Laptop sleeves are slim cases designed to either fit like a glove or very closely match the size of your computer. They're frequently carried inside another bag, or used instead of a carryall bag for everyday hauling of a notebook computer.
Sleeves aren't designed to hold lots of extras -- in many cases, you'll have a tough time fitting in more than a power brick, and even that might take some creativity. Because sleeves are typically bought in a fairly custom size, you'll likely have to buy another one if you change laptop sizes, so it's not a highly priced category compared to some of the full-size bags.
Two sleeves stand out in critics' and users' reviews: The WaterField Laptop SleeveCase (*Est. $50 and up) and the Cocoon Laptop Sleeve (*Est. $30). The SleeveCase is a high-end mini-messenger bag with a second sleeve inside and an optional shoulder strap, made in 100 different sizes, which can be used alone (but won't offer the protection of a full-size case). The Cocoon is a sturdily built padded sleeve for smaller laptops, with space for your tablet as well as your computer. It includes a shoulder strap and the innovative Grid organizer, a panel of crisscrossing elastic straps that can hold everything from USB keys to power cables.
WaterField Designs is a boutique maker of laptop bags, and the attention to detail in the SleeveCase is obvious. Reviewers award the highest possible scores for its stitching, materials, build quality and design. The SleeveCase is made from ballistic nylon and neoprene, with optional leather trim. Reviewers report testing their SleeveCase laptop bags for years without any indication that they're not brand new.
The Cocoon laptop sleeve is strong enough to be carried on its own. It's made of durable materials, with sturdy, quality construction details and enough padding to shield against everyday bumps and bruises. Reviewers agree that both bags set the highest standard for durability, leading to a perfect score for both.
Reviewers like the light weight and included padded shoulder strap on the Cocoon CLS456 laptop sleeve, saying they make it comfortable to carry for long distances. However, it's thicker than a typical sleeve and has no carrying handle -- so if you don't want to use the strap, you'll be carrying it from the bottom.
The WaterField SleeveCase is also light and easy to carry -- but the ballistic nylon used to craft it is rough, suggesting that for true long-term comfort users might want to opt for the leather trim option (*Est. $10) or a carrying strap.
Reviewers generally give both cases high marks for comfort.
The WaterField Designs Laptop SleeveCase comes in a single color -- black with optional brown leather trim -- so exciting it's not. Reviewers do feel the styling is classic and extremely easy on the eyes, especially with the optional messenger-style flap.
The Cocoon CLS456 Sleeve is definitely not made to look at, critics say. It's plain, simple and not particularly pleasing in terms of design; it's not ugly, but it's nothing you'll want to look at while not using it.
Thanks to its classic details, the WaterField Designs sleeve is tops in the appearance category.
WaterField Designs gives its bags a lifetime warranty, though users report never needing it thanks to the SleeveCase's durable construction. It covers most everything but extreme wear, which users say years of abuse doesn't produce.
The warranty on the Cocoon CLS456 laptop sleeve is surprisingly short: just a single year. It is the only top pick from reviewers with such a short guarantee, other than the Ful Powerbag Backpack, which is stuffed with electronic components. While users don't report having issues that would require repair out of warranty (and it's unlikely at this price point you'd really return the sleeve 20 years later), it's still enough to handily give WaterField Designs the top-reviewed pick in the warranty category.
Reviews say that you shouldn't let the WaterField Designs Laptop SleeveCase's (*Est. $50 and up) fool you. Most users are going to want to add in some of the attractive options, critics say, ranging from the $10 leather trim to an optional carrying strap (*Est. $12 to $22). If you add every option, the bag can run up to $125. But stay conservative and you'll have an amazing value: a top-of-the-line bag, albeit a slim case, for what you'd pay for a basic bag in some categories.
The Cocoon CLS456 sleeve is a great deal if you have a relatively small laptop -- roughly 13 inches or less -- and also need to carry a tablet. If you don't, it's probably more sleeve than you need, and on the bulky side. Reviewers do like the Grid-It! organizer feature, where all of your items are strapped in place.
Reviewers agree that the WaterField Designs Laptop SleeveCase includes an incredibly thoughtful array of design features and quality construction for a wide variety of laptop users.
Reviewers agree that both the Cocoon CLS456 Laptop Sleeve and the WaterField Designs Laptop SleeveCase are tremendous designs, able to act as slim stand-alone notebook computer bags or to slip inside other full-size cases. Fit and finish on both are well done, though the SleeveCase takes the edge in appearance and its much longer warranty. The Cocoon bag's limited uses also reduce its value. In the end, reviewers' accolades make the WaterField Designs Laptop SleeveCase the clear best-reviewed pick in the sleeve category.