One of the latest fads in iPad accessories is book-binding cases—witness the Dodocase and Portenzo’s Notebook Style iPad Case. These cases are hand-made using traditional book-binding techniques and hide your iPad inside what looks to be an actual book—the modern-day equivalent of a hollowed-out book for stashing your cash.
It was only a matter of time before we saw a similar case for Apple’s similarly thin-and-light MacBook Air, and Pad & Quill is the first out of the gate with the Cartella for MacBook Air. (The company also makes a book-binding case for iPad, although not for Apple’s larger laptops—do you really want a “book case” the size of a hardcover Rand-McNally atlas?) I tested the version of the Cartella for the 11-inch MacBook Air.
If you’ve ever seen a Dodocase, the Cartella will look familiar, just a bit bigger. At 12.7 inches wide, 8.7 inches front to back, and just under one inch thick, the case does add some bulk to the svelte MacBook Air, but no more than a typical padded sleeve. The Cartella also weighs 14.5 ounces, bringing the weight of a covered 11-inch Air to 3.2 pounds.
The outer cover of the Cartella is made of real Italian leather, bound—using traditional book-binding techniques—to rigid front and back (or, depending on your perspective, top and bottom) panels. Like a Moleskin notebook, the Cartella features an elastic strap to hold the front cover closed. The inside of the cover is lined in red material, and the front cover’s interior sports a flap for carrying a few 8.5-by-11 documents. A cute touch: Pad & Quill includes behind this flap a removable “table of contents” outlining the history of the company and its products.
The Cartella holds your MacBook Air in a custom-fit internal frame made from Baltic birch. The notebook slides firmly into the frame, which is lined with a rubbery bumper to keep the Air from slipping out. Indeed, when I turned our review unit upside-down with the front cover open, my MacBook Air stayed put. (The company includes additional bumpers you can install if you want an even tighter grip.) If you’ve previously applied a protective “skin”—such as one from BodyGuardz, Zagg, or Wrapsol—to your MacBook Air, it will take a bit of elbow grease to get the laptop to fit (and you may lose one or both of the side films along the way). I also found that the front cover didn’t close completely flat against the frame—there’s a slight gap between the cover and the frame at the MacBook’s thickest point, just above its feet. It’s not a major issue; it just looks like you left some folded-up papers inside your favorite hardcover.
The Cartella is designed to let you use your Air without removing it from the case. The back edge of the frame is a hollowed out to allow air to flow from the MacBook’s vents (located in the rear of the computer, under the screen hinge), and you can flip the front cover all the way around, against the back cover, to form a makeshift stand that elevates the back of the laptop slightly. There are also openings in the frame to allow for hardware connections: a small gap on the right-hand side for USB and Mini DisplayPort connections, and a longer gap on the left for the Air’s MagSafe connection, other USB port, headphone jack, and microphone. With the case open, the MagSafe connector attaches with the cable towards the back, allowing you to connect a USB device at the same time; with the case closed, I found it easier to turn the MagSafe connector around so the cable was pointing towards the front of the laptop.
One issue I experienced when using the Cartella is that, because the frame completely surrounds a closed MacBook Air, when the Air is open, the frame rises above the Air’s palmrest. If you’re a perfect-form typist, with palms that never touch the laptop itself, this won’t be a problem. But if you tend to rest your palms on the Air’s palmrests, you’ll likely find the frame to be, at best, an annoyance; those who already complain about the Air’s palmrest edges biting into their wrists will want to steer clear.
The Cartella is a unique case that puts the book back in MacBook (or at least around it), and it’s sure to turn heads when you use it in public. It doesn’t offer a lot of protection from drops and shock, and you’ll want to care for its leather covering like you would the hand-bound books that inspire it, but contemporary bookworms will enjoy the Cartella’s literary look.