Colorful vinyl skins help differentiate and protect Apple laptops
Apple’s design aesthetic is slowly changing these days, especially in the laptop space. At a glance, you’d be hard-pressed to tell a silver 2012 MacBook Air from a silver 2016 MacBook Pro from a silver MacBook Air 2020 M1. And by you, I mean me. And Tonya. At least its old laptop, an 11-inch MacBook Air, is small enough that it’s easy to pick from a range.
The way we keep a USB-C charger on a counter in our dining room adds another possibility of confusion, so our newer laptops gravitate to it when not in use. Since the counter space is limited, his MacBook Pro and my MacBook Air tend to stack up, making it even easier to grab the wrong one. (When Tristan came home for the holidays and added his 2017 MacBook Pro to the stack, it made matters worse; despite the space gray, it was still difficult to differentiate from the others in certain lighting conditions.)
A few months ago, Tonya got fed up with this fact and found some small vinyl stickers that she was able to put on the cover of her MacBook Pro to differentiate it from my MacBook Air. It helped, but the stickers aimed at the kids were a bit cheesy and cartoonish, and it was still difficult to identify an open laptop on the table. On the plus side, vinyl stickers are a tough material that won’t tear or scratch easily, and they peel off relatively easily without leaving a residue. (Call me obsessive, but I could never bring myself to put a permanent sticker on a Mac; if I accidentally applied it the wrong way, it would drive me nuts. What if I decided I didn’t like it in a year or two? I also don’t make stickers on cars.)
Inspired by the idea of vinyl stickers and looking for a gift for Tonya, I did a little research on Amazon and found that there is a whole world of vinyl sticker skins for Apple laptops. They’re cut to fit precisely – you must order for your specific model – and there are plenty of color photos and attractive designs available. Some only cover the top and bottom of the laptop, while others include stickers for the palm rest, trackpad, and keys. A few hide the Apple logo on the cover, but many are designed around the logo or have a cutout so that it is visible. Prices range from $ 15 to $ 30, depending on whether they cover the exterior or interior only.
The hard part was going through hundreds of models to figure out what I thought Tonya would like the most and which I wanted. Finally, I opted for a burst of color for her and a forest scene for me both from a company called Cavka. They took about a month to arrive, in a shipping tube from Minnesota. Hope the mismatch means they are printed on demand rather than shipped from China, but given the faulty English in Amazon product descriptions, I suspect they are shipped bulk from China and relayed via USPS to the customer.
Due to the shipping tube, the skins arrived coiled tight, which seemed to make it more difficult to apply. I had plenty of time before Christmas, so I unrolled them and put under a big book for a few weeks. It helped flatten them out, although I’m not sure if it was necessary. There weren’t any instructions, but they’re stickers – you peel them off the backing, then stick them on the Mac.
Their application was more difficult than expected because the parts are quite large and therefore difficult to position and align perfectly. It might have been easier if I hadn’t been obsessed with such things, but it took me about 15 minutes to apply them to each laptop to my satisfaction. I tried many approaches – from the top, corner, starting in the middle – and had to remove the sticker and try again several times. I won’t pretend to be an expert, but I recommend that you start with a cutout or notch in the middle and then work your way to the edges. The main thing that I didn’t realize immediately was that the vinyl is just a little stretchy, so you can apply a little force to the thick spots as you stretch it to the edge to line it up like you want. Be careful in areas where the vinyl is thin. I tore one around the foot of the MacBook Pro, but the two sides match perfectly, so it’s barely noticeable. Of course, you will also have to eliminate the air bubbles; Peel off the sticker diagonally from the bubble and lay it back flat.
For Tonya’s MacBook Pro I put the stickers on the cover and bottom case only, but for my MacBook Air I decided to experiment with the interior stickers. The palm rest sticker was a bit difficult to line up around the trackpad by my standards, but I finally got it. The sticker above the keyboard applied more easily, as did the sticker for the trackpad and space bar.
As you can see in the photo, the trackpad sticker did not stay on for long. I was initially worried that the trackpad might not work properly with the sticker on top, but that didn’t turn out to be the problem. The vinyl has a slight texture, which is extremely popular at the top and bottom of the outer casing, where it noticeably improves grip. I also like the texture on the palm rests, but immediately hated it on the trackpad, which should be silky smooth. I didn’t notice any difference when using the sticky space bar which was just an experiment. I don’t plan on trying the rest of the keys as they would negate the point of having a backlit keyboard, and I could remove the spacebar sticker for consistency.
We’ve been living with laptop skins for only about a week, but we love them very much. Distinguishing our laptops has become trivially easy, they’re less slippery, and the slightly soft vinyl eliminates the metal-to-metal grating sound when we stack them. I never worried much about scratching my laptop, but there is no doubt that these skins would protect against that eventuality. So if you have a hard time differentiating Apple laptops at home or at work, or if you want to add some eye-catching armor, try a vinyl skin.
Now that I’ve caught the virus, it’s time to spruce up our sun-discolored dishwasher and refrigerator, which means choosing between vinyl and magnetic skins, and between Kudu magnets and Best device skins.