Review: Hex Fleet Cross Body for iPad
Pairing an 11" MacBook Air with an iPad has become a popular combination, particularly for users who travel. All of our editors carry these devices, so we're not surprised that we're starting to see bags that hold both of them together. The most recent is Hex's Fleet Cross Body for iPad ($60), which we first saw in January when it received one of our Best of Show Awards at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show. Born from the same concept as the company's earlier Varsity Messenger Bag and Versetta's Angela before it, the idea is to provide storage for your computer, and easy access to your tablet -- it's especially well-suited for quick iPad access during travel.
For its Fleet series—which also includes backpacks, sleeves, and other styles of bags—Hex uses a very nice black and gray striped canvas shell. Our editors had mixed feelings about the color combination in conjunction with the brown leather trim, but the materials are unquestionably nice. The adjustable cotton shoulder strap is quite sturdy, and rather than plastic loops, Hex strung it through metal ones. We also liked the leather zipper pulls and the patch on the front of the bag; these little elements give Fleet Cross Body a sort of army surplus look and feel.
On the front of the 13.25” x 8.5” bag is a zipper that runs down from the top left corner around to the top right, securing a front flap that might otherwise have been left dangling or less enclosed on the sides. Opening the flap reveals the company’s familiar “Hex PadPort” frame, which is pretty much identical to Varsity Messenger Bag’s, except that it’s been rotated to portrait orientation. It’s a simple frame that fits either generation iPad—caseless—with three sides mostly closed off with elastic material; the left edge has a Velcro strap to hold itself shut. The openings are such that the iPad can only be inserted one proper way, with the Home button on the bottom. Along the top edge, the headphone port and Sleep/Wake button are accessible, but the microphone isn’t visible. All of the other ports and buttons can also be reached.
The uncontoured flat back makes the ports and buttons a bit harder to get at, but because the material is not rigid, this is not a significant problem. One downside is the rear camera is completely blocked, and the front-facing camera and Home button are partially obscured—the latter is still usable. We can’t see a lot of people wanting to use either camera with their tablets in the bag like that, but better access to the button and front camera would be welcome.
A zipper along the top of the bag reveals the main compartment. This is where the MacBook Air goes; there’s a dedicated, padded pocket with a Velcro strap to hold it in place. Additionally, there are three pockets of varying sizes, two pen holders, and a removable keyring on a plastic clip on the other side of the main cavity. Two of these pockets seem specifically designed to hold an iPhone and a 45W power adapter, respectively. For even more storage, there’s a large snap-shut holder on the back of the bag, which offers plenty of extra room for items you might carry to work or on trips.
Fleet Cross Body is an attractive, nicely assembled bag made of quality materials, and it’s being sold at a reasonable price. The MacBook Air portion is just about perfect, with the right holders and space for accessories without being too bulky. By comparison, the PadPort’s actual utility will vary from person to person, as its execution is good, but not great; small tweaks that we’ve suggested since Varsity Messenger Bag would lead to an overall better accessory. With that in mind, this bag earns the same B+ rating as its predecessor. We like it a lot, and think Hex has a really good usage model on its hands for iPad and MacBook Air owners, but we would also be very happy to see some improvements.