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Review: Incase Hardshell

by on March 31, 2015

One popular accessory for Apple’s portables are hard shell cases. We looked at the Uncommon Deflector awhile back, and this time got a hold of the $50 Incase Hardshell for the 11” MacBook Air. Incase’s take is slightly different from the Deflector and other competitors, and has been the result of a slow evolution, going back to the days of plastic MacBooks, so we were curious to see how the most recent iteration fared.

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Currently, the Hardshell is available for the 11″ MacBook Air, the 13″ MacBook Air, and the 13″ non-Retina MacBook Pro. All models are similarly designed, so most comments in the review should be applicable. The Hardshell is available in four colors currently (raspberry, red-orange, cobalt, and electric yellow), although we have seen older versions available in clear, too. There’s also a “hammered” version, offering a textured, yet glossy surface (available in black frost, clear, strawberry, and tropic blue) if you’d prefer something a bit more unique than the traditional glossy plastic shell. Some other variants exist for bigger MacBooks, and the color options may change by the time you read this. That being said, all cases attach the same way and provide the same benefits.

Although Apple’s aluminum is an attractive, durable material, it is prone to dents and scratches. Some people don’t mind this and would rather have their computer be sleek and develop some “character” over time. While that’s fine, you may prefer some added protection, so most of these shells offer a simple design that snaps around the outer edges and absorbs some impact, protects against scratches, and offers a bit of personalization.

Installation is quite easy—the top half snaps on the back of the screen and fits with five tabs: two on each edge of the screen, and one along the top, just above the FaceTime camera. Incase’s text is embossed vertically along one edge, allowing some confusion as to which way is “up,” unlike products from Uncommon or Speck. This half will work backwards, too, but the case tends to flex a bit when opening and closing the computer, due to the lack of a tab securing the shell. Unlike some competing products, there are no rubber bumpers to keep the case from coming in direct contact with the lid on the edges. While this is debatable about how much they help, it’s worth noting for comparison’s sake.

As for the bottom half, it snaps on rather easily, too, and obviously only fits one way. There are two tabs on the front edge, a tab on each side, and a long tab along the back that hold the case in place. On the bottom, there are four large rubber feet, designed to elevate your computer off of a table or desk just a bit, and a series of holes along the back half of the case. This is designed to help with heat dissipation and reduce weight of the case. For those who are concerned about heat, most of the airflow occurs in the computer’s hinge, which the case does not block in any way. In unscientific testing, the temperature didn’t raise significantly from a naked computer, even with heavy processor load.

Shells are also an inexpensive way to personalize your computer with stickers, without the risk of glue or more permanent damage to the aluminum if you ever change your mind. That being said, Incase has picked some good color options that should fit many users’ tastes.

In our tests, the Hardshell didn’t seem to have any functional drawbacks, although the glossy finish did pick up some fine scratches over time. The darker colors showed it more, but it still wasn’t very obvious or detracting—the best analogy are what you’ll see on most glossy black consumer electronics. If you get a lighter color or cover it with stickers, this issue is almost entirely moot. Other than that, all the corners are well-protected and the case barely inhibits the maximum angle that you can open the screen.

Incase also seems to have forgotten that the MacBook Airs received a second microphone in 2013. Despite the shell covering the second one, performance with FaceTime and Skype on a newer model seems to be unaffected.

With Incase’s Made in California Simple Snap Case for the iPhone 6, it would be nice to see them move more manufacturing stateside, especially for a fairly popular product like the Hardshell. That being said, the product itself does what it advertises, is available in a lot of places (sometimes heavily discounted), and doesn’t detract from the MacBook Air’s slim design.

The One-Sentence Verdict™

The Incase Hardshell offers a good mix of protection and personalization in an overall competent design.
Pros: Good fit, does not interfere with ports, air holes to reduce weight and increase some cooling
Cons: Glossy plastic collects fine scratches if you look closely, blocks second microphone on newer MacBook Airs
Rating: 8/10

The Facts

Product: Hardshell
Company: Incase
Platform: MacBook Air (2010+), MacBook Pro (13″)
Price: $49.95

This post has been filed in 'Book Accessories, Reviews