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I had an older macbook with a plastic shell. I broke and replaced the screen several times over it's lifespan.

I now have a MacBook with an aluminum body and am really nervous about cracking the screen.

Should I be that nervous? Have you seen an aluminium cased MacBook with a cracked screen?

Is getting a "MacTruck" case overkill?

Update: 20 months of use with a thin Speck case and no cracked screens.

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If you've broken that many laptop screens perhaps you need to re-examine your pattern. I'm tough on gear, but haven't replaced a single laptop screen, never mind several over the life of a single computer. (Which is approximately five years for me.) Then again, I don't know anything about the specifics so I'm not judging you. You might ask me about camera equipment. ;) –  jaberg Mar 9 '12 at 20:39
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2 kids under 10 –  iambriansreed Mar 9 '12 at 20:57
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7 Answers 7

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The unibody construction is substantially more impact resistant than the previous plastic design. This is especially true in the display area where the front glass and the rear aluminum act more like an I beam than the old design. Not only is the construction more sturdy, but in falls, the damage tends to be less expensive to repair should you actually break things.

For example, the unibody macs with enclosure damage usually cost between $300 and $400 to repair where a cracked screen can cost upwards of $800 to $1200 for an Apple repair. The unibody parts require better tools and training to repair inside them, so that's about the only down side I can see to the newer design. Aluminum is really much stronger than the old LCD panel with thin metal braces and a plastic shell to cover the display. Even the new macs with matte displays are much stronger than the old pre-unibody displays on MacBook Pro / PowerMac line.

Of course, many single falls can break even the expensive parts in a unibody mac as the tolerances inside the machines leave little room for deformation to safely absorb the shock of a fall, but I have seen far more unibody macs that have skidded across pavement at highway speeds that still worked and had only surface damage than the previous generation of non-unibody macs. (Yes - it happens more than you might guess and when placed on the top of a car or truck, sadly they don't actually leave the vehicle until you get up to highway speeds. Now the ones run over by a following vehicle - unibody stands up better, but still doesn't usually survive that ordeal.)

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I saw a MBP aluminum take a fall from 3 feet - and it completely crumpled and had the screen destroyed. A similar MB unibody plastic did the same thing and came back with a small scratch mark. –  JavaAndCSharp Mar 26 '12 at 3:00
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I have seen aluminum MacBooks with cracked screens, but I wouldn't say it's common and overall my observation is that the Apple laptops are as durable, often moreso, than anything other than an armored Toughbook.

Of course, that doesn't matter if you're the unlucky exception so whether or not to use a heavy duty case is up to you but I wouldn't be overly nervous. FWIW, I carry my own 2007 MacBook Pro–a more flexible chassis than today's unibody decks–naked (the computer, not the operator) within the padded Laptop compartment of my Tom Bihn or Patagonia bags.

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I had a MBP 13" go down in a loosely bundled rack attached to my bicycle. The MBP was enclosed in a Case Logic ~neoprene sleeve. The exposed corner of the sleeve hit the pavement and the friction of aluminum-neoprene-pavement tore out a hole the size of a pencil eraser at one of the corners. The MBP seemed to chiefly slide about 1 inch or so across the pavement and put a scrape at the battery-side of the aluminum unibody. All internal components function without any problems. Granted, this was not on the screen-side... however, I think the result would have been the same, namely, minor superficial scratching to the case. In summary, an arc-like fall from a 3 foot height, while cocooned in a neoprene case, caused no detectable functional problems. Incidentally, it probably helped that the fall was not 'hammer-style', but rather, the impact was of the MBP landing at a 45º angle.

Your mileage will vary. I do not recommend running with the MBP in its 'open' configuration. That's what caused my old HP to die a slow screen-related death.

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Out of maybe 100 Mac portables at my office over the last 3-4 years, I've only seen three that came back with significant drop damage, and only one of those caused display damage (and even then that was an intermittently blinking screen, rather than any cracks). I am much more concerned with liquid spill damage.

That said, the Speck hard cases do seem to offer additional protection.

Personally I carry my MBP 15" in the built-in padded sleeve of a Timbuk2 laptop messenger bag, and I bike with it fairly often..

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Hey da4. You bike with your MBP too. Cool! What is your typical daily distance? Do you complicate things by having unconventional 'clip' style pedals? See my Answer below concerning my biking experience. –  Rolnik Mar 9 '12 at 22:32
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my macbook pro [ aluminum ] fell of the back of my ute onto the road going round a roundabout at 50 km hr and is still going year and a half later , it got a few dents in it but is still going trouble free

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Not all macs survive these drops, but I've seen quite enough to know that they can survive and work for some time after really serious falls. –  bmike Nov 14 '12 at 22:39
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Get a black acrylic perspex (aka Lucite or Plexiglas) 5mm thick, the size of your laptop (more or less, I have 15" mbp and perpex A4 size, i.e. smaller). Put the perspex on the closed laptop on the screen side, then keep the perspex in place with whatever, say, 3 rubber bands. Best protection I ever had.

I have a sleeve, and I put the perspex in the sleeve on the screen side. Next laptop I'll build a perspex case.

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I have literally dropped the unibody MacBook Pro from a backpack that was not secured properly. The drop was against the edge of the MacBook so it dented the lid but the screen was perfect, including the glass front. So I ended up replacing the unibody enclosure for the screen by transferring to a new one myself.

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