This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

What’s the best laptop hard-shell case?

A laptop isn’t just a convenience. For many, it’s their primary way of doing business, staying in contact with friends and family, and watching streaming content. It’s a portable lifeline to the outside world.

That makes it a valuable asset that must be protected against damage. If you don’t want to carry it around in a bulky laptop backpack, there are other options for keeping it safe. 

A laptop sleeve is a good choice, but it only prevents damage when the gadget is inside. A better alternative is a hard-shell case, such as the B Belk Hard-Shell Case for MacBook Air 13-Inch.  

What to know before you buy a laptop hard- shell case

The protection you require

Hard-shell cases use one of two systems. Consider the protection level you require, depending on how you handle your laptop and where you use it most.

  • Most common: These hard-shell cases comprise two solid plastic parts that clip onto the laptop’s lid and underside. There is a less protective version of this case, where a plastic frame clips onto the corners, exposing a portion of the surface.
  • More rugged: These resemble a laptop sleeve. However, when the zipper is fully opened, the laptop opens with it. It’s often held in place through elastic straps and provides great protection against drops and bumps.  

It could block ventilation

Laptops, just like any computer, generate a lot of heat. As the fans spin to cool the components, they push out the hot air through slits on the sides and underneath. The laptop can overheat if the case blocks any ventilation slots. The case might have a universal design, so check where the slits on your laptop are and that they match up with the case.

Made for your model

Several companies make Windows-based laptops, and it’s rare to find two models that are the size dimensions. Depending on the screen size, keyboard layout and overall thickness, a hard-shell case should be specific to your computer. (This is less a problem for MacBook users, as models often are the same size across several years.)

So even if the case seems to fit, you must ensure that the clips are in the right position. If you get the wrong case, it could prevent the lid from opening completely, or it might not fit at all.

What to look for in a quality laptop hard-shell case

Access to all the ports

Preventing damage is excellent, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of functionality. A good-quality hard-shell laptop case exposes all the USB and HDMI ports so you can carry on with your business. You don’t want to struggle plugging in a thumb drive or need to unclip the case halfway.

Solid materials

The primary objective is to keep your laptop in the best possible condition. That means your protection must be able to take a beating without compromising the computer. A good-quality hard-shell case is made from robust materials that won’t shatter upon the slightest impact. Ideally, you want the case to crack instead. This transfers the impact’s shock across the surface of the case, not down into the laptop.

A good-quality case is like an airbag. It’s both of their jobs to take on the stress, even if that means getting destroyed. 

Additional protection

Get more bang for your buck with a case that includes a screen protector or a keyboard cover.

  • Screen protector: The thin film goes over your laptop’s display to reduce the appearance of fingerprints and helps to prevent tiny cracks.
  • Keyboard cover: It’s typically made from soft rubber or fabric and protects the keys from dust and debris.

How much you can expect to spend on a laptop hard-shell case

Basic ones made from plastic cost $10-$20, depending on which laptop they are made for. A case with more protection, made from rugged materials, runs $30-$40.

Laptop hard-shell case FAQ

How do you clean a hard-shell case?

A. The cases are easy to clean. Just wipe them down with a lukewarm cloth after you’ve removed the laptop.

Are they difficult to put on?

A. Typically, they are easy to put on, but that depends on the model. However, most are held in place through several clips. 

What’s the best laptop hard-shell case to buy?

Top laptop hard-shell case

Best B Belk Hard-Shell Case for MacBook Air 13-Inch

B Belk Hard-Shell Case for MacBook Air 13-Inch

What you need to know: This case is compatible with the 2018-2020 13-inch MacBook Air with Touch ID and retina display. 

What you’ll love: In addition to the elegant matte black, several other colors can transform your MacBook’s look. The case is a two-piece system that clips onto the display and the underside. There are enough slits for sufficient ventilation, and it comes with two keyboard covers and a screen protector.

What you should consider: Although they are roughly the same size, this cover isn’t compatible with the MacBook Air that uses the MagSafe charging cable.  

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top laptop hard-shell case for the money

Best mCover iPearl Hard-Shell Case for Dell 15.6-Inch XPS 15

mCover iPearl Hard-Shell Case for Dell 15.6-Inch XPS 15

What you need to know: To ensure your laptop doesn’t overheat, this case has two fold-out legs that prop it up on a surface.

What you’ll love: You can choose from several colors to give your grey laptop a pop of color. The shell is made from high-quality polycarbonate plastic and has reinforced corners for maximum drop protection.

What you should consider: It only fits on the Dell XPS 15 9550 series laptop and isn’t compatible with any other XPS models.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

Best MaxCases Extreme Shell Case For Microsoft Surface Pro

MaxCases Extreme Shell Case for Microsoft Surface Pro

What you need to know: This is an excellent choice if you need the most rugged protection for your Microsoft Surface.

What you’ll love: Compatible with Microsoft Surface Pro models 5, 6 and 7, this case has a dual-layer system with a translucent polycarbonate shell on the outside. It also has shock-absorbing corners and exposes all the ports for easy access.

What you should consider: Due to the protection and how it’s made, this case can be challenging to put on.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon


Want to shop the best products at the best prices? Check out Daily Deals from BestReviews.

Sign up here to receive the BestReviews weekly newsletter for useful advice on new products and noteworthy deals.

Charlie Fripp writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

Copyright 2022 BestReviews, a Nexstar company. All rights reserved.