Hex is known for its iPod nano watch straps, but the company recently ventured into the laptop-bag market with its Fall/Winter collection. The sleek $80 Varsity 13" Messenger Bag for iPad is a beautiful everyday option, appropriate for use anywhere from the boardroom to the classroom to the coffee shop. And despite what its name seems to imply, the Varsity is a bag for both an iPad and a laptop.
The Varsity's appearance exudes class, comfort, and style. The gray-wool shell is fashion-forward yet professional, and the minimalist design makes it an appealing bag to carry around in various situations and settings. The bag features a single top flap, which is secured by two velcro corners. It also has a simple exterior pocket on the back that's perfect for carrying everyday items such as keys, a phone, and a wallet; and under the flap, a black zipper closes off the interior of the bag. The black-canvas shoulder strap complements the overall charcoal color.
In my testing, the Varsity is also quite functional. Padded on all sides, edges, and corners, laptop protection is clearly a priority. The interior laptop sleeve is fleece-lined and adds even more padding. When I slipped my 11-inch MacBook Air into the sleeve, it was completely protected, as if surrounded by firm pillows. I also briefly tested the bag with a 13-inch MacBook Air and a 13-inch MacBook Pro. Each of these models fit more snugly but was just as well-protected. (Hex also makes a 15-inch version of the bag for larger laptops.)
One drawback to the Varsity is that because it's so slim, the bag's generous padding takes up much of its volume. Once a laptop is stowed inside, there isn’t room for much more than your laptop power adapter and a book. The interior does include organizer pockets for smaller items such as business cards, pens, pencils, and USB keys, all of which have no problem fitting in the bag, but if you’re the type who carries around much more than a laptop and the essentials, the Varsity isn’t for you.
That said, the bag does provide a unique carrying option for iPad owners. On the front of the bag, concealed beneath the top flap, you'll find an iPad frame that's compatible with both the original iPad and the iPad 2. You slide your iPad into the fleece-lined frame and secure it with a Velcro stap, and you can then access the iPad's screen by simply lifting the top flap—though I found it just as easy to slip the tablet out of the frame to use it on its own. I carried an iPad 2 in the Varsity during my public-transit commute, and I wasn't worried about damaging the tablet, although it's worth noting that the iPad's screen is protected by just the padded flap.
The Varsity's shoulder strap could benefit from some extra shoulder padding, especially when you're carrying a heavier laptop, although I found the bag to be very comfortable when holding my 11-inch MacBook Air.
Overall, The Hex Varsity is one of the best laptop bags I’ve used. With its substantial padding, stylish look, and cool iPad frame, its a standout messenger bag for professionals, students, and consumers alike. If you’re looking for a minimalist, high-quality bag that will protect your computer during even the bumpiest bike or public-transportation rides, the Hex has you (and your precious laptop and tablet) covered.