I’m a Bellroy fan, and what they created with the Work Folio A5 is truly beautiful. The build quality is fantastic, the leather is strong yet pliable, and the full aesthetic of the product is a designers dream.
It knocked my socks off when I opened the box, yet it doesn’t fit as part of my daily carry for reasons which you will read below.
Bellroy’s tagline is “Considered Carry Goods”. To me, that means they consider a wide range of details in making their product designs the best they can be. I think that is clear across the board, from wallets, to phone cases, to bags, and more. With the Work Folio A5, I think the burden of consideration is placed on the user. How, exactly, do I use this case in the best way possible for me?
Let’s start with the size. A5 is the Goldilocks size as far as stationery goes. It is just right for a vast majority of uses, providing enough space to be creative while small enough as to not be overwhelming. Choosing this size for a carry folio is smart, except when it isn’t.
The provided slim, softcover notebook is the perfect compliment for this folio. It is a personal favorite format of mine actually. But the fact of the matter is, if you are spending $200 on a leather folio, you want to use your nice hardbound A5 sized notebook, like a Leuchtturm1917. It fits perfectly, but you may be limited to what else you can fit in the folio and still be able to zip it closed. This includes using the pen loop. (For my tests I chose the medium-sized Sunderland MK1, a pen I would consider an average size.)
Alternatively, popular hardbound notebooks like the Baron Fig Confidant and Story Supply Exposition that are around 1/2” narrower than standard A5 do fit easier with the pen loop filled. Surprisingly, the A5 Nanami Paper Crossfield fits easily, likely due to its lack of a hard cover. It’s possible other similarly styled soft cover A5 notebooks will fit as well. Regardless, you will be limited in what else fits in the folio using a standard harcover notebook.
The left hand side of the case provides several storage options, including two credit/business card size storage slots, and two flex-fabric pockets for larger items, like a pocket notebook or phone. This is my favorite section of the folio, as I fit a Field Notes memo book, Nock Co. DotDash 3 x 5 notecards, business cards, and credit cards - all without a hitch. If you plan on carrying a phone on this side and a hardbound A5 on the right, you will struggle with closing the case yet again. And don’t even think of sliding a small tablet under the notebook and being happy with the situation.
It’s clear to me at this point that this design was based solely on using a slim, soft cover A5 notebook. That’s fine. Like I said above, I adore this size. Unfortunately, the included Bellroy A5 notebook is terrible, and that is being generous.
I understand that complaining about a $5 notebook in a $200 folio is like complaining that the paracord zipper pull on your new backpack is frayed, but this is next-level bad. The first page of the notebook has a layer of the page torn off, the lines are crooked on both sides, funneling toward the middle of the page, and it looks like someone dropped a 25 lb. weight on each page, causing a raised ridge around the edge throughout the notebook. Like I said, it’s bad.
I think it is unfair to knock the overall package for the failings of the notebook, but when the exterior is so pristine I expect more. Fortunately, it’s easy enough to swap out.
Considered carry is how I recommend approaching the Bellroy Work Folio A5. It is a stunner to look at, and can be used in a functional manner. You just need to consider exactly how it will work for you before pulling the trigger.
(Bellroy provided this product at no charge to The Pen Addict for review purposes.)
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