capsule review

Review: Slappa HardBody Pro

At a Glance
  • Slappa HardBody Pro

    Macworld Rating

Every now and then I run into a laptop bag or case that I just can’t wrap my mind around. Slappa's HardBody Pro is just such a product.

In case the name wasn’t a dead giveaway, the HardBody Pro is not exactly a limp noodle. It’s a hardshell cocoon that zips open and can lay flat, wide open on a table. One side of the interior sports a unique Velcro, criss-cross strap system for securing your laptop; the other contains three accessory pockets with Velcro-closure flaps.

Slappa sent use two versions of the HardBody Pro: a 13-inch model with “Carbon Elektra” black outer coating, the other a 10-inch model with “Checkered Past” (a mix of grey and dark tan). The former fits a 13-inch MacBook or MacBook Pro, while the latter can accommodate either an iPad or an 11-inch MacBook Air. However, neither case prevented said hardware from sliding, at least a little, no matter how tightly I secured the internal straps—there was enough movement to instill a sliver of doubt about the prospects of bouncing around all day between the buses, trains, and crowded streets of downtown Chicago (where I tested the cases). On the other hand, I didn’t run into any problems with other cargo shifting during actual use, and I wager the soft, felt-like material that lines the cases helped to keep my computers in place during testing.

The HardBody Pro’s distinctive shell is made of something the company calls Duro-Shock xEVA—marketing speak for a sturdy core (of undefined material) laminated with high-quality “upper materials” such as rubberized PVC and home-grown “z-suede.” Slappa boasts that the HardBody Pro is resistant to water and even fire, though testing the latter claim was outside the purview of this review.

The HardBody Pro cases are bulky—the 10-inch model measures 3.25 inches at its thickest point, the 13-inch model, 3.75 inches. They also weigh 1.7 and 2.1 pounds, respectively. Since a shoulder strap isn't included—you get one with the 17-inch model (which I didn't test), but it's a $13 purchase for the 13- and 15-inch models—Slappa pitches these cases as handy inserts for an existing bag, or for carrying like a big, hardshell clutch. If you already have a general-purpose backpack that’s large enough, or a big, bucket-style sling bag, either HardBody Pro might be a good fit. And if you often tend to run into flash floods, burning buildings, or—on a serious note—heavy downpours on your daily commute, the HardBody Pro’s heightened protection from the elements should help it stand out from the pack.

But I can’t escape the feeling that the HardBody Pro is the Frankensteinian result of a Hard Candy hardshell sleeve and an Incase Nylon Sleeve bag standing too close to each other during a lightning storm. A tough shell with some internal storage sounds like a great idea, but the final product is too bulky to fit comfortably in most bags, and the more-practical carrying option—toting it like a traditional messenger case—requires an optional shoulder-strap purchase.

The HardBody Pro is an interesting idea. But the design needs some polish and slimming down, and a shoulder strap should be included to make the case easily totable out of the box.

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At a Glance
  • Macworld Rating

    Pros

    • Tough exterior shell
    • Internal accessory storage
    • Resistant to elements

    Cons

    • Notebook storage straps aren't the most secure
    • Shoulder strap not included
    • Bulky design won't fit in most bags
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