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ATPM 11.08
August 2005


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Accessory Review

by Chris Lawson,



Developer: MaxUpgrades

Price: $24–28

Requirements: iBook or PowerBook, all sizes

Trial: None

Laptop computers are undeniably fragile compared to their desktop counterparts. In order to protect such a significant investment, users spend substantial sums on various specially designed bags, backpacks, cases, shells, and the like. To this end, MaxUpgrades has introduced the MaxSleeve, a close-fitting zippered sleeve sized for Apple’s various laptop models.


The MaxSleeve, like Tom Bihn’s vaguely similar Brain Cell or Kensington’s discontinued Wetsuit line, is not intended to be a standalone laptop carrying case. It is intended to offer a modicum of impact and scratch protection to a laptop carried inside another bag or backpack, and at this task it excels admirably.

Made of high-density “memory foam” like that found in as-seen-on-TV Swedish mattresses, the protective layer in the MaxSleeve provides some degree of impact protection. It feels more substantial than the neoprene sleeves of the past, but falls short of the stiff plastic lining inside the Brain Cell. The soft interior and padded zippers will keep the laptop scratch-free. For the truly paranoid, the MaxSleeve will fit—just barely—inside the Brain Cell, which will in turn fits inside most bags or backpacks for an extreme degree of protection.

The slightly lesser degree of protection is not without its benefits. Most notably, the MaxSleeve is substantially less bulky and weighs noticeably less than its competition. This makes for a much easier fit inside a backpack like the Boblbee Megalopolis or the Axio line, where space is at a premium. Inside such hard-shell backpacks, the lack of a stiff sleeve is a non-issue.

In fact, the MaxSleeve is such an excellent companion to these hard-shell backpacks that both Boblbee and Axio would do well to strike a deal with MaxUpgrades to offer the sleeve with their products. Boblbee includes no sleeves with any of its backpacks, and Axio includes a cheap sleeve with only the Hybrid, though both the Fuse and the Swift desperately need one. The MaxSleeve fills the need perfectly, its form-fitting size just right for the tight laptop pockets in these various backpacks.

In much the same way, the MaxSleeve is an ideal match for briefcase-style laptop bags that lack a sleeve or form-fitting compartment for the laptop. Having the computer sloshing around inside a too-big pocket is a recipe for scratches and can be disastrous if the bag is dropped. Many briefcase bags include a sleeve, but there is room for improvement in most of them, particularly in the ingress/egress department.

Unlike some of the more substantial sleeves on the market, there is no provision for attaching a shoulder strap and using the MaxSleeve as its own ”laptop purse.” The utility of this feature on other products is dubious at best, however, and simply invites an accident when the lightly padded sleeve is used on its own. The point of a sleeve is to offer extra protection inside another bag, not to stand on its own as a case.

MaxUpgrades could steal one feature from its competition: a handle. Getting the sleeve itself out of a tight spot can be tricky, although if the dual zippers are brought together at the middle, they serve as enough of a handle to work in a pinch. The best advice is not to get yourself into tight situations in the first place.

A lot of laptop accessories, especially carrying cases, are awfully expensive considering their utility and quality. Not the MaxSleeve. At less than 30 bucks for even the 17″ version, you’d have a hard time going wrong with this one.

There’s very little not to like about this sleeve. It’s inexpensive, it gets the job done, and it looks classy doing it. If you’ve been looking for a sleeve, you’ve just found it.

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