I Got the Kindle Voyage – And I Love It

I used to read a lot of books – and then one day, for some unknown reason, I just seemed to stop.

Let me back up a bit. My father was a book wholesaler. Growing up, I’d come home to find cartons of books on our doorstep – many publishers would mail us their new releases each month. Or I’d go to see my dad at his warehouse and he’d give me an empty carton and let me roam through the place and fill it up. He always looked at what I was taking but never told me to put anything back. I don’t think my parents cared too much about what I read as long as I was reading. In my teens and twenties, I read mostly science fiction. Now I almost never go near the stuff but Philip K. Dick remains my favorite author to this day.

When I traveled, whether it was for business or pleasure, it was always a struggle to decide how many books to take with me vs. the weight of the books I’d need to carry. Living in Hong Kong, which has mostly shitty English-language bookstores, any trip to a country with a decent bookstore always meant filling up my suitcase with books on my return.

I remember the first e-book reader I came across, years ago. It was from Sony and I thought it was fabulous, but it cost $400 and I thought that was just way too high. I bought the Amazon Kindle 2 when it came out in 2009 but I thought it was kind of clunky. And while I was never bothered by the lack of a built-in light on real books, I didn’t like having to keep a reading light on (or buy a clip-on light) to read from this. I used it sparingly for about a year and then pushed it to the side.

I thought the iPad was the answer. I’ve bought almost every generation of the iPad, loaded each of them up with a couple of hundred books, and then hardly ever read them. I thought I might go back to reading physical books again and bought a few when I was in London a few months ago – all of which are sitting on the floor by my desk, unread.

I’m very aware of the fact that my mother who is 93 and has macular degeneration still manages to read a book a day, thanks to the fact that on the Kindle every book is a large print book. She thinks the Kindle is a miracle.

Then a friend posted on Twitter and Facebook asking about buying a Kindle. Some people, myself included, advised buying an iPad because it could do so many other things on a single device. But he bought a Kindle anyway and I found myself looking at reviews of the latest models. Amazon released the Kindle Voyage at the end of October and the reviews were pretty spectacular. And so when my wife asked me what I wanted for a present for our first anniversary, this is what I requested.

The Kindle Voyage is relatively expensive. It’s about double the price of the Kindle Paperwhite. But I reasoned that I was going to use the same one for several years so I wanted the latest and greatest. In the U.S. the Kindle Voyage sells for $199 “with special offers” – on screen ads, or $219 without the ads. That’s for the WiFi versions. If you want 3G, that adds another $70 to the price. Amazon won’t ship the Voyage to Hong Kong but there is a Hong Kong distributor – and a much higher list price, around HK$2580 (roughly $335).

Shop around a bit and you’ll discover that you can find the Voyage for as low as HK$1990 – but that just comes with a 7 day shop warranty. The one from the Hong Kong distributor with a full warranty can be found for as low as HK$2,180, and I managed to negotiate a bit further and get it at HK$2,130. I balked when I saw it was the version with ads but I was told that’s the only one that’s being sold in Hong Kong.

First off, this thing is almost insanely small for what it is. 6.4 inches tall, 4.5 inches wide and just 0.30 inches deep. It weighs just 6.3 ounces. It fits in the inside pocket of my jacket and I barely know it’s there. Here’s the Kindle Voyage next to my old Kindle 2:

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It blew my mind when I realized that the screen on the Voyage is actually the same size as the screen on the Kindle 2. But it’s so much easier to read.

It has an amazing e-ink screen. At 300 ppi, it’s almost 50% sharper than the previous Kindle Paperwhite. It has a touch screen (the lack of one was another reason I hated the Kindle 2, it just seemed too kludgy and non-intuitive to have to move around the screen with that tiny joy stick) and it also has these essentially invisible buttons on the sides that Amazon is calling “Page Press.” You can touch the screen to turn pages or press these buttons. You get a bit of haptic feedback on the Page Press thing, but I find I prefer touching the screen.

Battery life is said to be 6 weeks (with reading 30 minutes a day, WiFi off, light at a medium setting). Storage is 4 gigabytes; I’ve got about 250 books on it at the moment and I’ve barely begun to fill up the memory. I got a “smart cover” that functions similar to the iPad’s covers; turning it off and on when I close and open the cover.

The other advance is the front-lighting system. You can adjust the brightness via an onscreen menu, or you can use something Amazon is calling “adaptive lighting”. There’s a light sensor built in and it will adjust the light relative to the light around you. In practice so far I’ve found it to make the screen slightly dim for my liking so I haven’t been using it too much.  There’s another feature you can toggle that will gradually dim the light when you’re reading at night, also supposed to be good for your eyes but I haven’t tried it yet.

I was worried about the ads, but they don’t appear on screen when you’re reading a book. They take up the entire screen when the Kindle is “off” (the e-ink screen uses no power when the light is off and you’re not turning pages) and there’s a small banner across the bottom of the screen when you’re looking at the list of books in your library. So it turned out to not be an issue for me.

Here’s the main thing. The iPad was really terrible for reading in bed at night. Even though I’d adjust the light on the thing, it was always too bright and my eyes always got tired after 10 minutes of reading. I found that all of the iPads (I currently have the iPad Air first generation) were too heavy to hold comfortably while lying down and reading. And my wife would complain that the screen was lighting up the room too much and making it hard for her to fall asleep.

The Kindle Voyage is so light I can hold it in one hand and not notice the weight. The e-ink screen and the light they use are easier on my eyes so I can read for much longer without getting tired. My wife isn’t complaining about it being too bright.

And I’m reading again. At the moment, I’m halfway through Stephen King’s latest, Revival. The physical book is 421 pages. I’ve read the equivalent of 200 pages in the past three days and barely noticed it. (The last book I read was My Lunches With Orson: Conversations Between Henry Jaglom and Orson Welles. I read that on the iPad. It was 335 pages and took me almost a month.)

So basically I feel excited about reading again. I’ve only had the Kindle Voyage for a few days but if feels as if my “reading life” has been rejuvenated and I think this is a feeling that will last.

From what I’ve read in various reviews, if you already have the Kindle Paperwhite, then think twice about doing an upgrade. But if you’re buying your first e-book reader or upgrading from a much older one, then the Kindle Voyage is the one to get. I’m completely satisfied with mine.

Hong Kong iPhone Rant

Well, not really a rant. Just frustration.

If you were to go to the US Apple web site today (as I did just now), you can buy an unsubsidized iPhone 6 and wait 7 to 10 days for shipping.

If you go to the Hong Kong Apple web site today (as I did just now), you cannot buy an iPhone 6. It just says “currently unavailable.”

I tried the system for reserving one for pick-up in a store that day. Woke up at 7:50, got to my computer and just started hitting refresh. Up until 7:59, come back later. At 8 AM, a code. You have to send an SMS with that code to Apple and they send you a reservation code. You then have to input that on the web site. But I was unable to get my SMS delivered until almost 8:20 AM. 20 minutes of “not delivered/try again.” And the result was no phone.

Apple announced that they sold 10 million iPhones on opening day. It’s probably more like, took 10 million orders. Reportedly they are manufacturing 400,000 per day through their various out-sourced suppliers.

Here in Hong Kong, those people who are lucky enough to get through buy as many as they can. (You’re allowed 2 iPhone 6’s and 2 iPhone 6 Plus’s per order.) Mostly they are not buying them for themselves. They’re buying them to sell at a profit.

Word is that all of this reselling is causing Mong Kok prices to drop, but if you consider that the top of the line iPhone 6 plus was selling for up to HK$20,000 in Mong Kok (against a list price of roughly HK$8,000), a 25% drop in price still makes it too damned expensive. And with the drop in prices, there are reports that people are now hoarding them to bring to HuangQiangBei in Shenzhen to sell there. I’ve seen friends posting photos of their purchases on Facebook. Now and then I’ll leave a comment asking if they’d sell one to me and the response is invariably, “No, I want to wait a few days and see how much profit I can make.”

Yesterday the Hong Kong police failed to arrest some smugglers who were loading boxes of iPhones onto a boat in Sai Kung at night. They left behind 15 boxes with 130 phones. Who knows how many they got away with?  We can certainly guess how they managed to get so many.

I’m not going to pay a premium to get one. And I’m not going to order one through a mobile company such as 3 or SmarTone as I don’t want to get stuck into another 2 year contract.

So I just have to wait. It’s just a pain waking up before 8 every morning and sitting in front of the computer only to be disappointed. Frustration grows and my desire to get one grows in proportion to my inability to get one.

Here’s a site that’s tracking availability of iPhones in local shops.  I have no idea of how accurate this information is.  C refers to the shop in Causeway Bay, I to the shop in IFC in Central, F for Festival Walk in Kowloon Tong.

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Of course all of this insanity is because the iPhone 6 isn’t available legally in China yet. I almost wonder if Apple has colluded with the Chinese government to make them scarce here to take HKers’ minds off democracy.

I mean, let’s face it, there is no good news in Hong Kong these days. Here are just a few headlines from today’s paper:

  • Rafael Hui got secret $11m payment from Beijing
  • Scuffles break out as students call on CY Leung to meet for talks on political reform
  • Ex-housing boss to lead arts hub (so it won’t be an “arts hub” much longer, but who ever expected promises to be kept?)
  • Thousands join Hong Kong students’ democracy protest as classroom boycott begins (okay, a grand statement, but it won’t change a thing)
  • Ex-civil servant who poured boiling water on maid avoids jail
  • Beijing to take a more active role in Hong Kong’s affairs (so “one country two systems” didn’t make it 15 years, let alone the promised 50)
  • One in five Hong Kongers “considering emigration” as pessimism hangs over city
  • Beijing shifts from indulgence to hard line on Hong Kong

And lets not forget about how last week Hong Kong’s air pollution hit new record highs as Guangdong factories went full-speed to pump out as much product as they could before the week-long break starting next week.

So yeah, I’d rather think about getting an iPhone 6 because the real news is just too fucking depressing.

UPDATE: Yes, writing this post unjinxed me. This morning I was able to get through the reservation system and have a iPhone 6 reserved for pick up today. Last night while doing some checking around, I found that local Chinese language web sites DCFever and HKGolden have hundreds if not thousands of ads for iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. While most people are asking for relatively extreme mark-ups, there are also quite a lot listed at just HK$100 or $200 above the regular list price. One sort of tip for HKGolden – if you’re trying to register there, I’m told they will actually only accept registration from certain email domains. In other words, I was unable to register using my email addresses from Gmail, Yahoo or Netvigator. One friend, who works for the local government, told me he had to use his government email to be able to successfully register there.

iThoughts on New Apple Stuff

First off, as most of you know by now, every year Apple announces new iPhones and iPads and every year I write “hmph, not that much, not going to bother” and then get the fever and rush out to buy it as soon as I can. So I’ve given up pretending to resist. I want the new iPhone 6.

The livestream of the Apple event introducing the new model was a total mess for the first 30 minutes. First of all, someone please tell Apple that it serves no one in any positive way to require that you use the Safari browser to view the livestream. It’s just spiteful, short-sighted, stupid.

Some brainiac had the idea that the live video would be on the top half of the web page and the bottom half would be an auto-refreshing live blog. Why they thought this needed to be on the same page, I can’t even begin to guess, let’s just say lazy thinking. But the result of bad Javascript code that wasn’t properly QA’ed was that every time the blog portion at the bottom of the page refreshed, the video also refreshed and went back to the beginning again.

Also there was some sort of error in the control booth so for the first 30 minutes or so, anyone who did manage to watch the livestream heard the Chinese translator, her voice mixed louder than Cook’s. I thought at first it was some geo-checking thing happening only in Hong Kong; it turned out it was global.

It’s really a shame that a company that’s been doing this for so long – and that was introducing what appears to be some really good stuff – should be set back by these avoidable errors.

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So the deal in Hong Kong was that 3 PM Friday, you’d be able to go to the Apple web site and reserve up to 2 phones for delivery starting on September 19th. But the store was down until almost 3:40 PM. When it did finally open, it wasn’t working properly probably due to a large number of people hitting the site.

For me, it meant that I could reach the site, could choose what I wanted to buy (iPhone 6, space grey, 128 gig)(my wife said the gold color was unlucky for me since I’d never lost a black phone and I think the Plus is too large for my purposes) but then hitting the “select” button would just bring me back to the beginning of the process again. The phone never went into my shopping cart. Note that I was trying to do this on a MacBook and using Safari, with no luck.

Over at Twitter, I saw tweets from a lot of people having the same problem.

And yet, each time as I refreshed the page, I’d see the delivery date slipping. September 19th. Then 1 to 2 weeks. Then 3 to 4 weeks. Then “currently unavailable.” The pre-orders sold out within two hours.

One friend of mine told me she finally had success when she switched from trying to order on her PC to ordering via the iPhone Apple Store app. She has multiple iTunes accounts and ordered four phones.

The major reason for this is China. I don’t believe they’ve announced the release date for China yet – probably due to extra time needed to clear some regulatory hurdles there. So that means, once again, that everyone in China is trying to get their iPhone from Hong Kong.

The Chinese language HK newspapers published the prices that the shops in Mong Kok would pay for new iPhone 6s and 6 Pluses. The 64 gig 6 Plus, for example, they’d buy from you for HK$13,000, a hefty profit over the retail price of just over HK$7,000. Presumably they will try to sell it for up to HK$20,000, at least initially.

So not only is everyone in China trying to get one, everyone in Hong Kong is buying as many as they can, figuring if they can sell a couple of them up at Sing Tat in Mong Kok, they can make a nice sum of money.

Apple does not seem to have anticipated any of this. So while the iPhone 6 didn’t immediately sell out in the U.S. (at least insofar as I can tell from the Apple blogs I follow), in Hong Kong pre-orders were exhausted within two hours, with no word as to when the process will resume.

On the 16th, you can start to use the app to reserve phones for in-store pickup. As I recall from last year, ordering starts at 8 AM and each day orders were sold out by around 8:02 AM.

Since I don’t want to extend my mobile phone contract by another two years or pay a premium in Mong Kok, if I’m going to get one then I’ve got to buy it direct from Apple. I find that I really miss my 5s (lost in a taxi in Manila in August). The fingerprint sensor was a huge thing for me. I’m almost tempted to go and buy a used 5s – the market will probably be flooded with them very soon. When I lost the 5s, I knew it was just a month before the 6 announcement, so I was hoping I could have the new one in hand soon after that. I should have known better. I think I’ll be lucky if I can find one before November.

U2

In case you didn’t already know this, U2 has their first new album in 5 years and Apple arranged to give it away for free to everyone who has an iTunes account. That’s roughly half a billion people. Billboard reports that Apple will be spending $100 million on the marketing of this album. No word on how much they paid to U2 for this.

The thing is, everyone who has their iDevice set to automatically download purchases found the entire U2 album installed on their device, essentially without their permission. This has pissed off a lot of people.

And that leaves the question – why U2? Sure, they have a long standing relationship with Apple. They can still sell a fair amount of records but they’re far less consequential or notable than they were 10 years ago or more. With Apple upping their music game with the Beats acquisition, one wonders why they didn’t pick something more current (as Samsung did with their huge Jay Z stunt). My guess is that this was chosen as an album least likely to be found offensive by most people. The album itself? Pretty much of a piece with their last 2 or 3 albums. If you liked those, you’ll like this. I’ve played it once so far. It’s okay only.

Apple Watch

Note that it’s Apple Watch, not iWatch. Looks like Apple is finally moving away from the “i” branding on mobile devices?

Ben Thompson has an interesting take on the introductory presentation.  He notes that when Steve Jobs introduced the iPod, iPhone and iPad, Jobs spent a fair amount of time describing the need for this kind of device before revealing the device itself. Tim Cook took a different approach, showing the Watch right away and leaping into the description.

On the one hand, it might be easy to say that this is because Apple can’t speak to what niche this is filling, that they’ve done it simply because they’ve sensed there’s a good potential market for one.

On the other hand, in true Apple fashion they appear to have put a lot more thought into how such a device would function than any of their competitors.

There are three different models at two different sizes each.  Apple only announced a “starting at $349″ price. They also didn’t announce the date it would be available, only that it will be out next year. I’d say they did this to get 3rd party developers working on apps and also because it will probably put a major dent in sales for Jawbone, Fitbit and all the others currently out there. Apple also didn’t say anything about battery life – reports are that it will need to be charged daily.

All of the fitness tracking stuff – well that’s a proven market with lots of players in the space already. Forget sleep tracking if this needs to be charged daily.

The stuff with doodles and emojis, I think that’s clearly meant to be pitched at a generation that has abandoned wrist watches. Give “the kids” something cool to play with and they’ll start wearing watches again.

My initial take on the watch is why would I spend $350 or $500 for a device to wear on my wrist that in large part is only replicating the functionality of the phone that’s already in my pocket? Also, these days, you buy a watch and you know it’s going to last for 2 or 5 or 20 years. Just put it on, change the battery once a year, you’re done. You know that Apple will announce new models of this every year – do you want to upgrade your watch annually just as you do your phone?

Derek Thompson over at The Atlantic has written the most interesting piece I’ve come across so far on why the Apple watch could be a huge success. He reminds us that many analysts predicted the iPhone would be a failure. And that the Watch may be a new category of technology rather than just something that extends the current category.

Our projections of a piece of technology that’s just been invented don’t matter compared to the factors that actually drive adoption, like widely read reviews and the user experience of your colleagues, friends, and family. 

Me? I’m not going to say that I won’t get one. I’m going to wait until it comes out. I want to read the reviews, I want to see how the apps are functioning and extending its usefulness.

 

Hong Kong Prices for iPhone 6 and 6 Plus

Apple starts taking orders for the new iPhone on September 12th. You can order online starting at 3 PM that day for home/office delivery, which starts on September 19th.  Or from 3 PM September 16th you can use the Apple store app to reserve a phone for in-store pick-up starting on the 19th.

Here’s the prices for an unlocked, unsubsidized iPhone.

iPhone 6:

  • 16 gig – $5,588
  • 64 gig – $6,388
  • 128 gig – $7,188

iPhone 6 Plus

  • 16 gig – $6,388
  • 64 gig – $7,188
  • 128 gig – $8,088

I know I’m buying one of these since I lost my iPhone 5S last month. I think I will go with the “regular size” iPhone 6 – undecided if I will go for 64 or 128 gig but I suspect that 64 will be enough.

I might post some thoughts about the Apple Watch later. My initial thought is why buy something that replicates most of the functions (aside from the fitness tracking) already available from the costly device in my pocket?

Review – Think Tank Photo My 2nd Brain Briefcase 13

Photographers suffer from what we jokingly refer to as GAS – Gear Acquisition Syndrome. We get GAS not only for cameras and lenses, we also get GAS for bags. I don’t know any photographer who only has one camera bag. We buy them in all different sizes for all different purposes.

There are plenty of companies making photo bags and I’ve tried lots of them and after several years, the one company that I “follow” is an American company called Think Tank Photo. Their bags are intelligently designed and durable and have stood the test of time for me.

Here’s my “family” of Think Tank Photo bags:

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As you can see, I’ve got six of them, ranging from a small shoulder bag that will hold just my Nikon D800 with a zoom lens all the way up to the rolling Airport Security bag – which I use not just for travel but also for local shoots when I’m taking everything with me.

Think Tank decided to branch out into a new line that they called My 2nd Brain. This is a line of bags that they say are specifically sized for Apple products – MacBooks, iPads, iPhones – though of course they should work for just about any notebook, tablet and phone.

The first series of bags that they introduced left me cold. These were ultra-slim shoulder bags that could fit a laptop or a tablet computer and maybe a few sheets of paper but very little else. They couldn’t begin to accommodate what I carry on a normal work day. I looked at them and wondered if their designers all had 20/20 vision or wore contacts. There wasn’t even space for a couple of regular-sized eyeglass cases, let alone all the stuff I’m liable to carry on an average work day.

So, you ask, what do I carry on a normal day?

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  • 13 inch MacBook Pro
  • iPad Air
  • two pairs of glasses – reading and sun glasses
  • Fiio headphone amplifier
  • Over the ears headphones – most often B&W P5s, sometimes I go for the Bluetooth Parrot Zik headphones, which are also fabulous.
  • a “regular” pen and an Adonit Jot Script pen for writing on my iPad
  • The power adapter for my MacBook
  • a battery-powered electric fan, for all the times I’m waiting for the damned 307 bus in 35 degree heat
  • some sugar-free mints
  • 3 different business cards (day job, photo studio, photo/writing)
  • Keys
  • Battery charger and cables
  • Umbrella
  • Water bottle

And that’s not everything. Not shown in the photo above are:

  • Two mobile phones (one for business, one for “life”)
  • Cigarettes and a lighter
  • Sony RX100 III camera
  • And, occasionally, a paperback book for when I feel like reading on paper vs. on my iPad

Now, take all of that stuff and add on that I’m somewhat obsessive compulsive (as if that wasn’t already evident) and that I don’t want to spend time digging through my bag looking for things. I want each thing to have its own pocket or compartment; first so that it won’t be banging into anything else, and second so that I can put my hands on anything in an instant without digging around.

I have a slim vertical shoulder bag from Skooba that can’t really handle too much stuff. An iPad and two pairs of glasses and the Sony camera leave it bursting at the seams. I have a messenger bag from Crumpler that holds all of the above and more, but it’s just too big – when I’m sitting on the bus it’s really difficult to keep the bag from spilling over onto the laps of the people sitting next to me.

I decided that I wanted some kind of briefcase, to look more professional (okay, granted, I go to work wearing jeans and t-shirts and sneakers, but once in a rare while I have to do “business casual” or even a suit and a messenger bag just doesn’t go with that).

There’s probably a zillion briefcases one can find in Hong Kong, everything from cheap knock-offs to fancy leather cases costing thousands of dollars. I figured I could spend years looking at all of them, trying to find one that would fit my particular mania. But when TTP expanded their My 2nd Brain line to include briefcases, I knew that was the answer I was looking for. The price was right, the size was right and I also knew that this would have all of the pockets and compartments I wanted. So I got the My 2nd Brain Briefcase 13 in black (it also comes in “Harbor Blue” and “Mist Green”).

(Full disclosure – after not being able to locate the bag in Hong Kong through the local TTP distributors, I approached the company directly asking for a bag in exchange for a review and I was quite surprised when they agreed.)

Let’s start by examining the outside of the bag, starting with the front:

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It’s a very clean, classic design, made from 420D high density nylon with a water-repellant coating. The bag measures 14.2″ wide by 11.8″ high by 4.5″ deep. As you can see, the handle at the top of the bag is well padded. The detachable strap is also sufficiently padded, with those little shiny maybe-silicone bits that keep it from slipping off one’s shoulder.

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There’s even a small buckle on the strap to let you hang a pair of headphones or some other small item with a strap.

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(The above photo is the only one taken from the company web site. Wish I had a nice set-up at home for doing this kind of shooting!)

All of the hardware is durable nickel-coated metal.

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The front flap has two zippers that open to reveal the type of sectioned divider that’s found in almost every TTP bag.

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Note that there’s a deep pocket there good for papers, a small notebook, or perhaps a passport and tickets. (That’s where I put my electric fan.) There’s also a small blue strap with a hook at the end meant for attaching a key ring.

Viewing this same compartment from the other side, there’s another flap that’s the right size for a full-size iPad – in my case an iPad Air in a slim case from Odoyo.

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Just behind that compartment is a zipper that opens to reveal a small compartment meant for a mobile phone.

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There’s also a small webbed pocket in there that will fit business cards nicely. Me, I prefer to keep my phone in my jeans.  I tried putting my Sony camera here but the weight of the camera made this section get all bulgy.  So I’m using this pocket for my smokes. They fit perfectly there and they’re instantly accessible.

Looking inside the main compartment, theres one divider that features 5 expandable pockets:

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And there’s plenty of room to fit some papers or a magazine back there. Still in the main compartment but facing the other direction, there’s another divider that features two clear zippered pockets.

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And again, room behind that for more papers.

What you might also note in the above photos is that there are pieces of fabric along both sides attaching the front of the case to the rear. This is great because it means when the bag is on your shoulder and you open it up on the street, there’s no possibility of the front flipping over and all of the contents spilling out. You also have probably noticed the light grey interior, meaning it’s easy to see every item that you’ve got in there.

TTP include rain covers will almost all of their bags, and the My 2nd Brain Briefcase 13 is no exception.

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The blue bag contains a black plastic cover. The strap ends with a bit of velcro that wraps around a red elastic hook inside, meaning that you can take the bag out.

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As you can see, the rain cover bag actually takes up quite a bit of space.

Looking at the back of the bag, there’s the zippered compartment for your laptop.

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I don’t know that I needed that bit of cutesy text there. Both sides of the compartment are lightly padded.

Then there’s a slim space that you can drop a newspaper or magazine into.

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There’s also a tight flap that will allow you to put this securely onto the handle of a larger piece of luggage, as shown below with my TTP Airport Security rolling bag.

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Finally, both sides of the bag have zippered, expandable pockets that can hold a water bottle, a folding umbrella, a large eyeglass case or perhaps a kebab from Ebeneezer’s.

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So, yes, this bag holds everything I might possibly want to take with me on a day out, each item in its own place and easily accessible. It’s small enough to fit on my lap and it’s flat which makes it a great “desktop” for holding my iPad while I’m watching my TV shows during my commute.

I’ve been using this bag now every day for about 3 weeks and on the whole, I’m really loving it. It’s the same Think Tank Photo quality that I love in the other 6 TTP bags that I own. It seems strong and durable. It feels as if it will last a lifetime, or at least for several years.

What this bag positively screams is that Think Tank Photo have put the same amount of thought into the organization, construction and details that they put into their camera bags. That’s what I was hoping for in a briefcase from this company and they didn’t let me down.

The size is both a positive and a negative for me. Everything feels as if it has been engineered to military-like precision. The bag is small enough and light enough for me to take it with me every day without feeling as if the bag alone has added 5 or 10 extra pounds to the stuff I carry with me. (The actual weight of the bag is 2.1 pounds.)

It’s also small enough that I can pack it in my luggage when I travel. I know that sounds odd, but generally when flying I want a larger carry on bag (for reasons that I won’t go into here). But once I arrive, I want the smaller bag for my every day walking around stuff. I’ll be able to do that with this bag.

On the other hand, this compactness means that once I fill up the bag, and all of the little inside pockets, there’s not a lot of room left over. This becomes an issue with the power adapter for my MacBook. I’m not sure that the Think Tank designers ever saw this power pack with the huge British plug as opposed to the slim American one – it’s a tight fit and I can’t really use the compartment for this as shown on their web site. I suspect that the bag is strong enough that I could really stuff it beyond the point of sanity and manage to get it closed, but it might get really bulky and uncomfortable to carry at that point. I actually find myself wondering if I shouldn’t go for the 15 inch laptop size – not because I want a larger laptop but because of the couple of extra inches of interior storage space I’d get as a result.

Honestly, that’s about as much of a complaint as I can come up with for the bag. It is 100% the bag I was looking to get. It holds pretty much everything I want to take with me during the week – it holds everything safely and securely and everything is instantly accessible whether I’m standing at a bus stop or sitting at my desk. And, bonus, my wife says that the style really suits me.

The Think Tank Photo My 2nd Brain briefcase series comes in 3 sizes – for 11 inch, 13 inch and 15 inch laptops. Each size is available in three colors – black, “Harbor” blue or “Mist” green.

The My 2nd Brain Briefcase 13 that I have retails for US$129.75. You can purchase the bag from Amazon or  B&H Photo.  You can also try contacting Howen International, a great local company that distributes Think Tank products (and other photography accessories) in Hong Kong although at the moment they’re not bringing in the briefcases.

Thanks again to Think Tank Photo for supplying me with this bag in exchange for a review.