer of hard-shell protection? Perhaps you do, but worth pondering.

        I also went messenger this time after using a backpack for the last few years. I find messengers much easier to organize, easier to access items on the go (in a backpack you often need to empty the other items in the main compartment in order to access the stuff on the bottom - this drives me nuts), and easier to access without removing the bag from your shoulder.

        Good luck!


          I have a 15" MacBook Pro work laptop, and I've been carrying it around for six weeks straight in a vertical cache strapped inside a Synapse 25. The fit has been perfect, and even with the bag filled with a Canon G12 camera, cables, notebooks, water bottle, snacks, SE, etc., it never felt too heavy or overburdened. And the computer stayed safe and protected the whole time, even when the bag was (occasionally not-so-gently) placed on the ground to snap some photos. It's a more casual look than the Ego, and has a smaller footprint than the BB, but it could be another option for you to look into. I also think a cache/Smart Alec combo would work quite well, too.
          "A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions." — Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.


            Concerning the Ego:

            For what it is worth, I have tried a Horizontal Brain Cell 4Z with my 15.6" PC that is 1.2 - 1.4" thick and it does fit fine so no worries about it being too tight IMHO. However, how much extra length does your hardshell add? If only about a 1/4" or so, it should not exceed the length of corrugated plastic shell (my bare PC did which is why I returned it).
            I agree with jed that the need for the protection may not be as great due to the padding at the bottom and back side as will as the use of your Tech21 hardshell. Also, you have the side pockets to further cushion the side (especially if you have an umbrella / water bottle in them and usually EDC stuff in the front - so that is 5 sides of extra "padding". The top has the zipper and seams - tough materials / YKK zippers.
            Now, that being said, if you are ok with the 4Z taking a bit of space in the main compartment, go for it because it has the annex clips which also add a bit of resistance to drop by suspending the Brain Cell.
            In summary, if you want maximum protection and di not mind losing a bit of space, the 4Z would be perfect (even as an option to use when you know you are going into a rough area).
            Also of note - a Pelican 1085 hardcase fits in there and a 15" MBP does fit in it (check videos) without the hardshell if you want.

            Also, given what you have written of your EDC, an Ego should work fine. I carry that + my laptop in an old Brenthaven equivalent to the Brain Cell, my lunch, Bluetooth speaker and a compact camera as well as other small misc. extras. I would suggest getting the QAM shoulder strap so you have the option of carrying it courier style for stability (given what @adalangdon wrote). I use it and it works well cross-body with the stabilizer strap for maximum stability but also great in shoulder carry mode.

            Concerning the Brain Bag (also may also apply to the Super Ego which I do not have):
            I would suggest that it might be overkill unless you know you need to carry more than your EDC on a weekly basis. Of all the backpacks, the Smart Alec is the most laptop protective on its own with a padded bottom and back just like the Ego. The S25 can also hold a 4Z Brain Cell too (as my backpack EDC, I put a larger Brain Cell 2S in the S25) and I would suspect you MBP with hardshell would fit fine in the front elastic pocket which has a bit of bottom suspension.

            As for color options, there should be more returning. From my observation, when there is no more of a color option and it will probably be more than a few months before they will be doing a new production run, they will remove the option - so it does not mean it will not come back.
            See this link of the latest on backorders:

            Hope this helps

            Last edited by tpnl; 08-12-2014, 10:38 AM.
            TB Ballistic Black/Iberian Dyneema backpacks and briefcases for every occasion together with my cherished Nordic and Solar Dyneema!


              Blimey folks, thanks for all the suggestions. And there was me thinking I had narrowed it down already ;-)

              jed: Good point about the colours, I just know that I have this uncanny knack of invoking "Sod's Law" and the day after settling for colours I didn't really want they will announce that exactly what I wanted is now in stock. I hadn't thought too much about the Caches because I do tend to baby my laptops so I automatically went for the best protection, also I quite like the idea of adding a shoulder strap to my Brain Cell and being able to take it out of the main bag for lunchtime coffee shop trips with the laptop. I understand the Caches can't take shoulder straps.

              blackbird: Thanks for that info. I had kind of dismissed the S25 as a "floppy" rucksack and I was worried about the protection it would offer to a 15-inch laptop. However I have never held a S25, does it have much padding on the bottom? Did the top corners of the laptop stick out at all?

              tpnl: Again thanks for the info, sounds like the 4Z should suit me fine. So it sounds like the Super Ego would be bigger than I need/want, but I guess I hadn't realised how big the Brain Bag is.

              I will do some more research on the Smart Alec, as I hadn't really looked at that before. It's an unusual design, I will have to see if it grows on me ;-)
              It seems like it can take a Brain Cell, anyone know if the vertical 4Z will fit in there?

              I will also consider the Cache instead of the Brain Cell, but I can't help thinking that I would miss being able to use a strap with it.