Consumers are faced with an extensive amount of choices for notebook sleeves with prices ranging from around $10 to over ten times that. In this article we review important considerations when shopping for a notebook sleeve including the sizing, build material and sleeve accessories.
Get the Appropriate Size
The primary purpose of a sleeve is to protect the notebook; how well the sleeve fits is a primary determinant of the protection it offers. A small notebook in an oversized sleeve has room to move around; if you were to drop your bag, the notebook would continue to accelerate until it reached the edge of the sleeve resulting in a harsher than necessary impact. Had the notebook fit snugly within the sleeve, this impact would have been less severe. This basic physics concept is no different than wearing a seatbelt in a car; it should fit snugly against your body to best protect you.
Ideally you’d find a notebook sleeve designed specifically for the dimensions of your notebook. Mainstream brands such as Dell and HP often offer special sleeves for their notebooks; these are basically guaranteed to fit perfectly. If no pre-fitted sleeve exists for your notebook, you’re not out of luck; there are several companies that will make a sleeve custom fit to your notebook’s dimensions. Waterfield Designs out of San Francisco, CA (www.SFBags.com) is one of them; the sleeve will be made to order.
There are two aspects of material choices: one is the material itself. Notebook sleeves are typically made of polyester, suede, microfiber or nylon, the better ones tend to be made of the latter. Your usage should determine the type of material you choose; if the sleeve will see some less-than-kind conditions, look for a sleeve that has a more durable exterior material such as ballistic nylon or leather. These sleeves will naturally cost more but will likely last longer and better serve their purpose.
The second aspect is the material thickness; this should also be a usage-driven choice. Some notebook sleeves are extremely thin; good examples of these would be ones made of microfiber or suede. These kinds of sleeves are designed to protect against scratching but would do little to protect the notebook in the event of a drop or harsh impact with a wall or other solid object.
A thicker sleeve is generally recommendable as it’s better able to dissipate any impacts or bumps. It’s common for better quality sleeves to use neoprene on the inside, just like a diver’s wetsuit; this is an excellent material for insulating a notebook.
Sleeves can secure the notebook inside in a number of ways: a flap, zipper or it may not secure at all if the sleeve is open-ended. If you’re using the sleeve to transport your notebook outside of a bag, it’s recommended to opt for a sleeve that is able to secure the notebook so it doesn’t accidentally fall out.
Should you choose a sleeve that uses zippers, verify there’s some sort of barrier or a very small amount of space (see the comments above about appropriate size) between the zipper and your notebook or the simple act of opening and closing the zipper can put scratches on your notebook.
When it comes time to transport your notebook, you can always put it inside a bag or carry it under your shoulder. However, there are also ways you can use the sleeve as a pseudo-bag. Some sleeve companies (like the previously mentioned WaterField Designs) offer their sleeves with optional rings for attaching a strap or optional add-on accessory bag. The sleeve itself might feature built-in carrying handles; these conveniently provide ways to transport your notebook without the bulk of a bag.
It’s advisable to get a thicker sleeve if this is your preferred method of transport since there will be nothing between the notebook and the outside world except for the sleeve. Sleeves with rings or other attachment points have the added versatility of allowing you to clip on items such as mini flashlights, keys and more.
We reviewed several notable considerations when purchasing a laptop sleeve in this article. The first consideration was getting an appropriately-sized sleeve; it’s important that the sleeve fit well to best protect the notebook from impacts and other movements. The second consideration was material considerations which covered two areas: material choice and thickness.
Notebook sleeves are offered in different materials like suede, microfiber and nylon which have varying protection characteristics. Thicker sleeves are more recommendable since they have a better chance of protecting the notebook from impacts. Next we discussed enclosure considerations; it’s best to have a sleeve where the notebook can’t easily fall out. The final consideration is sleeve add-ons; some sleeve makers offer their sleeves with rings for attaching straps or other items.
The overall goal when buying a laptop sleeve isn’t just to buy something that looks cool … you need to choose a sleeve that most closely matches your usage needs and will protect your investment.