About a month ago I picked up a 13″ MacBook Air to replace my aging and battered 13″ MacBook Pro. I keep my laptop in a case or bag – or perched atop a desktop stand – when I’m not using it, but I’m otherwise not particularly easy on my computers. While I don’t go out of my way to abuse the poor things, I’m not the daintiest guy around and tend to err on the side of, “Good enough!” when it comes to maintenance. To wit, the outgoing MBP has a dented corner (hotel safe in Barcelona, 2010), fingernail-deep gouge (freak screwdriver accident, 2011), and missing rubber foot (origins unknown) amongst its many battle scars.

Caring about my machinery’s well being as they do, the folks at Incipio were kind enough to send a sample of their Feather Hard Shell Case for MacBook Air for review. Feather is a two piece snap-on shell made from molded polycarbonate. Both the 11″ and 13″ MBAir models are 1.44m thick, designed to allow full access to ports and airflow via a grid of circular cutouts on the bottom, and come in a choice of six colors. Both models also retail for $49.99.

The “Matte Iridescent Gunmetal” Feather I received is snapped onto my Air as I write this, and by and large I love it. Feather’s textured polycarbonate is just grippy enough to stave off slip-through-your-fingertips style accidents when carrying your Air one-handed, and the matte finish is stealthy and classy, if a bit of a fingerprint magnet. Feather is an opaque case, and so the top panel does obscure Air’s glowing Apple logo; that’s just fine by me, though it’ll no doubt be a deal breaker for some of logo-crazed laptop users.
I have a few gripes with the case, including how the rear edges of the top and bottom halves get stuck for a nanosecond and click free when I open the Air’s lid. And how the little lips that secure Feather’s bottom half to the computer sometimes come partially detached during normal use. Neither gripe is anywhere close to being a deal breaker or even real cause for concern, though. They’re more minor annoyances with a product that I’ve otherwise been really, really happy to use for the past few weeks.

My Air’s lid also seems to fall shut under its own weight a wee bit more readily than it did without Feather attached. But considering that a) This isn’t a problem when the screen is opened to normal viewing angles and, b) This is an old problem slightly exacerbated by the accessory, and not something due solely to Feather itself, the issue warrants little more than a casual mention. Mention made.

Feather hardly adds any size or weight to a 13″ MacBook Air, but does add a healthy dose of protection against every day nicks, scratches and minor dents. How would Feather stand up to an undersized safe hinge in a Spanish hotel? Won’t find out – I’m going to be a bit more careful with this machine than I was with that poor old MB Pro. But for a user like me, who’s careful to always transport his laptop in a protective bag but too often gets careless about dragging it from desk to dining room and beside table to kitchen counter, Feather is a near-perfect solution. And I really dig the cool, grey, nearly logo-free style (there’s a very subtle Incipio logo stamped into one corner of the top half of the case).

So much so, in fact, that I think I’m going to order myself an Incipio Feather of my own once I send this review loaner back. $50 seems like a lot for what’s essentially two pieces of molded polycarbonate, but I’m sure my old Mac lost more than that much in resale value thanks to my casual, unprotected ways.