MacBook Air Cases, MacBook Pro Cases, and One Super-Thin Cover

If you’re thinking about getting the best case for your Apple MacBook Pro or MacBook Air, you have a tough question: Should you get a cheap MacBook case that might not fit well and will surely crack and break quickly . . . or should you spend a bit more and do it right the first time?

If at all possible, I error toward doing it right the first time. That means you should avoid MacBook covers with pricing that seems too good to be true. But is there a “best” case for the MacBook Air or Pro? When it comes to MacBook cases, there is no single case or cover that clearly rises to the top — the mix of colors, textures, translucency, and durability are all up in the air. So let’s take one step back.

Why Use a MacBook Case?

Some people get tired of the silvery gray MacBooks and yearn for new colors. Some want a different texture, something a bit more grippy than the slippery naked surface of a MacBook Pro. Some are looking for any extra protection they can get — after all, MacBooks are an investment. And some don’t trust their teenagers not to dent and scratch the heck out of a MacBook.

So yeah, cases.

Choosing a MacBook Hard Case

How do you choose a good hard shell case? First and foremost, go with a reputable brand manufacturer who has been building all sorts of hard shell cases for all sorts of devices for years. They not only know their types of plastics and molds, they tend to stand behind their products. Plus, the premium brands like Incipio and Speck tend to offer thinner cases while the less expensive options load up on the plastic to get the job done.

On the flip side of this quality argument is the cost. Some of these cases can cost more than $50. If you’re not sure that you’ll appreciate the extra bulk over extra protection, color, and texture, you can dip your toe in the water, so to speak, with a few decent options for under $25.

Still, I have to give you a word of warning: I’ve never known any plastic or polycarbonate case that didn’t crack or break over time. The plastic either degrades and gets brittle — or it does its protective job, taking hits and bangs . . . until it eventually cracks and fails. That could be a few months or well over a year. As near as I can tell, most hard MacBook case customers are either insanely happy or outright disappointed — there doesn’t seem to be a lot of middle ground.

A common complaint is that the bottom half of hard shell cases are more likely to become loose or have tabs that break. If your MacBook heats up, that heat will transfer to the case, and since most every hard material expands when heated, it could get loose. Just saying. What’s one possible solution if this happens to you? Some thin, strategically placed strips of double-sided sticky tape between your MacBook and the case.

All hard shell case buyers should know about these potential issues going in.

7 MacBook case options worth a closer look:

Incipio Feather Ultralight Hard Shell Case
This case only comes in five colors, but it’s also only 1 mm thick. It has a soft-touch matte finish and sells for around $50.

Speck Products SeeThru or SeeThru SATIN Hard Shell Case
This case series comes in a handful of colors in a glossy translucent finish or a softer, matte finish.

Incase Hardshell Case
This case features a rubberized soft-touch coating and comes in a few different colors for around $25.

Kuzy Rubberized Hard Case Cover
This rubberized slightly grippy case comes in 16 or so colors for around $25 and the black version is an Amazon #1 Best Seller in the laptop case category.

TopCase Rubberized Hard Case Cover
This rubberized slightly grippy case is translucent and comes in more than a dozen colors for around $15.

Mosiso Rubberized See Through Hard Shell
This rubberized slightly grippy case is translucent and comes in more than a two dozen colors for around $12. It flirts with too-good-to-be-true pricing but manages to pull off a 4 out of 5 star rating on Amazon.

Still unsure about a hard case? There’s one alternative you might be interested in:

Zagg invisibleSHIELD
This is more of a form-fitting clear skin than a case, but it’s very durable. The invisibleSHIELD is a screen-protector like material that fits on the outside of your MacBook. The look isn’t amazing, but the Zagg solution offers super-thin protection with a grippier feel than a naked MacBook. And the material? Freakishly strong stuff.

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About the author

Chris Maxcer

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I've been writing about the tech industry since the birth of the email newsletter, and I still remember the clacking Mac keyboards from high school -- Apple's seed-planting strategy at work. I'm a big fan of elegant gear and great tech, but there's something to be said for turning it all off -- or most of it -- to go outside. Online I like to call out cool stuff on Wicked Cool Bite and blog with my buddies at Man Makes Fire. To catch me, take a "firstnamelastname" guess at the url of this site.