The Tom Bihn Brain Cell laptop sleeve is a slim, hard-sided case that comes in multiple sizes to perfectly fit the laptop you want to store inside. The computer itself is suspended inside, and padding surrounds it, though reviewers say the padding on front and back is considerably thicker than that on sides and bottom. It has carrying handles, so you can use it separately, and D-rings for a shoulder strap, though that is sold separately. A mesh pocket or two holds a bare minimum of additional items, making this case best for carrying a laptop alone. Its construction is crisp and high-quality, as are the materials, but it's also as expensive as a fully featured case. The case is only available on the Tom Bihn website.
Reviews praise the build quality of the Tom Bihn Brain Cell sleeve, including the fabric and fasteners on the outside and the foam on the inside. But the foam on front and back is thicker than that on the sides and bottom, where reviewers feel the most bumps and bruises are likely to happen.
The Brain Cell sleeve may be heavier than some other, less protective sleeve-style cases, but it's still a slim, lightweight way to carry a laptop. Carrying handles make hauling it around easy. If you want a shoulder strap the bag has D-rings for it, but it's an extra option that will set you back $10 to $30.
In many ways the styling on the Brain Cell sleeve is basic: a black rectangle with subtle branding and cross-cut exterior mesh pockets. Reviewers like the look, and some sizes and configurations (horizontal vs. vertical) do come with different accent colors in warm greens and browns.
Tom Bihn offers a limited lifetime warranty on the Brain Cell sleeve for manufacturing defects. No reviewers or users report needing it, but those who have to deal with the company's customer service generally come away pleased.
Reviewers say the Tom Bihn Brain Cell sleeve is well made, with extremely high quality and workmanship. But the price tag is high as well, especially for a sleeve that is not designed to carry many other items. For the price, there are best-reviewed full-size bags, albeit of lower quality or with fewer features.
The Tom Bihn Brain Cell sleeve has almost everything you could ask for in a minimalist laptop case: hard sides, a suspension system for the laptop itself, classy styling and comfortable carrying handles. Minor quibbles about the relative thickness of padding on the sides and bottom, and the lack of an included shoulder strap, do not alter critics' overall raves about this bag, even with its premium price tag.
The Tom Bihn Brain Cell earns an Editor's Choice award and a perfect rating in this detailed review. Most of the praise goes to the excellent laptop protection.
Review: Tom Bihn Brain Cell Review, Andru Edwards, July 6, 2005
"We aren't going to hide anything: this is the best 'case' we have seen," say Macfeed.com editors of the Tom Bihn Brain Cell sleeve, albeit in 2009. They like the egg-crate cushioning and soft internal padding, the carrying handles, the external pockets and the straps to cinch it down inside other Tom Bihn bags. Specifically, they compare it to the Incase Neoprene Sleeve, the ColcaSac and the Booq Vyper, finding it better than any of them. They award a perfect 5-star rating, noting that the black case does attract dust.
Review: Review: Tom Bihn Brain Cell, Editors of Macfeed.com, Sept. 21, 2009
This review of the Tom Bihn Brain Cell notes that it feels good in the hand and provides superb laptop protection. It also notes that many laptop users rely on the Internet for information, so they don't need to be able to carry lots of papers with the laptop.
Review: Tom Bihn Brain Cell Review, Gerry Block, Aug. 7, 2008
Gerry Block calls the Tom Bihn Brain Cell sleeve a "perfect, slim, minimalist" bag. He likes the way laptops are suspended inside, the tight synthetic weave on the outside and the bit of storage space the mesh pocket offers on the outside. "Though more expensive than some less-premium laptop bags, we say $60 isn't too much when you're trying to protect a $2,500 laptop," he writes.
Review: Tom Bihn Brain Cell Review, Gerry Block, Aug. 7, 2008
This detailed review of the Tom Bihn Super Ego computer briefcase also covers the Brain Cell laptop sleeve. Reviewer Jason Greiner notes that it includes a heavyweight stretch mesh front pocket and excellent laptop protection.
Review: Tom Bihn Super Ego Laptop Bag, Jason Greiner, Nov. 16, 2006
This undated review of the Tom Bihn Brain Cell sleeve awards 4.5 out of 5 stars, praising its ability to be used solo, compact protection and specific sizing. Some older laptop models may not fit, former About.com guide Catherine Roseberry comments. (Note: ConsumerSearch is owned by About.com, but the two don't share an editorial affiliation.)
Review: The Brain Cell, Catherine Roseberry
7. The Gadgeteer.com
This detailed review covers the Tom Bihn Brain Cell laptop sleeve as used inside the Tom Bihn Super Ego laptop bag. No drawbacks are noted.
Review: Tom Bihn Super Ego Messenger Style Laptop Bag and Brain Cell, Judie Hughes, May 24, 2005
ThinkMac.net reviews a variety of Tom Bihn bags, including the Brain Cell sleeve. Editors like the laptop suspension inside the hard-sided case, and the way the Brain Cell can clip inside the Brain Bag, a larger Tom Bihn case. They also like the handles. "You have no room for a power supply or other accessories, but if you just want to tote your laptop inside for a bit, without dragging in your whole backpack, this [is] a great feature."
Review: Review: Tom Bihn -- The Brain Bag & Its Amazing Friends, Editors of ThinkMac.net, June 12, 2009
9. Notebook Review.com
Anonymous reviewer "abaxter" of the Tom Bihn Super Ego messenger bag also includes photos and review coverage of the Tom Bihn Brain Cell laptop sleeve. The review notes that although the Super Ego bag may be too big for small laptops, the Brain Cell comes in sizes to fit just about any laptop snugly.
Review: Tom Bihn Super Ego Messenger Notebook Bag Review, "abaxter", July 21, 2005
John Wang likes the Tom Bihn Brain Cell sleeve, though he wishes for more padding at the sides and bottom of the case. It fits like a glove, he says, so the laptop doesn't move around. The vertical and horizontal versions are slightly different, with the former offering two pockets compared with the horizontal's one. He tests both, highly recommending them. The Velcro enclosure on the top is noisy, he notes.
Review: Product Review: Tom Bihn's 4Z Brain Cell for Late 2008 MacBook Pro, John Wang, Dec. 4, 2008
11. Palm Addict
Brid Nicholson finds the Tom Bihn Brain Cell to be a very tight fit for his laptop, with heavy padding on front and back and less on the sides. He wonders about the longevity of the Velcro closure. Carrying handles are included, but a carrying strap to clip onto the sleeve's D-rings runs an extra $10 to $30, he notes. There is no real room for accessories, so this may be most useful as a bag within a bag, he says.
Review: Tom Bihn Brain Cell Review, Brid Nicholson, June 5, 2008