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Hands on: Speck SmartShell for 15-inch MacBook Pro Retina

updated 11:48 pm EDT, Tue September 25, 2012

Road Warriors looking to protect their MacBook should consider Speck

While hard cases for Apple's iPhones are a dime a dozen, Speck is one of the few manufacturers that makes hard cases for Apple's line of MacBook computers. Although many MacBook owners looking to protect their investment from damage have been prepared to buy a Speck case in the past, a common criticism is that though tough, they come at the expense of added weight and bulk. Speck has tried to address this shortcoming with its new SmartShell for the MacBook Pro with Retina Display.

The new snap-on SmartShell is 30 percent thinner than previous versions, although Speck does not offer a figure on how much lighter it is. It comes in three colors and two finishes: one is a clear version with a glossy finish, while the other has a satin, soft-touch finish that is available in Bubblegum Pink and Black. The SmartShell Electronista used for testing is the clear, glossy version.

In the hand, the new SmartShell is a significant improvement on the previous offerings from Speck. It is considerably less bulky, and snaps on effectively. True to Speck's word, the SmartShell is also easier to put on and take off. Having used some of the earlier versions of Speck cases in the past, taking a cover off could prove to be quite difficult, but is now a much easier operation.

The new SmartShell is also noticeably lighter than previous cases, but it still couldn't be described as being light. It still adds substantial weight and an additional degree of bulk to the MacBook Pro with Retina Display. However, we wouldn't describe this as being a deal breaker, especially as Jony Ive and his design team at Apple delivered such a thin and light design for a full-featured notebook in the first place.

We would suggest that with the SmartShell on, it is somewhat still thinner and lighter than Apple's non-Retina MacBook Pro design that continues with the optical drive. Speck claims that the SmartShell adds only 1.5mm of thickness to the notebook overall. Again, as with previous designs, it covers most of the notebook though leaves all access ports and ventilation systems unimpeded. The SmartShell also incorporates anti-tip rubberized feet on the underside, which work well.

On balance, we think that the Speck SmartShell is a very solid product and one worth considering, particularly if you are a road warrior. Apple's aluminum designs are appealing, and quite strong in most regards. However, as some people are finding with Apple's new iPhone 5 that uses an anodized aluminum back, they can be quite easy to scuff -- better to scuff the $50 SmartShell than your expensive MacBook. The Speck SmartShell is available through Speck's online store with free shipping throughout the US and is also sold through Apple's retail stores.

Special note: For any users that are curious about the adornments on our MacBook Pro, they are Mac Tatts from MacStyleSkins.






















By Electronista Staff
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Comments

  1. Gazoobee

    Forum Regular

    Joined: 02-27-09

    This is a bit much isn't it? an entire article along with more than half a dozen pictures for a piece of plastic that snaps onto your computer just like any other plastic case? You could have just wrote ... "fits!" and leave it at that in terms of the content here.

    What's next? A review of a piece of plywood filed under "desktop surfaces"?

  1. Lebensmuede

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 08-05-06

    I for one am glad they did a more extensive write up since the last time I was in the market for a case for my 17" MBP I was initially very interested in a Speck case, but after reading several reviews on Amazon ultimately decided that the disadvantages (thickness, difficult to remove) outweighed the advantages. Now, after reading the MacNN review, I can readily see that Speck has addressed most of the issues I had and I will definitely consider this case for my next upgrade to a 15" MBP with Retina Display.

    So, as opposed to the naysayer before me, thank you MacNN!

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