Disclaimer: While I initially intended to purchase this case at a student rate, I was offered the opportunity to demo the product for free.
A few months back I was accepted as a doctoral student in a highly respected Ed.D. program nearby. Of course this meant preparation. What kind of student would I be now that I’m a working family man? What kind of family man would I be now that I’m a student in addition to a worker bee? Would I need to abandon my cyclist ideals to get a car? How in tarnation was I going to find a way to fit it all in?
All of those questions answered (biking to work/class, 3rd party macbook air, still figuring out work/school/life balance) I turned yet another challenge: what to transport my laptop in. (I roll around town using a combination of ortlieb panniers which are great for outdoor adventure) Anyone who knows me well knows that I am a research junkie. I love reading reviews, analyzing product features and generally finding not only “the best” whatever, but also “the right” fill in the blank. In this case it was time to research laptop cases.
My Selection Criteria (In Order of Importance)
2. Weight (lighter = better)
4. Durability/Design Quality
So you might be asking why protection was my highest priority. I want my laptop to have a marginal chance of surviving encounters like this:
The truth is, you could just say oh who needs such extreme durability, lightweight protection? Most people don’t. If you have renter’s or homeowner’s insurance, back up to time machine or cloud regularly, and have an overabundance of time to go through the hassle of loading all your customizations, software, etc..not to mention deductibles, etc. By all means, carry your laptop around in a cheap neoprene case logic or whatever. I know the daily hazards my laptop is exposed to and I wanted the best (naturally). Something that would be light, snug and safe to keep impact and road vibration damage to a minimum. In that, I have succeeded.
Mach III Composites Case – First Impressions
Right out of the package it just looks awesome. The first word that came to mind was, “hi-tech.” The carbon fiber has been polished to a high gloss. It feels light, almost comparable to the weight of cardboard. I plopped it down on my kitchen scale. For your weight weenie gram counters out there: 508 grams. Only slightly heavier than my 448 gram case logic neoprene sleeve. But the protection is oh so much better. Put it like this. Why go to the trouble and expense of buying an ultra-light laptop if you’re going to put it in a 3 lb. case? Some of the cases I was considering weighed almost as much as the laptop itself! Kind of defeats the purpose.
Having brought this case to meetings and class, while nobody has complimented me by saying things like, “Hey, where’d you get that sweet case!?”, nobody has ridiculed me for having something garish or juvenile either. I like to think of it as unobtrusive. I’m not trying to call attention to my laptop anyway.
The inner lining is made of a velvet like checkered pattern stitched into the case and glued down. It has held up well from daily use and abuse, and continues to look good. I thought the substance might attract dirt and lint but thus far I haven’t had any issues with it.
Zippers snap flush with the zippered lining. They actually snap, as if they were on some kind of spring. This is so nice. So many other zippers flop around and don’t form a really tight seal. The zipper runs smoothly along all edges without any snags or hiccups. I do wish the zipper pulls were slightly larger for big clumsy thumbs and fingers.
Yep, that’s real carbon fiber. Not the cheap gimmicky carbon-fiber overlays that most crap comes with these days. Seriously, do a google search or check ebay for carbon fiber functional products and usually the word “look” or some variant thereof is sneakily placed next to CF. Sometimes they even attempt to pass them off as true CF. That’s just bad business. I like the high gloss mirror finish. It’s been banging around the house, class, work, and in my saddle bag for about a month now and the finish looks no worse for the wear. A few minor swirls in a few places, but hey, I didn’t get this thing to keep it looking pretty anyway.
Mach III Composites CF Case – In the Wild
I’ve made a point of keeping my MBA sealed up inside the case at all times when I’m not using it as a precaution against mishaps. As a result, I’m in and out of the case upwards of 3 times a day. The zippers and material have held up to regular use and abuse. The case size is small enough to still fit in laptop pockets of bags such as my THULE backpack and OGIO laptop satchel. It also fits perfectly in my pannier, and once packed with clothes, lunch and other stuff, tends not to shift around too much within the bag. I definitely bump into things with the saddlebag and have plopped it on the ground or other surfaces a little too firmly at times.
Mach III Carbon Fiber Laptop Case – On my Trek District
As you can see, it sits exposed as it protrudes slightly. Perfect for bumping into doors or walls as I round corners. Both of which I have done more frequently than I like to admit.
Mach III Carbon Fiber Laptop Case – Around the house
Note that it rests in the footprint of the case nearly perfectly. Most other cases I tried, even those “specifically designed for MBA” had the macbook air shifting around within, mashing into the corners or susceptible to additional vibrations. Not so here.
Nitpicking: Here are some future product modifications that I would love to see:
1. Grippy surface or nubs on one side, also as a way to distinguish top from bottom. On any kind of smooth or sloped surface, the case just slides around. You could almost play air hockey with it on a table. I’ve had to keep a close eye on it when I set it down on my classroom desk which has an 8 degree incline.
2. Zipper flexibility/elasticity. It does get a little tight in the corners. If the material could just stretch a bit more, it might not be a wiggle game to squeeze it in.
Customer Service, customer service, customer service.
Kevin and I went back and forth discussing my individual product needs and how his case might fit the bill. As I discussed earlier in this post I had originally planned to pay the student rate (still pricey) for this fine protective shell, realizing it was an investment. The original case was lined with a prototype material that I had requested. Hand built to my specifications. Dissatisfied with the material I sent it back for the traditional finish. Kevin was responsive and helpful via email and open to my ideas. He also was gracious enough to offer me the opportunity to share my thoughts with you all because he sees the value of this product in the urban cyclo-commuter market.
I may not be a jetsetter but I do know how much of a PITA it can be to get through airport security. As if partially disrobing isn’t degrading enough, add to it the need to undo all of your luggage snaps, clips and zips to send your laptop separately through the x-ray machine is just insult to injury. Thankfully this case is allowed through the scanner, so it’s one less zipper you need worry about as you’re rushing to your destination.
USA Made to Order
This is not some mass produced china made asbestos-lined piece of forgery plastic designed to look like carbon fiber. Kevin makes each of these to order and these can be even further customized with fancier lining like Alcantara (which is the suede they use for luxury automobiles like Bentley). The point here is that the case is almost entirely sourced from USA parts and is certainly assembled in North Carolina. That’s a rare thing these days and I for one still consider it a source of pride to support American-made consumer products.
Final Thoughts on the Mach III Case
Should you buy this laptop case? That depends. Only you can decide what your priorities and needs are. In my experience over the past month, this laptop has exceeded my expectations in every environment from home, on the road, at work, or at school. At the end of the day, I was have only minor quibbles and I bet if I cared deeply enough I could take them up with Kevin and he would happily resolve them at little to no charge. So in short, yes, I would buy this case if I had to do it all over again. You can also give it a risk-free shot, because Kevin cares about customer satisfaction. My guess is you won’t be going back to an ordinary mass produced case any time soon. I sure won’t.