A great feel in the hand is one of the things we look for—and only sometimes find—in MacBook cases, particularly given that the 11” MacBook Air is small and thin enough that you’ll wind up holding it in a palm or under an arm at some point when you’re walking around with it. So it was a non-trivial point when we looked last week at United SGP’s Leather Pouch and noted that the smooth texture of the expensive envelope-style case might not work for some users; a little bit of tack can go a long way when hand-holding a device for extended periods of time. Two new cases for the 11” MacBook Air offer completely different approaches to protecting the laptop, but both use textures to differentiate themselves from rival products.
Moshi’s Muse 11 ($35) is undeniably just a longer and ever-so-slightly darker gray version of the company’s Muse for iPad, adding just enough length to accommodate the 11” MacBook Air within one of its two flap-covered pockets. The other pocket is for accessories—say, the Air’s included power supply—but actually has enough room for a full iPad inside, assuming that you’re willing to go through some insertion and removal contortions that neither Moshi nor we would actually recommend. In any case, it’s a big second pocket, and the contrast-colored front flap is sealed with a couple of hidden magnets, then topped with a nice little metallic name badge.
It’s an undeniably sharp-looking design, but let’s be frank: there are lots of nice-looking sleeves out there for MacBooks. The thing that makes this one really stand out to us is the texture, which just like the iPad version feels like the surface of a high-quality sofa rather than a typical case. Moshi’s microfiber, which it brands as Terahedron, is soft enough to be used to clean the MacBook’s screen and plush enough to feel as if it’s padded. Every time we touch it, we want to touch it some more—it’s just that nice. For the $35 asking price, it has just the right look and feel; if the idea of pulling your MacBook Air bare or with film from a sleeve appeals to you, this is a truly great option.
Speck has a completely different but equally compelling solution in the form of SeeThru Satin for MacBook Air 11” ($50). Several generations of SeeThru and SeeThru Satin cases have been released for earlier MacBooks (and, of course, iPods, iPhones, and iPads), but this version is quite possibly the best one yet for a laptop. It’s supposedly 50% thinner than the last-generation MacBook case, a difference that’s apparent when the hard plastic shell is off, as it can flex a little despite its precision-molded edges. Yet when it’s on the MacBook Air, it doesn’t feel any less protective than before, just thinner. And it looks every bit as cool.
The soft-touch rubber coating on the outside is called Satin because it feels like that: smooth on a microscopic level without being glossy or slippery, a difference between this and the standard SeeThru cases. It adds a translucent frosted black coating to the Air that enables the Apple logo to shine through the top, dimmed somewhat, while providing open port areas and rear antenna/hinge access where appropriate. That it can snap onto the 11” Air at all shouldn’t be taken for granted given the thinness of the computer at its minimum points; Speck uses very small clips to keep the case attached to the edges of the MacBook, and rubberized bottom pads to cover the black rubber ones on the computer.
Just as with Muse, SeeThru Satin feels really good—“right,” even—and offers a really minimalist form of protection if you’re just looking to keep most of the Air’s aluminum frame scratch-free. While the $50 price tag feels like a reach given that Speck charges the same price for the bigger, heavier versions for the 17”, 15”, and 13” MacBook Pros, there’s no getting around the fact that the 11” MacBook Air version has a precise, crisp feel that merits some sort of premium over the company’s iPhone version of SeeThru Satin, itself a true standout from rivals thanks to its look and feel. This is one franchise that Speck has consistently improved upon without fail in every generation, making each year’s versions better than the great ones that came before, and if we weren’t such huge fans of film protectors for the MacBook Air, we’d be using Satin every day. It’s easy to install, solidly built, and a really nice complement to the Air’s good looks.