Finding a protective shell for a MacBook Pro

When I packaged up my old MacBook Pro for my daughter I did a quick wipe down of the machine and found that though it was three years old it had very little visible wear and tear. The keyboard and palm rest areas were in perfect shape and there were no dents in the aluminum case. Though the white power supply and cords were a bit dirty a quick wipe down with a damp cloth had them looking like new.

About the only thing that made the machine look used was the outside of the case. As I had slipped it into my bag or carried it in my hand, objects like my watch band had rubbed against it and put a series of small scratches all over the outer shell. They were purely cosmetic but annoying nonetheless.

I’m determined to treat this new MacBook Pro with a little more care and as a result started searching around for a protective shell case for it. I rationalized that this would help maintain the resale value of my Mac in the unlikely event I decided to sell it or—more likely—it would look like new when I passed it down to one of my kids in the future.

Plastic Covered Couches
My grandmother was a fan of plastic covered furniture back in the 60s and 70s. As a young lady going through the Great Depression she developed a deep appreciation of the cost of things and wanted them to last as long as possible. As a result, her couches and chairs were hermetically sealed in plastic-wrap. You would sit on them in shorts and immediately begin to sweat and after just a few minutes you felt you were physically attached to the piece of furniture.

Sure, her couches looked like new and were preserved for future generations but I couldn’t help but think that the enjoyment of that particular piece of furniture was completely compromised. While I want to protect my new MacBook Pro, I don’t want it to suffer the same fate.

First Try - iPearl mCover Hard Shell Case
As I tend to do, I jumped on Amazon and found a number of cases available. I looked through the reviews and found a very affordable hard plastic shell that got pretty solid reviews: a Blue iPearl mCover Hard Shell Case. At $19.99 it was less than half the price of other cases so I figured I’d give it a try. I’m a member of Amazon Prime so 2-day shipping was free and as I’ve been finding lately, sometimes it arrives next day.

    MacBook Pro open (mCover installed))

    MacBook Pro - top view

    MacBook Pro - left side view of ports

    MacBook Pro - right side view of Super Drive

    MacBook Pro - Back / hinge side view

    MacBook Pro - bottom of case

This case is a hard plastic shell that clips to the MacBook Pro and provides protection for both the top and bottom halves of the machine. It doesn’t impact the closing of the MacBook, nor does it seem to prohibit pushing the display back to a pretty aggressive level.

Pros: This case feels tough and pretty durable. When attached you can still see the Apple logo and the bottom half contains some small folding feet that can prop your MacBook Pro up a bit. It fits the outside of the MacBook case very well and snaps on in seconds. There is plenty of venting on it, especially on the bottom, so I didn’t notice any heat build up with it attached. All of the ports on the MacBook are readily accessible—the case doesn’t prevent any of the connectors from being used. The front edge of the case is flush enough that it doesn’t rub against your wrists as you type. There are two rubber feet on the front edge of the case that keep your MacBook from sliding around.

Cons: Since this a shiny hard plastic shell (it provides no shock absorption), your MacBook Pro now feels very plastic. The shell collects finger prints and smudges pretty easily and seems to attract dust statically. The shell doesn’t really touch the MacBook Pro surface other than at the clip points so the shell makes the MacBook feel significantly thicker. The folding feet on the bottom don’t feel very sturdy and are not useful when propping the device up on your legs because they have a small footprint and dig into your legs a bit, at least while wearing shorts. The cutout on the bottom (which I assume is for heat dissipation and/or cut down weight) makes the bottom of the MacBook look very odd and exposed.

I tried using this case for a couple of days and didn’t care for it. My MacBook felt very cheap with it on and carrying it under my arm felt odd because of the air gap between the MacBook and the shell; it just felt bulky.

Using this particular case just made me feel like I was doing to my MacBook Pro what my grandmother did to her furniture. If you are looking for very cost effective protection for your MacBook Pro, this may be a good choice for you. Reading through the reviews on Amazon it’s clear that quite a few people like this case and that it may be a good fit for some. I guess I’m just not one of them.

My search for the perfect MacBook Pro shell continues. If you have a recommendation for a good protective (and high quality) shell, please drop a note in the comments.


Anonymous said…
I've used the Speck cases for a few years. I have the SeeThru Satin currently, and do recommend it.

Be sure your computer and the case are absolutely clean before putting it on - any small thing between the case and the computer will cause scratches. Canned air works great.

Doesn't block ports, ventilation is decent, and looks good.

- Josh
Ted Wise said…
Don't bother. The white Magic Erase cleaning sponges will restore the aluminum easily. One of the reasons to get a Mac is because it _looks_ beautiful and it's made of materials that last and resist damage.
David Alison said…
@Josh: Thanks, Speck is on my short list to check out. They provide my favorite iPhone case as well.
David Alison said…
@Ted Wise: Thanks Ted. I've used the Magic Erase sponges on my older white MacBook Pro (palm rest) - they are indeed magical. Didn't realize they would work well on the outside of a unibody case. I know the scratches in my pre-unibody MacBook didn't seem "buffable".
David Alison said…
(older White MacBook Pro = older White MacBook). Can't seem to type this morning.
Anonymous said…
Ok, this is going to sound bad for a IT guy but part of the coolness of a Mac Book Pro is the casing. It is distinctly Apple and I keep mine without a cover. Now if the 17in Mac Book Pro could hold two internal hard drives my Asus g73jh would be gone. It is the only Window computer in the house out of four.
parr said…
@maxpug: Checkout I believe that they make a bracket that one can install a hard drive into, and replace your optical drive for a second drive in your MacBook Pro. I would recommend one of their SSD drives for a Big performance gain.
Anonymous said…
I was in the exact same dilemma!! I wanted to protect my Macbook Pro from scratches, but I didn't want to cover up the beauty of the machine, or add unnecessary bulk. I ended up ditching the whole case idea and instead went with a film solution.

HOWEVER, instead of using a "normal" film like what you would get with an invisible shield, which is blindingly shiny and makes your computer look like a polished plastic egg, I went with Phantom Skinz. They sell a matte film and closely mimics the aluminum look. It won't protect against drops, but does an excellent job against scratches. And the best part is that unless you look closely, you wouldn't even know it's there! I've had many people taken aback when they finally notice it.
Lagomorphmom said…
Thanks for the recommend. I was going to suggest Zagg's invisibleSHIELD but would not like a shiny all over look.
David Alison said…
@Paul7: Awesome suggestion, thanks. I'm not really looking for "drop" protection, just something to keep the case looking good. Here is a link to the Phantom Skinz page for a 15" MacBook Pro for those interested.
Unknown said…
@DA, sure wish I could get a new MacBookPro, talk about delayed obsolescence with Macs, I have the original 17" unit. Starting to get slow, but heat has always been a pain even with fan software that I've added to speed them up.

This begs the question, are the skin-type covers a problem for heat retention or are the new units so cool you don't care. Also, if you have a temp. app, what kind of temps are you getting from your CPUs???
David Alison said…
@lagomorphmom: Yeah, the case is a heat concern for me, which is why there's a chance I'll just run this MacBook Pro without one. I do love the feel of the aluminum on this machine.

Under normal load (which is essentially idle the majority of the time) my CPU runs at about 117F. I've seen it pop up into the 140F range under sustained load.
Anonymous said…
I haven't had any problems with heat issues with the film, albeit, most of the time I'm not taxing the CPU to the extreme. The new unibody MBP does seem to run a lot cooler than previous versions (or at least the fan doesn't kick in as frequently). I'm currently running last year's model, and had the first 2006 MBP before that.
Anonymous said…
I've used the Speck case on our older MacBook Pro and it's done a great job of keeping it in good shape. Just bought the latest MacBook Pro and put a CLEAR Speck case on it - it gives the look of the aluminum at the same time protecting it - it looks & feels great.

Anonymous said…
I have a 2004 17 inch MacBook Pro. I recently bought a speck case but it doesn't seem to fit my old MacBook Pro and I can only assume that it was made for the newer 17 inch Mac Book Pro. Is there anything similar I could try? Speck say they don't make cases for my old laptop. Thanks for any information you may have.

Anonymous said…
I was thinking about getting this case for my MacBook. I am concerned about it causing damage to my computer. I had a friend who had a plastic speck case on her MacBook and when she took it off a few months later the computer was scratched and scraped all over the sides from sand and stuff getting in the case. Does this happen with the iPearl mcover as well?

David Alison said…
@Tara: I didn't keep it on long enough to find out. But for perspective, I've been using my MBP heavily now for over a year without any protective cover. Every day it gets slid into a padded backpack and placed on a desk. It's definitely not desk bound - lots of miles.

With that as the qualifier, my case still looks perfect. These MBP housings are designed to be durable and they really do last nicely. My recommendation: don't blow the money on a shell for it.

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