capsule review

MacBook wrist-saver

There’s been a bit of a hubbub around the Mac Web about “problems” with Apple’s MacBook line of notebook computers. But as Jason Snell wrote last week, it’s difficult to figure out what’s actually a widespread problem and what’s merely the concerns of a few (understandably) unhappy people, suffering from isolated issues, amplified by the echo chamber that is the Internet. We can confirm only the experiences we have ourselves, and, so far, our experiences with the MacBook line have been quite positive.

However, one problem we have seen, if you can call it a problem, has to do with cutting corners. No, I don’t mean skimping on quality to save a few bucks. I mean, quite literally, corners that cut. As Jonathan Seff mentioned in his in-depth review of the MacBook line:

The only real problem I found with the new design is that the smooth top of the keyboard enclosure doesn’t extend quite to edge of the MacBook, creating a thin, rough-feeling bevel between the top and bottom of the case. Though it’s thin, the rough edge of the polycarbonate bottom running all the way around the MacBook irritates my palm when I slide my hand around to use the track pad, and it feels rather sharp if I rest my hand on it.

I, and my wrists, can confirm the existence of this sharp edge, at least on my family’s MacBook. In fact, even my wife has complained about it. This latter point is noteworthy because she tends to be my Barometer of the Typical Consumer, if you will: She’s generally satisfied with, but unexcited by, technology, so a product has to be very good to impress her or have a significant flaw to bother her. So for her to bring up this rough edge, unprompted, tells me it’s something people other than just us nitpicking Mac geeks will notice. (Yeah, yeah, yeah...with ideal typing form, your wrists should never touch the wrist-rest. But few people I know will win awards for typing form. And most people at least rest their wrists periodically; after all, it’s called a wrist-rest for a reason.)

Widespread issue or not, the question for me became, “What do I do about this?” As luck would have it, over the past couple months I’ve received several “wrist-rest”-type products for the MacBook. None of these were designed specifically to address our MacBook’s sharp edge, but one of them works serendipitously well: AVA’s $15 Softpads (   ). Available in white, red, green, or blue, Softpads are thin, microfiber-foam wrist pads, approximately 3.9 by 3.2 inches in size, with reusable-adhesive backing. They adhere to the wrist-rest area of any Apple laptop and are designed to protect your wrist-rests from scratching and improve comfort. However, when applied so that their bottom edges are flush with the the MacBook’s sharp wrist-rest edge—a bit lower than the company recommends—I’ve found Softpads to be an ideal solution to our MacBook’s wrist-mincing lip. (And for what it’s worth, Softpads do indeed making typing more comfortable and keep scratches away.)

AVA Softpads
AVA’s Softpads applied normally; move them down a bit and
your MacBook’s sharp bottom edge is actually comfortable.

Second, in my testing, Softpads were thin enough that, although they really did feel like pads , they didn’t interfere with the proper closing of our MacBook’s lid. Finally, every set of Softpads includes a thin, microfiber cloth for cleaning your laptop’s screen.

Now, granted, we’ve been using Softpads on our MacBook for only a month or so; it’s possible that over extended use at the very edge of your MacBook’s wrist-rest, the bottom edges of the Softpads may get worn down and lose their ability to soften this corner.

But right now, the bigger issue with Softpads—realized only after I’d nearly finished this article—is that I can’t seem to find a U.S. retailer that carries them. AVA has distributors, and several retail stores, in Asia, but the company’s products currently aren’t available in the U.S. Based on my conversations with company representatives, AVA is in the process of setting up U.S sales; I’ll update this article when that happens. (If you’re seriously interested in Softpads, you could could also contact the company to encourage them to make the product available in the U.S.) I apologize for the tease. If it’s any consolation, I was looking to buy another set myself.

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