This was purchased specifically for my wife so she could carry her workplace-issued laptop to and from work on a daily basis, along with her other daily paraphernalia which women seem to like carrying them around with themselves! Her workplace laptop, she advised me, was "just a normal bog-standard 17.3 inch lappy" - so this AmazonBasics AB103 seemed to fit the bill, and was thus ordered on a lightning deal, and duly arrived a couple of days later.
The bad points.
I always try to list bad points first, because if I don't, they are likely to be missed if my review is too long, and it also enables busy folks to quickly learn of any potential pitfalls before they too purchase it. :)
Her 17" laptop did NOT fit! OK, it did physically get in the rucksack, in the correct compartment - and the zip could be closed - but closing the zip was a real struggle - a two-handed operation, and it felt as though I was overly forcing the zip beyond what was comfortable. I just felt that by doing this, the zip would fail in very short order, rendering the rucksack useless. Therefore, in our specific requirement, we feel this rucksack wasn't fit for her 17" lappy. I think the reason for this non-fitment of 17" lappies is due to the design of the rucksack - its two sides are not parallel, they both lean in towards the top of the rucksack - giving the top of the rucksack a kind of arched design, rather than say a squared off design which might be more suitable for large laptops.
Other bad points we can think of. The inside of the back surface (the face which contacts your back) appears to be internally reinforced with some kind of heavy duty cardboard or other similar board. Obviously, there needs to be some kind of protection for any laptop or other similar delicate item carried - I just feel this board is too stiff and inflexible. I would also think this board would make your back sweat on hot days, and also fear if it were to get wet, may start to degrade to a papery mush, just like cardboard does when it gets wet. In my own opinion, I would think that a thin layer of high density foam (maybe even memory foam) would have been a better option for protection - foam would hopefully breathe a little better, helping to disperse heat and sweat, and would remain intact and not degrade if it got wet. Also, if it had foam rather than its present cardboard - then it could be washed in a washing machine whenever it got minging - obviously using an appropriate delicate wash cycle, appropriate detergent for similar sports goods, no fabric conditioner, and then waterproofing with an appropriate spray afterwards.
Other negative points include the lack of any chest strap and / or hip compression strap. Personally, being as 17" laptops can be quite weighty, I would consider hip compression straps very important - so as you can carry the weight on your hips, rather than on your shoulders and back. It is, after all, specifically sold as a "Laptop Backpack"! :-p
The good points. In general, this is actually a very good rucksack, especially considering it is from a 'Basics' range. It is made from a very durable, heavy-guage quality nylon material, with a rip-stop weave - and feels as though it could easily resist wear from abrasions. The back surface is ergonomically designed, with raised, padded open-mesh parts which would make contact on the muscle areas of your back (it is muscles, when exercising, which generate heat) - and having a 'relief' area along the central column for the spine, and a further padded section widthways across the lower edge. The base of the bag seems to be very well padded and protected - to save from any accidental (or careless) heavy drops onto the ground. Both sides have open-mesh pockets for drinks bottles, and also have compression straps to reduce the volume when the bag is minimally loaded.
The main pocket is more than adequate, containing a divider pocket for retaining laptops, tablets, folders, etc - and the divider has a secondary pocket for thinner items too. The top of the main compartment also has a semi-hidded much smaller zipped section - useful for say loose change, keys, etc. The second pocket is full length and full width, with its dual zip pullers going down the sides to very near the bottom - and so this second pocket feels as though it is sort of 'hinged' from the bottom. However, at the sides, the bottom half is gusseted (to prevent items from spilling out), and the outer section is also stayed in place by the side compression straps - though these can be fully released via their conventional quick-release buckles. The zips on both the main and secondary compartments can be hidden by the integral 15mm storm flap (to prevent rain driving directly onto the zip).
The third pocket is merely a no-frills pocket - about 90% of the height and 80% of the width of the two main compartments, and is secured by an open double-pull zip at its top quarter. The smallest fourth pocket is the ’swiss army knife’ of pockets! At about 60% of the total height and say 75% of the total width - this is a bit like the second compartment, in that its double pull zip opens all the way to the bottom on both sides, and again is retained by half-height side gusseting. Inside this 4th pocket, it has a number of other 'sub-pockets' - a full width half-height dividing section, next, slightly shorter, two one third width smaller flat pockets with the final third being given to two very generous pen slots. Each pen slot would easily hold say four bic biros, or a highlighter each, or maybe a whiteboard or permanent marker each plus a smaller fine liner marker. And then there are a two further shorter pockets in front of slightly taller third pockets - one being flat one being depth-shaped (to hold the equivalent of a pack of 20 cigarettes). Finally, this fourth section also contains a key hanger. The outer part of this fourth compartment is, in the majority, internally padded with a soft foam.
Whilst the exterior is very much entirely black - all internal zipped sections are lined in a lightish grey - making it appear much lighter inside than it is on the outside!!! The smallest compartment has some orange stitching detail, as do the fabric helper tags sewn onto all the zip pullers - I’m guessing this orange is some kind of Amazon 'corporate' identity colour - but it actually works well and is a useful decoration. Finally, the exterior is finished with a pair of silver-grey scotchlite-type reflective piping details, which start at the bottom, and go up and over the top, aside the very functional and comfortable carrying handle.
To finish, had this 'not' been specifically labeled as a "17 inch laptop backpack" - and merely been called a general rucksack - it would make a perfect product. Apart from not fitting my wife’s 17" lappy, this really is an excellent rucksack. OK, it probably isn’t a dedicated 'outdoors' kind of rucksack you use when walking in the hills or fells, or when camping - but for a general 'about town' or school-bag type of rucksack, this is perfect. It would also be quite good on a motorbike, especially being it is made from heavy duty abrasion-resistant fabric - though probably not suited to 'head down - bum up' race replica motorcycles! And it probably isn’t suitable for cycling either - it is probably too thick and too heavy duty - cyclists seem to prefer super-thin lightweight rucksacks.
In the end - because my wifes’ work specifically wanted a rucksack for her 17" lappy - it has to go back. And we already have a few similar sized rucksacks for other activities. And so, save for the 17" lappy issue - for any other use, I would whole-heartedly recommend this rucksack. As a comparison, Amazon also sell similar sized rucksacks made by Kipling - those Kipling items are horrible - this particular AmazonBasics AB103 is a million times better!