Review: Waterfield Designs’ Laptop Sleeve - Macenstein

Review: Waterfield Designs’ Laptop Sleeve

watefield designs laptop sleeve

MacBook owners jealous of the MacBook Air’s slim form factor may not be able to ditch their MacBook’s excess weight, but they can do the next best thing by ditching their bulky laptop bag.

San Francisco-based Waterfield Designs has a range of lightweight laptop sleeves that will have you wondering why you put up with back strain all those years. We tried out their SleeveCase with Flap and Strap, a good compromise between a regular laptop bag and one of their strapless sleeves.

waterfield designs laptop sleeve
Above: there’s just enough room in the rear pocket for a notebook or a magazine or two.

Like all of Waterfield’s bags, the SleeveCases are stylish, and the construction is top-notch. Sleeves can be ordered in either vertical or horizontal orientations, and in sizes tailored to fit any size/make laptop (not just Macs).The sleeve’s interior consists of a cushioned, high-grade neoprene sleeve wrapped in a ballistic nylon shell designed to keep your laptop safe from accidental bumps without adding excess bulk and weight to the case. In fact, the case is so thin, it can be used as both a stand-alone laptop case or it can be inserted into another bag, if that’s your thing. This is great for students who sometimes just throw their laptops inside a backpack or some other cluttered, non-laptop-friendly place when moving between classes. If you opt for the carrying strap (which costs extra), you’ll be pleased to find the hooks and fasteners are metal and solidly constructed. The shoulder pad is comfortable, although not excessively padded. Of course since it only needs to support about 5 lbs, there’s no reason to have a giant pad on it.

waterfield designs laptop sleeve
Above: the optional “piggyback” case can be added (dfor an extra $22) to hold accessories like chargers, mice, etc.

The SleeveCase is built upon a modular design, and extras can be purchased to fill the needs of each user. The base SleeveCase is a basic sleeve, open on one side. A model with a flap is also available (again, for an extra cost). Then a strap can be added for those who do not plan to throw the sleeve inside a backpack or larger bag. Finally, there is an external “piggyback” pouch that can be added if you want a place to store things like chargers, or mice. While adding all these extras may seem to defeat the purpose of going ultra-portable, the fact that you can remove them if you want means you can keep mobile when you need to, but don’t need to worry if an extended trip comes up.

Making the move from a larger, full-sized laptop bag to an ultra-light sleeve case does have its trade-offs of course . The SleeveCase has only one long pocket on the rear of the case, large enough to hold a magazine or notebook, but there is no spot for accessories such as chargers, mice, or extra batteries. This type of case is designed for people looking to travel light or taking short trips where recharging will not be an issue.

waterfield designs laptop sleeve
Above: the quality metal clips and hooks on the shoulder straps will likely last longer than your laptop.

I actually found for the most part I was able to use the SleeveCase as my primary bag, and I didn’t really miss the extra storage space (or bulk) of my regular laptop bag. Early on in my laptop career, I experienced the pain of forgetting my charger at home. After about 5 such painful experiences, I decided to buy an extra charger to leave at the office. This freedom from having to carry a charger means having a bag as light as the SleeveCase actually worked out great for me, and I found that just as with my house, having more room only meant I had more unnecessary clutter.

waterfield designs laptop sleeve


A sleeve case is a great addition to any laptop owners arsenal of travel gear. While not ideal for extended trips, Waterfield’s Laptop Sleeves are thoughtfully designed and stylish, with optional add-ons for those times when you might need to bring along an extra battery or charger. Sleeves can be ordered in virtually any size to fit any laptop (not just Macs) and in a range of styles. However, these options will quickly raise the price of the bag, perhaps making the decision to buy one vs. a more traditional (and bulky bag) harder to justify.

Price: Starts at $39, and goes up rapidly as you add options (as configured, $94)
Pros: Stylish, sturdy, leight weight
Cons: pricey, especially as you begin to add options

3 Responses to “Review: Waterfield Designs’ Laptop Sleeve”
  1. Aaaron H. says:

    I just want to jump in and say I can’t recommend these bags enough.

    I bought a sleeve a number of years ago with my first Powerbook and used it daily for years (usually to protect the laptop in another bag) and when I sold it with the computer after 2 years, it still looked brand new.

    A couple of years ago, when I got a new MacBook Pro for work, the first thing I did was order a new sleeve (with the strap and piggyback thing you show above) and a full fledged bag. They are both awesome and so rugged. No, more than that. After using these things DAILY for 2 years, they look like they did when I got them. It’s pretty amazing.

    But, back to my point, in the end, I found myself doing the exact same thing you did. After loving my first sleeve so much, I got both a bag and a sleeve. However, if I’m not travelling for a long period of time where I need lots of extra accessories, I just take the sleeve. I use it every day. I keep a mouse, a flash drive, a moleskine (with Fisher spacepen) and the remote in the gadget bag. That’s it. If I think I might need it, I’ll bring a spare power brick (which fits readily) but since I have one for home and work, it’s rare.

    Anyway, I just wanted to give an exclamation point to your review. I don’t work for the company or know the guys or anything, I’ve just been blown away by the bags. They aren’t cheap, but they aren’t as expensive as many other bags I’ve had that don’t fare as well. These guys are amazing and created, without a doubt, my favorite Mac accessory.


  2. Drew Parfitt says:

    I bought one of these for my MacBook Pro, and within about 6 months, the Velcro became worn out, I don’t know if I just got a lemon or not, but that is my story and I’m sticking with it. Velcro shouldn’t wear out that fast, a briefcase that I bought for something like $20 less than I paid for this case has a Velcro strap for laptops and it hasn’t even worn out yet, and I’ve had the briefcase for about 9 months now.

  3. Dennis says:

    Hey Drew,

    Fear not. The same thing happened to me on my third sleeve from them. No problem with the velcro on the first two and then on the third…the same thing happened to mine as yours. I emailed the company and they said they had received one one batch of bad velcro. I sent back my sleeve and they fixed it at no charge. I’d had such good experiences with them in the past that I wasn’t surprised about how easy it was to take care of the problem. I recommend letting them know. I bet you have a sleeve from the same batch and that they’ll take care of you.

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