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In the days when laptops were generally larger, more often made of plastic, and frequently carried in whatever briefcase or shoulder bag they would fit in, many of us, myself included, used a padded sleeve as an extra layer of protection.
In recent times, more laptops are built from sturdy materials such as aluminum and carbon fiber, and often with very sturdy single-piece construction for their bases. There are also a surfeit of slightly padded laptop bags and cases of every size, many of which are stylish enough for everyday use without looking like you're on your way to a corporate meeting.
There may, however, still be times when you want a dedicated laptop sleeve. If you find yourself in that situation, and you happen to have a 13-inch MacBook Air or MacBook Pro, accessory and case-maker Pad & Quill has a high-end version to go with your high-end laptop.
The Pad & Quill Sleeve for MacBook is a $99 leather-and-canvas cover for your MacBook (the 11-inch version is $89), that should also fit similarly thin ultrabook-style laptops such as the Toshiba Kirabook or Dell XPS 13.
Like many of Pad & Quill's other products, which include book-style iPhone and iPad cases, the quality of the materials and construction is excellent, from the heavy-duty stitching around the outer edge of the thick leather to the waxed canvas that covers one side. It is, however, rather bulky and will definitely take up significantly more room in a slim laptop carry bag than just the laptop itself (the sleeve measures 13.75 inches by 10.25 inches).
The interior is an orange suede, which is a good material for avoiding scratches and scuffs, but that pop of color is tucked inside and rarely seen unless you deliberately pull the sleeve open. The exterior, in olive and brown (or gray and brown), has the kind of muted, nature-inspired, urban explorer aesthetic so popular at least among men's accessories right now (think Jack Spade).
The back panel is fully covered with leather, apart from a small wooden logo stitched into a cutout. The front panel is thick, waxed canvas with a leather pocket covering the bottom third. You could conceivably fit a few papers or a slim smartphone in the pocket, but it's not particularly secure.
A 13-inch MacBook Air slipped in snugly, as did a handful of other slim ultrabooks we had handy, such as the Toshiba Kirabook and Dell XPS 13. The squared-off 13-inch MacBook Pro was a tighter fit, but still workable, while the Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro stuck out a bit from the top. The top can be fastened shut with a leather strap-and-loop closure, although there's little chance of a laptop wriggling free of the very close-cut sleeve. The closure , while attractive, is also not the easiest to open and close and requires two hands.
It's true that a padded sleeve is not the most universally useful accessory for a modern laptop user, but I can see a couple of situations where something like this may come in handy; primarily if you're a regular traveler who wants to safely store a slim, 13-inch laptop in a general purpose shoulder bag or briefcase; or if you like leaving your laptop within reach on the coffee table or ottoman but don't want it fully exposed all the time.
In either case, the biggest question is whether you want to invest $99 in an admittedly excellent, but expensive, product; or if you'd be better served by a generic $20 padded sleeve.