Best Laptop Sleeves

Updated October 2021
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Buying guide for best laptop sleeves

Laptops are now an indispensable part of business, education, and everyday life. They go with us everywhere, but you have to protect your expensive piece of technology from slips and falls and even from bumping against the other items you carry with you. That’s where a laptop sleeve comes in.

A laptop sleeve cushions and protects your laptop and makes it easy to keep all of your related gear with you at all times. Sleeves are made of many materials in different designs and sizes.

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Standard black or gray looks professional, but laptop sleeves come in lots of colorful prints and designs, too. Stripes, flowers, polka dots, and chevron prints give the laptop sleeve some personality.

Key considerations

Laptop sleeve types

Laptop sleeves are fairly basic in design, but you can choose from three general types: traditional, slim, and briefcase style.

  • Traditional: A traditional laptop sleeve has a snug fit with an open or closed top. It might have a storage pocket or two and can be made of any number of materials, including canvas, neoprene, leather, and nylon. Depending on the materials used, it might have padding for extra protection. There is a good degree of variation among traditional laptop sleeves. Some hard models are designed for the ultimate shock absorption, while the simplest models are nothing more than pockets with flap closures.

  • Slim: Many slim laptop sleeves are made of nylon or polyester and are closely tailored to fit the laptop, cutting down on weight and bulk. These models lack any bells and whistles like a handle or storage pockets. However, if you're tight on space and you simply want the added protection against liquids, one of these sleeves is probably a good choice for you.

  • Briefcase/carryall: While a briefcase-style laptop sleeve might sound big and bulky, this type simply has a handle and/or carrying strap integrated into the design. For those who don't carry a briefcase or backpack, this type of laptop sleeve keeps everything with you without the added bulk of an extra bag.

Soft vs. hard

  • Soft: The vast majority of laptop sleeves are soft. Sleeves are generally designed as an extra layer of protection because most people carry their laptops in a backpack, briefcase, or purse. A soft sleeve prevents nicks, scratches, and dents and provides extra shock absorption in case of a fall. These are easier to fit into a bag, weigh less, and are often more affordable than hard sleeves.
  • Hard: For added shock absorption, choose a hard sleeve. For those who take a laptop in extreme conditions, say biking, hiking, or backpacking, a hard sleeve might be worth the extra investment.

Size and weight

For the best protection, you want a laptop sleeve with a snug fit. Too much extra space in the sleeve leaves room for the laptop to slide and potentially be damaged. Use the size of your laptop screen (measured on the diagonal) to make sure you get a sleeve that’s the right size. Soft sleeves might have some stretch that gives you leeway on your measurements, while hard sleeves require you to measure more precisely.

If you travel with your laptop, the weight of the sleeve might be an issue you need to consider. Nylon and polyester are the lightest options, while a hard sleeve weighs the most.

Water resistance

Do you need a sleeve that will protect your laptop from water? Most sleeves provide some water protection from light rain and a small spill in your bag. But if there's potential for more weather exposure or you frequently travel with your laptop and a water bottle in the same bag, you might want a sleeve with more protection. Some are water resistant, which means a little water won't make it through the sleeve. Others are water repellent, which means the water will bead and flow off the sleeve.

Some hard sleeves are advertised as waterproof, but water might still be able to enter through the sleeve’s closure.

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Did you know?
Reinforced corners and seams increase the longevity of a sleeve because these are common stress points.
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Laptop sleeve features

Materials

  • Fabric: Laptop sleeves can be made of almost any fabric, though some fabrics are more practical than others. The most common are neoprene, nylon, and polyester because of their water-resistant properties. Neoprene also acts as a natural shock absorber. Canvas, felt, and other cotton and wool-based fabrics are also quite common. Canvas and wool have some natural water-repellent qualities, but most cotton fabrics do not.
  • Leather: Leather and suede are other materials you will find, and both look professional and luxurious. These are usually lined with a softer material like fleece to protect the exterior of the laptop.

  • Hard: Hard sleeves are made of plastic and have foam or cloth liners.

Padding

Padding adds shock absorption to the sleeve. Some materials, like neoprene, don't need the extra padding because they absorb energy on their own, but most of the others need at least a thin layer. After all, the thicker the padding, the more protection the sleeve offers. Some slim models have little if any padding and protect the laptop from scratches and nicks more than falls.

Handle or strap

If all you need to do is grab your laptop and go, a carrying handle and/or strap on the sleeve can be convenient. Some models have a handle on the long side of the laptop while others place it on the short end. Handle location is really a matter of personal preference rather than practicality.

Closure

The closure system and quality can make a difference in the longevity and usefulness of the sleeve.

  • Magnetic: Magnetic closures are popular because they’re quick and easy to close and open. However, the magnet needs to be of sufficient strength to keep the sleeve closed even when the full weight of the laptop presses against the opening. Weak magnets might allow the laptop to fall out of the sleeve.

  • Snaps: Snaps aren't a bad way to close a laptop sleeve. Check to see if the snaps are reinforced so they don't pull through the fabric with repeated use. Like magnets, snaps need to be of sufficient strength to prevent the sleeve from opening when the full weight of the laptop falls against it.

  • Hook-and-loop: These closures are fast and easy, but opening them can be loud. They also tend to wear out more quickly than other types of closures.

  • Zipper: Of all the closure options, a zipper provides the most secure way to keep a sleeve closed, though zipper quality does come into play. While a snug fit is important, check to make sure there’s a barrier or space between the zipper and the laptop. Metal zippers, in particular, can scratch the surface of your laptop.

Pockets and storage

Extra interior and exterior pockets provide room for power cords, documents, wallets, and keys. It's nice to be able to keep all your laptop supplies together when you're traveling, even if it's only commuting to work. Most interior pockets have a divider between the extra items and the laptop to protect the computer’s exterior. Zippered pockets are better because they make sure that nothing falls out while you're on the go.

Laptop sleeve prices

Laptop sleeves run from around $10 for a basic zippered neoprene model with no storage pockets to almost $70 for a hard sleeve with interior storage and a handle. In between, you’ll find that neoprene models with imprinted designs are more expensive than basic neoprene models. The price of canvas, felt, and wool sleeves goes from mid-range to high based on the fabric and closure quality.

Tips

  • Consider where you take your laptop. Think about how and where you’ll be using your laptop because that can affect your choice of sleeve. Are you heading into the mountains to study wildlife, or will you be taking your laptop to business meetings? If you’ll be hiking with your laptop in a backpack, you’re going to need more protection than someone who uses a laptop in an office.

  • Fit the sleeve to the bag. For those who like to keep things streamlined, a briefcase-style sleeve has extra storage for phones, keys, and documents. If you already have a briefcase or backpack you love, a slim sleeve might be the perfect addition to keep everything in its place.

  • Consider a sleeve that’s easy to get through airline security. Laptops have to be removed from carry-ons and placed in a separate bin when going through the scanner. Depending on the circumstances, you might have to remove the laptop from the sleeve. A model that’s simple and quick to remove will give frequent flyers an advantage.
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Some sleeves come with a matching storage bag for power cords, mouse, or earbuds. The storage bag fits in the sleeve with the laptop.

FAQ

Q. Does it matter if the laptop sleeve fits loosely?

A. An oversize sleeve won’t provide the same shock absorption because the laptop is able to slide around in the sleeve. Some laptop brands make their own sleeves designed specifically for their models. But you can usually get a good fit with a general sleeve that's the correct size for your laptop.

Q. Do laptop sleeves have liners?

A. There may not be a liner, such as with neoprene sleeves. Or there could be a liner made of cotton or a soft synthetic fabric like fleece that won’t scratch the laptop’s surface. Liners are more common when the outer material is thin and doesn’t provide padding on its own.

Q. Can I store anything inside the sleeve next to the laptop?

A. We don’t recommend storing anything right next to the surface of the laptop because it could leave a scratch. However, if there are interior pockets that separate the items from the laptop, the chance of any damage to the laptop is very small.

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