There weren’t any custom-fit cases ready when the new MacBook Air 11” was released last year, but cool new cases are appearing almost every week now, and Incipio’s Feather ($50) is the latest to grab our attention. It follows hot on the heels of Speck’s SeeThru Satin, which we looked at yesterday, and has a lot in common with that hard shell design—no huge surprise as both cases are smaller sequels to same-named versions released for earlier MacBooks.
Though they’ve each been rethought somewhat for the 11” Air, Feather is a somewhat less dramatic departure for Incipio than SeeThru was for Speck. Both are less than 1mm in thickness, but Satin is just a little thinner without making compromises on resilience or scope of protection. Incipio’s hard shell is also heavier at around 7 ounces versus 6.7 ounces for Satin, a difference that sounds small but in practice adds just enough extra weight to the Air’s lid to push it down from a semi-open position. From our perspective, this is really a failing of the Air’s overly soft hinge, which has a tendency to fall into an overly open position on its own, but Feather exacerbated the unwanted sway a little more on our machine. Apple may wind up stiffening the hinge in later Air production runs if it hasn’t already, making this difference immaterial, or it might not—the original 13” Air had hinge problems for quite a while before Apple addressed them.
Modest weight and thickness differences aside, Feather is a handsome shell. The soft touch rubber finish feels just as nice as SeeThru Satin’s, making the case easy to grip reliably rather than glossing the aluminum-bodied Mac up to a dangerously slippy level. Unlike Satin, four colors are available—black, purple, red, and pink—and each is opaque, so you shouldn’t expect to see the Apple logo when the computer’s off or on. There are also some neat if not strictly necessary Incase-inspired perforated venting holes on the bottom of Feather, a little design touch that’s completely missing from SeeThru Satin. On the other hand, Feather’s side port holes are slightly less impressively tailored, with too little extra space for wide USB or display connectors, and the rubber foot covers are a little less interesting than Speck’s. The black Feather we received also shows smudges much more easily than the black Satin, picking up and making finger oils look very obvious within moments of first use. This would be our biggest issue using Feather in practice.
Neither company has a price advantage, which is sort of a bummer given that either one could have easily shaved some dollars off the $50 already being charged for the larger MacBook Pro versions of these cases—but then, no one is really competing with equally impressive MacBook Air 11” hard shells at a lower price. We’d bet that Incase will follow suit with its inevitable Hardshell Case for MacBook Air, which though unannounced at this point will probably wind up costing the same price while resembling each design in some significant ways. If and when it appears, we’ll check it out, too; for now, Incipio and Speck have significant early mover advantages, with Speck leading on the little details and Incipio offering more colors and a little extra design flash. We’d give the edge to Speck, but if you’re looking to go red, pink, or purple with your 11” Air, Feather’s your only choice today.