With the launch of their new leather MacBook Sleeve, Apple officially entered the laptop case market. They have been making cases and covers in one form or another for their iPad tablets since the original iPad was released back in 2010. The new MacBook sleeve is their first foray into trying to protect their laptops with an in-house design.

But is it any good?

Apple leather macbook sleeve

The market for Apple-specific cases was created in 1998 by MacCase who followed up their briefcase for the original iBook with a sleeve designed for the PowerBook models. In 2007 MacCase launched their Premium Leather Collection, of which leather sleeves were a big part. 

This post will compare the upstart Apple MacBook sleeve with the gold standard of leather MacBook Pro sleeves, the MacCase Premium Leather design. My goal in writing this is not to pick a winner, one over the other. It is more to point out the pros and cons to each design so you the reader, can then choose which sleeve is best for you.

Though both designs are made from leather, they are very different from each other and go about performing the task of protecting your MacBook or MacBook Pro in very different ways. 

The best way to assess any design is to look at what is important to the people who are going to use it.

How well did the designers solve the problem of providing a protective place to store and transport your Apple laptop?

How well does each solution meet the needs of a vast array of potential customers?


Open view of leather MacBook Pro Sleeve

The Best Sleeve to Protect Your MacBook Pro

So what are those needs? Let's try to list them. 

First and foremost a sleeve designed to protect a MacBook Pro should protect a MacBook Pro. I know it seems redundant or silly to say so, but that is and should be priority number 1.


The number one function and the reason to buy a sleeve is to provide protection either during storage, transport, or both. How the sleeve accomplishes this goal  makes the debate interesting. 

The Sleeve should be easy to use.

By easy to use, I mean the laptop should be easy to get out and put into the sleeve. Who cares how protective the sleeve is if you cannot bear to open it up and put it in your MacBook Pro.

On the other hand, having an opening that is so easy to use might invite damage and not be as protective. So with all things product design, there is a balance of all these requirements. 

Once you've got the protection and ingress/egress figured out what's left?

The Sleeve should look good, especially a leather sleeve. As Apple owners and users, we typically appreciate the aesthetics of things. Decades ago people called this having good taste.

Companies that are successful in the Apple accessory space are aware of this and strive to provide a certain level of quality design. Many third-party products in the Apple accessory space are the best looking of their kind relative to the rest of the computer accessory market. Apple-specific cases are no different. 

Moreover, how does each of these visual designs stack up relative to their price points?

When you can buy a sleeve on amazon or eBay for $5, a $100+ sleeve should look, feel, and maybe even smell like the expensive piece that it is. If you're someone looking for a bargain-basement slipcase for your $1500+ Apple laptop, this post might not be for you. 

Speaking of the price though, the Apple Sleeve has a manufactures suggested retail price of $179.00. The MacCase Premium Leather model we are comparing it to has an MSRP of $109.95. 

In any language and currency that's a whopping $70 difference!

Details of a Leather MacBook Pro Sleeve

Should a leather sleeve smell good?

Leather is a natural material and contains a certain amount of natural oils just like your skin does. People have come to recognize the aroma of natural, real leather vs. say bonded leather which has no smell or smells like the plastic it is.

There are plenty of low-priced sleeves available. You pay a premium for leather so should the smell of natural leather be part of the experience for you? Wouldn't you agree? 

Lastly, there is the issue of price or more importantly value. While many can argue that Apple's hardware, though more expensive than their PC counterparts, offers a good value due to the overall user experience they provide.

The same cannot be said for their accessories. Relative to third-party offerings, Apple's iPad and iPhone accessories seem dramatically overpriced and it's hard to make a case for their overall value.

At a $70 premium to the MacCase offering, will this new Apple leather MacBook Sleeve follow in those footsteps or will it represent a good value for a leather laptop sleeve?

The Apple Leather Sleeve

The first thing you notice about the Apple Leather Sleeve is how clean it is. Other than the faint Apple logo on the front, the design is void of any details. It looks like a file folder more than something designed to protect a $2000 piece of hardware. The leather is consistently finished. This helps add to the cleanliness of the design.

When you pick it up you notice how light it is. But it's also flimsy. There is no sense of material layering to the surfaces. There is no sense of padding under the exterior leather because there isn't any padding!

It's 2 sheets of leather sewn together and that's it. The lack of any padding is immediately clear. 

The next thing that jumps out at you is the opening is along the long axis. Structurally, this is the least protective way to provide protection for the MacBook.

Think of a castle. It's a great big building with a very tiny door.


Castle's are designed to protect what's inside. If it had a great big door, it's less secure. An opening along the long axis of a laptop sleeve is inherently the least protective design in the same way an airplane hanger door would be on a castle. 

To make matters worse, there is no closure. You have an opening along the long axis of the sleeve and no way to close it. Not having a closure of any kind invites dirt, dust, spills, other objects, and a whole host of other potentially damaging situations into the sleeve.

Not having a closure of any kind is also the cheapest way to build a sleeve. You save on the cost of any materials and labor to assemble them to create the closure. The cost savings of not having a closure should be reflected in the price.

On the positive side, the interior has a soft microfiber lining and your MacBook can be charged without removing it from the sleeve. 

Rear view of Apple leather macbook sleeve

One interesting detail on the back of the Apple leather MacBook sleeve is the bubbles that accommodate the rubber feet that are on the bottom of the MacBook.

They are not structural so if you push them in, they indent. With the sleeve lacking any padding to absorb the surface change created by the rubber feet, Apple added the bubbles to prevent the feet from stretching the leather. This is nice attention to detail. 

If you told someone to close their eyes and handed them the Apple Sleeve they might not have any idea it was made from leather.


It doesn't smell like leather. It doesn't smell like anything. With leather being a premium material, one of the things you are paying for is the immersive experience. It looks, feels, and smells, unlike any other material. With vinyl mirroring the look and to a certain extent the feel of real leather, the smell is the last hallmark of the natural material and part of why you pay more. 

Available for $179.00 the Apple leather sleeve comes in saddle brown or midnight blue. If you're looking for a more cost-effective protection solution, I  would suggest you keep reading. 

MacCase Premium Leather MacBook Pro Sleeve in Vintage

The Premium Leather MacBook Pro Sleeve

Switching to the MacCase Premium Leather MacBook Pro Sleeve, the first thing you notice is it's made up of many parts. The front face alone is assembled from 7 different panels including the clear vinyl that makes up the window that lets the Apple logo become part of the design.

There is a certain amount of mass to the form as well. The surfaces have section and roll into the seams hinting at the padding below the exterior leather surface. 

When you pick it up it has a weight, it's not heavy but has a substantiality. It feels like it can do the job it was designed to, protect your MacBook Pro. The curved panels are sewn with a contrasting white thread which highlights the quality of each stitch. 

To get your MacBook Pro inside, you open a flap on the short axis and slide it inside. Once inside, the flap is secured with a color-matched velcro closure protecting your MacBook Pro from dust, dirt, spills, and other objects.

Having the opening on the short axis provides the highest level of protection because the weakest part of the design, the opening, is minimized. The closure flap reinforces the protection. 

Leather MacBook Pro Sleeve open

Some of the details that feature on the MacCase Premium Leather Sleeve are

• The aforementioned window that allows the Apple logo to become part of the design

• A rear cooling vent that allows the heat to dissipate from the processors when the MacBook Pro is placed in the sleeve after use

• A perimeter bumper piping that absorbs small impacts along the edges. 

Available in a distressed Vintage brown or a classic pebble grain black, the MacCase leather MacBook Pro Sleeves smells as good as the look.

Vegetable-tanned top-grain or full-grain hides from cows that pass naturally provide a soft sensual user experience unmatched in the Apple protection space. The MSRP is $129.95 and is available for all 13", 14" 15", and 16" Apple laptops. 

Here are the positives and negatives of each slipcase to help you choose which leather MacBook Pro sleeve is best for you: 

Apple Leather Sleeve Pro / Con


• Lighter weight

• Nicely finished

• Minimalist clean design

• Laptop can be charged with removing it from the sleeve

• Apple logo embossed into the leather


• Minimal protection

• No padding

• No closure

• Relatively much more expensive

• Doesn't smell like leather,

• Inherently less protective design that opens along the long axis

• Limited sizes

• Unproven design

MacCase Premium Leather Sleeve Pro / Con


• Well padded

• Fully protective sealing closure

• Smells like leather

• Excellent value ($40 less than Apple)

• Proven protection of nearly 20-year-old design

• Maximum protection the materials and structure will allow due to short-axis opening

• Window allows Apple logo to become part of the design

• A size for every Apple portable


• Heavier

• Need to remove laptop to charge


In Conclusion

Apple laptops are expensive. If you plan on transporting yours, a leather MacBook Pro sleeve is a great way to protect it.

If you're looking to spend a lot more money for absolute minimalist protection, the Apple MacBook Sleeve is the way to go. You're paying a lot more for a lot less, less protection, less content, and fewer features.

If you're counting every ounce you pack into your messenger bag, backpack, or briefcase the Apple sleeve will help keep your total weight down. 

If you're looking for a more balanced approach to the weight vs. protection feature set, the MacCase Leather MacBook Pro Sleeve offers far superior protection over the Apple offering.

The design is much more substantial in every way and being $70 cheaper than the Apple sleeve, offers an inherently better value.  

Do you own either the Apple leather sleeve or the MacCase leather sleeve? What has your experience been like? Let us in the comments below. 


link to Macbook Pro Sleeves

 "Which leather MacBook Pro Sleeve is best?....


Jody K. Deane
by Jody K. Deane November 28, 2017

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