G-Form started out making high-tech protective gear for sports and outdoor enthusiasts, including knee and elbow pads. The same concepts behind protecting the human body, the thinking goes, would also work wonders for protecting delicate electronics, such as laptops and tablets. The company now has a line of sleeves and cases for tech gear, including the $79 Extreme Sleeve for laptops, available in 11-, 13-, and 15-inch sizes (we tested the 13-inch version).
While not promoted as being specifically designed for MacBooks, the company's promotional materials invariably show an Apple logo peeking out from the sleeve, and our 13-inch aluminum MacBook Pro fit inside snugly (a MacBook Air would be a loose fit).
The idea behind the thick, rubberized case, with a crisscrossed pattern on each side, is to not only cushion the laptop, but also absorb the force of any impact. To do so effectively, of course, requires more than just simple foam. G-Form says its cases are made from a material called Poron XRD, which is in turn described by its manufacturer as working like so: "When stressed at a high rate or impacted quickly...the material reaches the point when the urethane momentarily 'freezes'--like water freezing into ice." Essentially, the material these cases are made out of stiffens on impact to absorb the energy, instead of transferring it to your laptop.
In practice, you end up with a case that looks like a cross between a diver's wetsuit and a piece of protective hockey equipment. It's not an unattractive design, but it's thick and bulky and could look jarring coming out of, say, a high-end briefcase in a boardroom meeting. The thick padded areas keep you from feeling like you're ever too close to direct contact with your laptop, which is a good thing for optimum protection.
From top and bottom hits, we'd feel confident in the G-Form's ability to cushion a blow. The company has shown videos of its products protecting an iPad from a falling bowling ball, and while we didn't go that far in our testing, a test MacBook did survive a couple of desk-height falls.
Note, however, that these falls were into the flat face of the laptop/case combo. Less protection is offered if your laptop happens to land on the corner. Recently, one of our ZDNet colleagues had a G-Form iPad accidentally land squarely on a corner in an impromptu drop test, and the results were not pretty. The company says G-Form cases (at least the iPad versions) are being updated with a Poron XRD bumper insert under the zipper, but our laptop case didn't include that.
Still, some common sense is required to get the most out of any protective sleeve or case, and the Extreme Sleeve can certainly offer some peace of mind if you're worried about crushing or banging damage to your laptop. G-Form offers a limited lifetime warranty on the Extreme Sleeve, but note that this refers to the case itself, not to any electronics you pack inside of it. The company says, "Although we are confident that G-Form provides the best protection available, we can't guarantee your electronics from damage from any specific drop or impact in our Extreme Sleeve whether accidental or intentional."