Review: WaterField CitySlicker MacBook Air case

WaterField's MacBook Air case is beautiful, counterintuitive (August 4th, 2013)

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Product Manufacturer: WaterField

Price: $129

The Good

  • Beautiful design
    -Very high quality feel
    -Durable build
    -Functions well in absorbing heat

The Bad

  • Counterintuitively thick for a MacBook Air case
    -A bit pricey

The 800 pound gorilla in the room with notebook case design is the care, or lack thereof, taken in striking the right balance between portability and protection. An attempt at striking a harmonious balance is more than evident with WaterField's CitySlicker case for the MacBook Air. The CitySlicker shows just how hard it is, though, to really hit the right form factor for protecting an ultraportable, a fact we explore in our review of the accessory.



Design

It almost goes without saying that the CitySlicker is a lovely case, fully complementing the ultra sleek design of Apple's popular slim notebook. It continues in WaterField's tradition of well-crafted, solid accessories for a range of devices. Buyers of the CitySlicker will get a case that's heavy on protection for their devices.

The CitySlicker leverages three layers of protection in order to keep a notebook safe and secure. In addition to impact-resistant plastic, the CitySlicker also has a layer of high-grade neoprene and a padded liner. The overall effect is a very reassuring fit for the notebook, one that will probably cut down on gasps and anxiety should you somehow drop your device.



One drawback to all that protection, though, is a decidedly thicker profile. In the case of the MacBook Air, the CitySlicker seems to fly in the face of the intention behind the notebook. Without the notebook inside, the case is still about twice as thick as Apple's slim laptop. With the Air in the case, the profile goes to about two and a half times thicker, perhaps even three. Given the fact that the Air's thinness is one of its most attractive features, it's a bit disappointing that such a lovely case basically negates that thinness through its design.

Function

As aforesaid, the padding in the CitySlicker seems more than sufficient to handle any number of bumps and drops along the way. We were impressed with the protective layers in the case, but there was a general feel that some usability is definitely lost in the name of safety.

There are five pockets on the CitySlicker: four flexible ones smartly sewn into the front, one zipper pocket on the back large enough to accommodate, say, a legal pad or iPad. These all work quite well and are reassuringly constructed, but they seem somewhat limited. The largest front pocket can fit, for instance, the power brick and cord that accompany the Air. Beside it, we were able to stash a Sony CyberShot camera, a three-in-one Lightning/microUSB/30-pin adapter, and an iPhone.

That may sound like exactly what one needs a MacBook Air case to carry, and it largely is. The issue, though, is this: the cover flap for the CitySlicker wouldn't snap fully closed with the power brick packed in. In fact, if you carry anything much more substantial than an iPhone or that Sony CyberShot, you're likely to find that the cover flap won't close completely. That's not the worst of things, considering the case's other positives, but it does mean the design leaves something to be desired.



Carrying things inside the CitySlicker is a concern if only due to the aforementioned thickness of the case. Since it adds so much bulk to the MacBook Air, users likely won't be able to, say, stow the notebook-case combination in a larger bag comfortably. The CitySlicker will, in effect, become the main means of transport for the Air, and one will be largely limited to just transporting the Air.

Much of our trouble with the design could be alleviated by the addition of a shoulder strap to the case. Our review unit didn't have a strap included, but WaterField does provide the option for a strap when ordering the case. Unfortunately, this costs an extra $12 or $22 on top of the not inconsequential cost of the case. We'd be a bit more impressed if this was a standard feature for the CitySlicker.



Our unit did come with the optional carrying handle built in, which is a $10 option when ordering the case. We've got big hands, yes, but we still felt that the give on the strap was a bit shallow. It holds tightly to the hand, but a little bit more flexibility would have been appreciated, especially given the absence of a standard shoulder strap.

We've harped on the case's thickness multiple times over the course of this review, but there is at least one other positive result from that girth: it makes a for a very capable cushion to hold the notebook on your lap. Users of the MacBook Air will no doubt be well acquainted with the device's considerable heat output when it is tasked. It's a necessary tradeoff given the computer's slim design. Sticking the CitySlicker between one's Air and one's lap, though, will definitely eliminate the thermal discomfort stemming from, say, an extended video watching session or other heavy use.

Value

It is hard to overstate the feeling of value that emanates from this case. Even given our complaints, the understated design, rugged leather flap, and solid construction of the CitySlicker lend a feeling of high quality to the whole affair. Again, this is a case that, visually, will perfectly complement your MacBook Air. We didn't put the leather cover through any sort of torture tests, but we have the feel that it will age admirably, with any scratches or fading only adding character to the design.



Summing Up

We're torn with regard to the CitySlicker. Starting at $129 for the 11-inch MacBook Air case, we found the case's value to be top notch. We're big fans of the overall look and feel of the device, but the thickness it adds to Apple's super slim notebook is simply regrettable.



Due to its thickness, the case isn't the sort of thing that's going to fit easily into another bag: it will be your notebook bag. We're not totally in love with how well it fulfills that duty, but we think that, should you decide to get shoulder strap as part of the package, it'll likely fill most of your lightweight computer carrying needs.

by Kevin Bostic


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