Incase Icon Review
Cons: Expensive, lacks cushioning on the bottom of the pack
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Our Analysis and Test Results
This Editor's Choice is the one you should consider if you're looking for great protection and organization. It is best for those that prefer a sleek style that it's too loud, with many pockets. If you prefer a simpler design, be sure to look at more pocketless options that we've also tested.
The Incase Icon offers some of the more robust laptop protection of the competition. The separate side-access laptop pocket accommodates computers both small and large (up to 15 -inches). The main laptop compartment lies across the back of the pack, with 1.5 inches of padding buffering from the back of the user. The separate tablet compartment is a nice feature. Sadly, this backpack lacks a suspension system to keep the laptop off the bottom of the bag.
The side-access zip compartment keeps computers up to 15" in place. Our laptops didn't move around, especially when loaded down with other items (i.e., groceries or gym clothes). Also, the soft lining avoids abrasion on the exterior of the computer.
Even though the amount of foam padding is beyond sufficient at the back, we didn't like that the bottom of the pack contained next to no padding. When putting down the pack, the computer doesn't hit the ground because the compartment in the back tapers to a fine point to keep it off the ground. There is also a buffer zone where the padded part of the bag comes to an end before the bottom of the pack. However, a super small and thin laptop might slip past this tapering point to sit on the bottom of the bag. This bag could be made better with a small securing system or even a little more padding on the bottom of the bag.Tablet Compartment
A great feature of this pack is the tablet/iPad compartment, located between the laptop and main compartments. While the laptop compartment side access is on the right, the one for tablets unzips on the left. There is a thin layer of padding between the two compartments, which is just enough for protection. This compartment does not have the fleece lining, but instead a smooth nylon texture. Our iPad moved around a lot more than the laptop (less friction). There are no securing straps in this compartment. Your tablet is safe in the case of a dropped bag, as it is far from the bottom of the bag. Around the buffer of the zipper is a little extra cushioning, that wraps around the device and provides additional shock-cushioning.
The other compartments in this backpack don't offer as much protection, as expected. There is not a whole lot of padding at the bottom, forcing us to add a compressible jacket when storing other gadgets at the bottom of this pack. That said, it does feature several zip-up pockets to keep items secure, some with fleece-lining and some without, positioned away from the bag's bottom. We love the fleece-lined and zipped pocket at the top of this pack that acts as a great place to store a pair of sunglasses or an iPhone, preventing scratches and abrasion.
Considering this pack for all-day use? The Icon provides all-day comfort. We tested it while walking around town, bike commuting, and hiking in the wilderness. We also gave this pack to friends of different shapes and sizes to evaluate its relative comfort and fit. Our testers thought it felt good in most situations, but we learned that it truly does fit those with a longer torso better than those that are a little shorter. Below, we dissect all the comfort features of this backpack, focussing on its adjustability, padding, and fit.
This bag features an adjustable shoulder, sternum, and load stabilizer straps (connecting from the shoulder to the neck of the backpack). The shoulder straps have a simple release and pull mechanism that is smooth and easy to use. The sternum strap is adjustable on two axes. It can be moved up and down with a simple slide and pulled tighter or looser depending on what you require. The load stabilizer strap can be pulled tighter or looser to bring the backpack in closer when loaded down or emptied. This arrangement provides better load balance, a feature common to backpacking packs but rare on laptop bags. Overall, our testers appreciate all the adjustment capabilities of this backpack. The only thing that could make it better is a hip strap option for hiking or biking.
Shoulder and Back Padding
The foam padding throughout this backpack is burly. The back panel and the shoulder straps have most of the padding. While the outer material of this back consists of abrasive 840-D nylon material, the areas that touch the wearer's body are softer. When wearing just a tank top, with the pack right against our skin and we were comfortable all day. The straps are thick and wide, helping to distribute the weight of the load throughout the shoulders during extended use. They are also set far enough apart to offer superior comfort.
While the padding in the back offers an ergonomic design that distributes a load well, it is not very breathable. After a hike and walking around town on a warm day, our backs got a little sweaty. The straps are porous and soft and offer more breathability.Fit
Our testers with short torsos found the padding of the Icon a little longer than they wanted, even with the adjustment options. That said, our testers with average and longer torsos thought the back was just right. We recommend this pack for all genders and sizes, except those with a super short torso.
Storage & Organization
Are you a gadget geek that loves to carry around all of your toys? This pack may be what you've been searching for. With four main compartments and 14 different pockets, this is one of the most organized backpacks we have come across. It also offers the option to stuff in a jacket or gym gear alongside your tech products. This pack has only 17L of storage, yet we were surprised at how much it could accommodate. We found ourselves loading it up with all of our electronics in addition to a few last-minute items from the grocery store at the end of the day. It maximizes volume while all the pockets are useful (not the case with all packs we tested), even with the bag packed to capacity.
From the back panel moving forward, first is the laptop compartment, followed by the one for tablets. The third (main) compartment is the largest and provides storage for flat items such as folders, documents, and books, or space to load up gym clothes or groceries.
The fourth external compartment offers several zippered and velcroed pockets for storing chargers, cords, pens, notepads, and more.
Lastly, there is a large external pocket that is perfect for storing quick-access items such as a wallet or keys.
Two side-access pockets also exist. Both unzip fully and are best for storing flat items such as a plane ticket or phone. One of the side pockets has a "power pocket" with an integrated cable port for a portable audio device or power device (a cool feature!). When loaded up, it can't accommodate much more than flat items.
A top access pocket is faux-fur lined, making it a great option to store a pair of glasses or even an iPhone. This pocket sits inside of the main compartment, keeping it protected from hard set-downs or falls. Overall, we are thrilled with the organizational capacity of this backpack and found most of these pockets to be functional for gadget lovers.
Ease of Use
Easy to use? You bet! This backpack was one of the easier backpacks to find all your things, assuming you load it up properly. The only hard thing about it is choosing which pockets to use for what function. Once we formed habits of placing our daily items in their designated places, the Icon was a cinch to use.
The two side-access compartments allow quick access to your computer or tablet without having to dig through a bunch of stuff. The roomy main compartment is large enough to accommodate shoes, gym clothes, and a lightweight jacket, while the many pockets are perfect for organizing all your smallest gadgets.
The pull tabs are big, so you can open and close your bag even with a pair of bulky gloves. Also, this backpack features several easy to access pockets for anything you might need on the go. The only thing that we wish this backpack had was a water bottle holder. This model is a fantastic, easy-to-use pack that our testers love to wear each day.
This backpack isn't the prettiest or hippest out there, yet it doesn't look like a classic school bag either. It features a square look that is sleek and simple. Although we like external water bottle pockets on backpacks, the lack thereof on this pack helps in the looks department.
While no laptop backpack is at home on Wall Street or in the courtroom, our testers liked its look for tech professionals and casual working environments alike. The Icon comes in a variety of colors to accommodate a range of tastes.
This backpack offers decent water and weather protection from the elements. While it's not waterproof, it is one of the only packs that didn't allow water into either the laptop or iPad compartment during our shower tests. The other compartments, meant to hold papers and other electronics, weren't as protected.
During our shower tests, we exposed this backpack to a water dunking then a shower test. We took the Icon and dunked the bottom of the back about fifty times to see if any water leaked at the bottom of the backpack. This practice was meant to simulate putting the backpack down in a big puddle. During this test, the pack leaked into the main compartment, creating a puddle inside. That said, the water didn't permeate immediately. It took some vigorous agitation before leakage began.
Then, we sprayed this pack for about one minute while it sat in a water puddle in the bathtub. The covered zippers provided some water resistance, but it isn't waterproof. Some side and external pockets were damp inside, but not soaked. What we loved about the test results is that the compartments meant for larger electronics stayed dry. We weren't impressed when the compartments intended for paper got damp quickly. If you plan on using this backpack in a giant rainstorm, be sure to pack an umbrella or a rainfly for additional protection. In a pinch, place any water-unfriendly items into the laptop or tablet compartments for increased rain protection.
Great quality comes at a higher price. The Icon is one of the more expensive options in this review. It's specialized and high quality, but there are options out there for much less that also get the job done. You're paying for exceptional features, organization, and ease of use. Note — this product is frequently sold at a discount at online retailers, which massively increases its value.
If you love to carry all your gadgets and you value organization, the Incase Icon is a perfect choice. Load it up with all your favorite tech and get out the door. It's perfect for commuting to work, taking to a coffee shop, or while bopping around town. For urban use, this is the best all-around companion.
— Amber King