It contains digital family photos. It holds your business contacts. It's a repository of other valuable data too, including that video clip of the dog riding a skateboard. So how to keep harm from befalling your laptop? Many swear by a high-impact protective case. We tested four brands that promote themselves as the top of the line in laptop protection.
First look: Torrance-based Pelican Products Inc. has been making protective cases since the 1970s. (The military is a top client.) We tested model 1495, a big, black case made of high-impact copolymer plastic. It is built like a watertight ammo box, with four latches, a combination lock and the kind of hinges used on tool boxes. We kicked it, jumped on it and slammed it against walls with no effect.
Yikes and likes: Inside, the case includes pockets for your cellphone, iPod and paper files, a plus for travelers. But this monster weighs 11 pounds. Add the weight of a laptop and it feels as though you're lugging a spare tire.
First look: There is no mistaking a Zero Halliburton case. Its simple, elegant design is made of smooth brushed aluminum. Zero Halliburton is popular with professional photographers who want to protect expensive photo gear. We tested the silver Digerati Delux model, with chrome latches and a combination lock.
Yikes and likes: The case weighs 9.3 pounds and contains several inside pockets for files and gadgets. But the aluminum scratched easily when we knocked it against walls. The case will take a beating, but it will show it. Another drawback is the eye-popping price.
411: $445; available at many luggage shops or (800) 500-9376, www.zerohalliburton.com.
THE LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT
First look: For Apple Notebook owners, Missouri-based Radtech offers the tough-sounding Mactruck case. It's really an aluminum alloy shell. It won't keep out dust or moisture, but it will withstand a heck of a pounding. Radtech says you can drive a truck over it. We stomped on it with both feet without making a dent.
Yikes and likes: The Mactruck has no inside pockets or combination locks, but it can be secured with a combination security lock, sold separately. It weighs 4.3 pounds. Even better, you can open it and use your notebook inside the case.
411: $200; available at most Macintosh computer stores or (314) 209-9993, www.radtech.us.
JUST TOUGH ENOUGH
First look: The Luxor is the bestselling laptop case by Michigan-based Vanguard USA. The walls of the case are a hard plastic known as acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, which is used to make pipes and golf club heads. This model has chrome-plated aluminum handles and latches. It weighs 6.5 pounds and closes with key lock instead of a combination lock.
Yikes and likes: The Luxor is not made to withstand the weight of a truck, but the black plastic walls are tough enough to take the typical beating of airline baggage handlers. This model is the most stylish and least expensive of all the cases we tested.
411: $95; (800) 875-3322, www.luggageonline.com.