I've been a long-time user of notebooks, even back before they were laptops – we're talking the clunky 'portable PC' era – and for the past two decades a laptop has served as my only PC.
In that time they've slimmed down and sexed up, going from almost inch-thick slabs which could manage basic tasks a few hours of battery life to the latest crop of ultrabooks which combine desktop-grade muscle with all-day battery life.
My machine of choice these days is a 13 inch MacBook Air. (As an aside, this and its smaller 11 inch sibling also seem the notebook de jour of most journalists, especially travel and aviation writers.)
But no matter which type of laptop I've been using, I've never felt the urge to wrap it in any type of protective case.
That's especially so with the likes of the ThinkPad (my most recent Windows laptop) and the MacBook Air. Why buy a notebook endowed with elegant 'look at me' design and then cover it up? Especially if that means adding width and weight to the notebook.
Besides which, I treat my laptops pretty well. Buyers of me pre-loved portables often say they look almost as good as new.
So I thought twice about road-testing the Impact Snap case from Tech21.
What changed my mind? An informal poll of colleagues and friends who are less fussy about their laptop's looks and less gentle with their handling.
Not only were they curious about the notion of a protective notebook cover that's both slim and stylish, they were keen to know if it was worth Tech21's $99 price tag. And so, to be honest, was I.
The case for the defense (of your MacBook)
Tech21’s Impact Snap Case consists of two skinny halves which snap gently but firmly into place – one attaches to the screen of the MacBook or MacBook Air, the other to the base.
But those slices aren’t the same cheap plastic covers which I’ve come to associate with this type of accessory.
They’re made from a somewhat flexible shock-absorbing material which feels like a semi-firm gel is sandwiched between the layers.
According to Tech21 this material is “FlexShock, a specifically engineered hybrid energy absorbing material which absorbs, dissipates and repels force upon impact.”
Once fitted the case snugly wraps itself around the top, bottom and sides of the MacBook Air while of course leaving access to all ports and sockets.
Pleasingly, with the MacBook Air open, those panels are barely noticeable.
The case obviously prevents scratches, scuffs and other scars of life on the road, but at barely 340 grams it effectively added zip to the MacBook Air’s carrying weight as I toted it on trips to Abu Dhabi, Hamburg, London, Los Angeles and Toulouse.
The biggest hurdle you may need to overcome is the act of covering your MacBook – concealing that soft silvery aluminium sheen with a case that’s black, pink, purple or 'clear'.
Pink was never going to happen, not on my MacBook Air.
The ‘clear’ case actually struck me as making my MacBook Air look somewhat grey, more akin to drab office equipment than a desirable bit of kit.
This could make black the safe default choice, although I opted for purple – which thankfully turned out to be less vivid than the PR photos suggest.
It’s more subdued, a few degrees closer to plum, and rather than making me feel like I was hiding my MacBook Air it felt more like a unique customisation.
(As a bonus, it certainly stands out from the ranked masses of MacBooks at aviation press conferences.)
And Tech21 wins cool points when the Apple logo shines through the screen-covering casework, diffused from its original sharp relief into a gentle purple glow.
I didn’t crash a CSI lab and subject the Impact Snap Case to an array of materials tests, but just wrap your hands around that newly-clad MacBook Air and you can feel that your precious is well-protected against life’s bumps, knocks and shocks.
Yes, at $99 the Impact Snap Case is pricey. But look at what you’ve paid for your Apple MacBook – anywhere from $1100 for the 11 inch MacBook Air to $3200 for the 15 inch MacBook Pro with a Retina display.
Do the sums on the case as a percentage of that price, and the protection it provides, and I think the numbers fall in favour of the Impact Snap Case.
Tech21 Impact Snap Macbook cases are available in Australia at Apple stores, Harvey Norman, JB Hi-Fi, Vodafone, Allphones and Virgin Mobile stores. For more details, click through to Tech21.com.