Reviewed: Maclocks MacBook Pro Retina Cover

Something a little different from me, and hopefully something that will help a few people out, too. I've decided to review a cool product I stumbled upon on the Internet at the beginning of the year - The Maclocks MacBook Pro Retina 15" Rubberised Cover.

Wassit?

As the name suggests, it's essentially a rubberised plastic laptop cover, but with one massive advantage - it has a Kensington lock slot built in.

At the beginning of 2014 I finally decided to take the plunge and move from PC to Mac. I'd struggled for years with mid-range Windows laptops struggling to run Lightroom, so I bit the bullet and invested in a top of the range 15" Retina MacBook Pro's. This was one of the newer shape MacBooks that no longer included a disc drive and, as part of the restyling and minimising process that Apple is renowned for, it no longer came with a Kensington lock slot.

Kensi-whut?

A Kensington Lock Slot can be found on most laptops - it's a 2mm x 6mm slot in the casing of a laptop that allows you to attach a cable lock, thus enabling you to anchor your laptop to something secure. They're essential if you're away at a Music Festival for a weekend and need to leave your laptop unattended in a press tent for a period of time. Quite why Apple thought it was a good idea to remove the single physical security feature required to stop someone walking off with a £2,000 laptop is beyond me, but that's another story.

Having done substantial research into third party solutions, it seemed the people in the know for this sort of thing were the guys over at MacLocks. They had a few different solutions, the best of which were the Wedge Lock and the Rubberised Black Cover. I went with the latter for two reasons:

  1. You have the option to use your own Kensington Lock with it. The Wedge is made of stronger stuff (literally, it's aluminium), but you have to use the supplied cable keylock with it. I had visions of losing my keys at a festival and having to carry a trestle table home with me, so the option to use my own combination lock was more preferable.
  2. It's not just a locking device, it's a cover too. Not only would it stop some scoundrel making off with my expensive laptop, but it would be kept clean and unscratched underneath. Plus, it isn't immediately obvious it is a macbook with the cover on, which probably helps when prying eyes are looking for valuable booty. Huzzah, laptop thief!

The good stuff..

My Maclooks cover arrived very quicky, and was a sinch to fit. The top cover just clips on, and the base cover has the option of either clipping on or screwing down, using a set of replacement screws and a neat little screwdriver. I opted to replace the screws which was a little nerve-wracking but worth it - safety first, an all that. You can see the five replacement screws here:

When fitted, the cover added next-to no additional bulk to the MacBook. This was a key feature for me, as I didn't want to invest a load of money in a slimline laptop only to beef it up with protective casing.

The finish on the product was great, too. As described, it was a really nice rubber-like matt black finish, that was semi-transparent, allowing the illuminated Apple to glow through:

Sadly, that's the end of the good stuff.. :(

The not so good stuff..

Alas, I have much more to right in this section as I did the previous. I'm going to do my best to keep this honest and objective without being to whingey.

MacLocks.co.uk

This is a real gripe of mine. When I'd decided I was going to purchase my laptop lock from Maclocks, I shopped around to find a UK supplier. I couldn't be bothered with all the hassle of exchange rates, import taxes, and hefty postage costs. As it happened, I stumbled across Maclocks.co.uk. "Hooray! these guys are big and successful and have branched out to the UK! This is much more convenient!" I thought. "SUCKER", they replied. They're not UK based at all. Despite the fact that it's a .co.uk URL, and the website has incorporated the glorious Union Flag into their logo (albeit with one red stripe missing - bizarre), they're still based in Pflugerville, Texas (No, it's not a typo. Yes, it really is spelt like that. I'm assuming the 'P' is silent..)

If I'm honest, this really, REALLY pisses me off. Obviously I'm pissed off with myself for not spotting it (it's really not hard to work out within a few clicks. US phone number is a massive giveaway), but I find it sneaky and deceitful. There's nothing ILLEGAL about it, and they're well within their rights to buy any domain they please, but to spruce the website up like its Buckingham Palace seems dishonest. As a result, I was stung with a shipping fee that almost doubled the cost of the product, in addition to an import charge from the courier. In the end, it's turned out to be two very expensive pieces of plastic.

Product Quality

I'm probably in a better position than most to comment on this, as I'm actually on my second Cover. The first one I had cracked, so the guys over at MacLocks kindly sent me out another one. This gave me a great opportunity to see if some of the issues I had with my first cover were just one offs, or actual design flaws.

  1. The finish - Yes, it's a really nice rubberized matt black finish. For a while, at least. Until it starts to rub off. The it's a really nice rubberized finish with glossy, cheap looking edges. Durable this stuff ain't.
  2. Not-quite-perfect Fit - To say the covers have been specifcally designed for the 15" MacBook Pro retina, they don't actually fit it perfectly. I've had the same issue with both of my covers, in that one corner doesn't fit right. It's only ever so slightly out, but it's little imperfections like this that start to make you wonder abou the QC and testing of these products
  3. Rough edges - the black plastic on the bottom half of the cover sits ever so slightly proud of the body of the MacBook, and has a very rough, machine-finished feel to it. As a result, after a while you find the rough finish can start to dig into your wrists a bit, and make the MacBook quite uncomfortable to use. On my first cover, it was that bad that I had to remove it and attempt to sand down the rough edges myself. Again, another example that just makes you question the quality of the product.
  4. Footloose - ok, I'm being really picky now, but I also spotted one of the feet on the cover wasn't aligned properly. It's not a huge deal at all, but adds further fuel to the "cut corners" fire, and means the laptop doesn't sit perfectly flat.

Instructions

Now this, for me, was a huge error. If you're expecting your customers to attempt to unscrew a very, very expensive laptop, then it's of paramount importance that you get your instructions right. Uh-oh...

The easy to follow instructions are posted on the back of the box, and clearly label which screws you need to remove, replacing 4 short screws with 4 slightly longer short screws, and 1 long screw with 1 slightly longer long screw. Simple. Well, it would be, if that were correct. But it isn't.

They've got the screws mixed up. You actually need to replace 1 short screw and 4 long, the opposite to what the instructions say. This may sound like quite a simple mistake and not really much of a big deal, but if you're trying to force a large screw into a hole where you need to be putting a smaller screw (if you're giggling at this point, grow up. It's not a euphemism), there is the potential that you could damage your MacBook. It didn't take me long to work out which screw went where (I said grow up!), but it doesn't fill you with confidence in the manufacturer. 

Conclusion

To their credit, MacLocks support team have been great. I can't doubt their customer service, and did a fantastic job of replacing my first cover when it cracked. However, this does not make up for the shortcomings in the product itself. So many minor flaws add up to an overpriced product. You'd expect a laptop cover that comes in at around £30 to be of a decent quality, but sadly it just isn't. The people at Maclocks had a great opportunity to really take advantage of Apples decision to ditch the Kensington slot by manufacturing a product that matched the quality of the laptop it is securing, but it has fallen way, way short. 

Inevitably I imagine someone else will look to develop a similar product as the offering from MacLocks, and I suspect that - if they invest a little more money into how the product is made, tested and marketed - they have the potential to make a lot of money out of it. As a rule of thumb, Apple-ites have a tendancy to pay slightly over the odds for top quality - £90 for a mouse tells you that. But these people don't just throw away money for nothing, and offering a Apple accessory where corners have been cut means that sooner or later you're going to get found out. I certainly don't think this product is worth anywhere near the RRP of £50 ($79.95)

For now, I'll continue to use the MacLock cover as I need to secure my beloved MacBook, but I'm keeping an eye out for a better quality alternative.