Apple MacBook Sleeve vs. MacCase Premium Leather MacBook Pro Sleeve
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.
The market for Apple-specifc cases was created in 1999 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 way.
The best way to asses 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?
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. The number one function and the reason to buy a sleeve is 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 bare to open it up and put 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 who 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.
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 really 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? Let me know.
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. Will this new 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 $1500 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 section to the surfaces. There no sense of padding under the exterior leather because there isn't any padding. It's literally 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, great big building, tiny door. Why? 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 a 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 potential 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. The interior has a soft microfiber lining and your MacBook can be charged without removing it from the 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.
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. Why? 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 $149.95 the Apple leather sleeve comes in saddle brown or midnight blue. but is only available for the 12" MacBook. This might change in the future, but if you have a 13" or 15" MacBook Pro, I would suggest you keep reading.
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 let's 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 and every 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.
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 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 and 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 smell as good as the look. Vegetable tanned hides from cows that pass naturally provide a soft sensual user experience unmatched in the Apple protection space. The MSRP is $109.95 and are available for all 11" , 12" 13" and 15" Apple laptops.
Apple Leather Sleeve Pro / Con
Pro: Lighter weight, nicely finished, minimalist, laptop can be charged with removing from sleeve
Con: No padding, no closure, expensive, doesn't smell like leather, minimal protection, opens along long axis, only one size, new unproven design
MacCase Premium Leather Sleeve Pro / Con
Pro: Well padded, full closure, smells like leather, excellent value ($40 less than Apple), proven protection, short axis opening, a size for every Apple portable
Con: Heavier, need to remove laptop to charge
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 the way to go. You paying a lot more for a lot less, less protection, less content and less features. If you're counting every ounce you pack into your messenger bag, backpack or briefcase the Apple sleeve will help keep your total down.
If you're looking for a more balanced approached to the weight vs. protection debate, the Premium Letterer MacBook Pro Sleeve offers far superior protection for any situation. The design is much more substantial in every way and being $40 cheaper than the Apple sleeve, offers an inherently better value.
"A leather MacBook Pro sleeve is a great way to protect it.