A new computer is a fun, fancy toy, but also comes with a huge responsibility to keep it protected from damage. The moment my boss at Reviewed handed me a shiny Macbook Pro to unpack from its box, I realized I needed a safe way to transport it. As I work remotely most of the time, that meant this trusty machine—my lifeline for doing my job as a managing editor for the website—would be schlepped on public transportation, aboard Amtrak, and in a gym bag... and all of that in just its first week. What’s more, my coworkers shared warnings of laptop care gone awry: a water bottle mishap that befell Reviewed’s general manager and a cautionary Tweet about an exploding Parmesan cheese container while laptops were inside bags. Our audience development manager Rachel Moskowitz shared an especially harrowing story. "I had my naked laptop in my backpack at college and a chocolate bar melted into all of the crevices and ports because it was a hot day," she recounted. "Let's just say it did not end well for my laptop."
My MacBook needed more protection, stat. The answer? A good laptop sleeve.
What a laptop sleeve can—and cannot—do
In their simplest form, these zippered pouches, when made of waterproof material such as nylon or neoprene, provide a barrier against potential calamities such as liquid spills or dusty environments. They’ll also keep a laptop’s exterior protected from scratches and minor bumps and fumbles, said the helpful Information Technology manager I talked to from USA Today Network (Reviewed’s parent company).
Still, she warned, a laptop sleeve will not function as a suit of armor. “They’re not intended to be one-stop protection for the machines,” she says. “Most are not rated to offer any protection from a fall. And if you stack stuff on top, with a certain level of pressure, you may damage the laptop inside.”
Narrowing down my options
Armed with my mitigated expectations, I went shopping (online, of course). And, oh my, there are a lot of laptop sleeves out there, with way more features than I’d have thought, including handles, pockets, and even batteries that charge your laptop while its stored. (Before I started this process, I figured I’d end up with something like the cheapie from AmazonBasics.)
As I occasionally use a packable backpack that lacks rear padding, I wanted a sleeve with a bit more structure and foam to mute the feel of the computer’s hard metal casing against my body. A top grab handle to make extracting the sleeve from said backpack seemed like a great convenience, too. And finally, because I sometimes don’t want to carry around anything other than the laptop—say, when going around the corner to my favorite coffee shop—I thought a removable cross-body carrying strap would be nice. (However, our IT manager cautioned that while this is fine when traveling a few blocks or around an office, it’s really best to use a laptop sleeve inside another bag.)
My comparison test—and a winner!
After a whole lot of Googling and Amazoning, I landed on three models—the Domiso Water Resistant Laptop Sleeve Case, the Kroo Laptop Sleeve Tablet Bag, and the Mosiso Laptop Shoulder Bag—that filled my bill and all cost under $20.
My pick: The simple, sleek Domiso edged out the others for one reason that proved key to me: Its long cross-body strap can be attached so the bag hangs vertically, as well as horizontally like the others. In this way, it feels less bulky and doesn’t slap against my body when I walk, which can only be better for the computer inside. The top grab handle is stiff enough that it’s permanently “up,” making it especially easy to snag when retrieving it from my backpack (Mosiso’s sort of falls flush against the bag and the Kroo doesn’t have a handle on the short side at all.)
I found the Domiso’s two large top-access zippered pockets, one front and back, more useful than the horizontally oriented ones on the other two bags. The Mosiso has a random additional pocket on the front that might fit a wireless mouse (or a phone sticking out, as shown in one photo) but it doesn’t seal closed, and Kroo’s large back pocket has just one small patch of velcro to keep it shut.
The overlapping flaps on the Domiso that conceal the pockets’ zippers are a little annoying when reaching a hand inside, as is the awkwardness of the laptop loading through the bottom of the sleeve—gotta be really sure it’s zipped before picking it up! But neither of these minor nuisances knock it from my top spot—especially considering it’s the cheapest of the bunch and, when we bought them, only 50 cents more than the plain-jane AmazonBasics sleeve.
Get the Domiso Water Resistant Laptop Sleeve Case on Amazon for $10.99.
Get the Kroo Laptop Sleeve Tablet Bag on Amazon for $16.99.
Get the Mosiso Laptop Shoulder Bag on Amazon for $19.99.
Get the AmazonBasics Laptop Sleeve on Amazon for $10.49.
Prices are accurate at the time this article was published, but may change over time.