Toting my 17" laptop around the CES showfloor for half a day was enough to sell me on the idea of netbooks. I was certainly envious of Wes' ability to open his 10.1" EeePC during conferences, disregard any fear of a low battery, and pack it away at a moments notice. The Choiix Easy Fit Netbook Sleeve wihtout a doubt contributed to the practicality, protecting his investment and adding a few pockets to store essentials. I purchased my EeePC earlier this summer with the same idea in mind, but made a grave mistake: I chose a 12" screen. A definite perk in every other aspect, but too large to fit in the Easy Fit Sleeve. I was pleasantly surprised to learn Choiix had another entry to their notebook sleeve line, one that fit up to 14" models.
Product Name: Ergonomic Metal Sleeve 14-inch
Review Sample Provided by: Choiix
Choiix has packaged the Metal Sleeve the same as other products from the brand: a clear, thick plastic bag allowing a direct view of the contained item. Why pay for images and printing when you can use the hardware itself? A belt of cardboard wraps the sleeve, showing off the Choiix logo and product name, as well as a few features on the reverse side. Once of the best features of the packaging is the handle, a staple we've seen not only with Choiix products but Cooler Master coolers as well. However, the Metal Sleeve has a handle much stronger than the usual thin plastic strip, mimicing an actual brieftcase. Snap buttons secure packaging, allowing easy access to the sleeve. A foam insert is found inside to help keep the shape of sleeve during storage and shipping.
While the Ergonomic Metal Sleeve provides the same basic functions of the Easy Fit Netbook Sleeve, it achieves them in a different way. The sleeve encompasses the notebook, but instead of strapping the computer to it, the straps are used on the top and both sides to loop through the front and back of the Metal Sleeve. This turns the sleeve into a briefcase of its own, complete with carrying handles at the top. The straps secure with velcroe, allowing quick access to your netbook. After you remove the computer, the straps can be reattached, using the aluminum surface of the cooler as a portable desktop. The natural shape of the empty sleeve creates an ergonomic incline as well, and while the reverse side is cushioned for comfort on the lap or legs.
I'll be the first to admit that the Metal Sleeve wasn't what I expected. When I first preview the product on the Choiix website, I thought it was simply a larger version of the Easy Fit Netbook Sleeve, which was what I was initially looking for. However, I was immediatly impressed with the simple ingeniuety of the sleeve. Using the shape of the empty sleeve to create the incline that is so popular with notebook coolers is a great idea, and more importantly one that doesn't take away from portabililty of the product.
Though the product isn't necessarily intended to reduce temperatures, the choice of an aluminum surface will help with heat dissipation. When utilizing the metal desktop on laps, the fabric on the reverse side of the cooler provides cushion and protection against the heat from the notebook. The sleeve itself is very leight, weighing in at just under two pounds, and the nature of the notebooks up to 14" prevents weight strain on the arm. The dual-cushioned interior of the sleeve does a great job of keeping the the notebook safe and secure. As mentioned, I'm using a 12" netbook, so I was concerned that my computer may be shifting back and forth in that extra two inches. To my surprise, the netbook stayed put, even after putting it to the skip-like-Mary-Poppins test (no, you won't find that on YouTube).
The Metal Sleeve does fall a little short on one of my expectations, however. Using the Easy Fit Netbook Sleeve, or even a bare notebook for that matter, you're able to access to computer faster than with this sleeve. As opposed to simply opening the lid, there is a bit of a process in un-velcroing all three sides, pulling the straps free, removing the notebook, and resecuring the straps. Its not a huge difference, but it just doesn't supply the type of instant access I was hoping for.
Since heat dissipation was mentioned, I couldn't resist putting the Metal Sleeve to the test to compare the temperatures versus bare use. I had a hard time loading the netbook, however, and getting temperatures to rise much overall. I used prime95 to stress the system and monitored temperatures using RealTemp. The results weren't conclusive enough to draw much of a conclusion from, but there were a few tests in which using the Metal Sleeve showed about a degree cooler. This may have been a fluke and is in no way saying this is ideal for cooling your netbook, not that you should need too really. By design the Metal Sleeve should give performance similar to sitting your notebook on a flat table. Without any fans or even vents you shouldn't expect any more than that.
Though it wasn't quite what I intially thought, the Ergonomic Metal Sleeve for Choiix had its own unique way of fulfilling my expectations. The sleeve provides a secure, cushioned home for notebooks during travel, and is easily carried thanks to the included handles. During use, the sleeve automatically takes the role of a mobile desk, allowing not only a more stable working environment, but a more effecient, comfortable, and ergonomic one as well. A little access time may be sacrificed in the Cprocess, but there is no doubt in my mind that the Ergonomic Metal Sleeve will make my travels more convenient and comfortable. With a suggested retail price of almost $35, it comes in a little pricy considering the target market. At that price it is starting to approtch the notebook cooler market, without the added cost of fans and other electronics you would think the manufacturing cost would be a little lower.