Review: The Twelve South Journal for MacBook Pro is a sleeker version of the excellent BookBook

The Twelve South Journal for MacBook Air and Pro was launched earlier this week as a kind of updated version of the company’s much-loved BookBook case. Both models are designed for the current MacBook range with USB-C ports. The 13-inch is suitable for the MacBook Air or Pro, while the 15-inch is designed for the larger MacBook Pro.

We first looked at the BookBook case back in 2011. The one we looked at then was for the MacBook, but Twelve South offered them for all MacBook models – I even had one for my 17-inch MacBook Pro – before adding iPad and iPhone versions.

The BookBook combined three features …

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First, it was a highly protective case, completely enveloping the machine, with rigid material offering substantial protection against impact damage and crushing. For that reason, it has long been my preferred case for travel. My laptop travels in my cabin bag, and you can sometimes get people shoving things on top of other people’s bags, so I really appreciate the peace of mind of greater crush protection.

Second, great aesthetics. BookBook cases are lovely looking things.

Third, some degree of theft-protection. If you were leaving your MacBook at home, you could slip it into the case and put it amongst other books on your bookshelf and a thief would never know it was there. It also made you less of a robbery target if walking down the street with a MacBook under your arm, passing for a book to anyone unfamiliar with the case.

With the Twelve South Journal, the company has abandoned the third benefit in favor of a design which is much simpler, slimmer and arguably more stylish. So let’s start with the look and feel …

Look and feel

If you’re familiar with BookBook cases, the overall design is much the same. Leather on the outside, soft micro-suede lining on the inside, rigid inserts and reinforced corners for strength, double-zips for convenience.

But gone is the quirky hardcover book look. Instead, you get a simple and beautiful tan leather color with neat, contrasting stitching. There’s a small embossed Journal logo bottom-right of the front of the case, an embossed Twelve South logo bottom center on the rear, and the word ‘Journal’ embossed on the spine.

It’s made from full-grain vegetable-tanned leather from New Zealand. Available only in one color, it’s a slightly dark tan, which has been given an oil and wax treatment to offer basic water resistance. The coating also adds UV protection, to limit fading, but as with any leather, you should expect color change and a patina to develop over time.

The Twelve South Journal looks gorgeous. Simple, understated, stylish. The coating means the surface doesn’t feel quite as soft as it would without it, but that’s a trade-off you make. And I think it’s the right call for a case which is often used on its own to carry a MacBook under your arm.

In use

As with the BookBook case, you can either use it as a sleeve you remove when the MacBook is in use, or you can attach elasticated corner straps to the screen so that the laptop opens when you open the case. This can be more convenient in places like coffee shops where you may not have anywhere to put the empty case.

Either way, you have full access to all four USB-C ports. The straps do very slightly impinge on the screen, but not in a way that bothers me personally.

Also in common with BookBook, there’s a hidden document slot. Pull up on the Journal tag to reveal space for a few sheets of A4/US Letter paper.

The dual-zips make it quicker to open than a case with a single zip, and it’s a very smooth action. I’ve used BookBook cases for many years and never had a zip catch or fail.

Price and conclusions

The Twelve South Journal isn’t cheap. The one for the 13-inch MacBook Pro costs $149.99, while the 15-inch version is $169.99.

But that sort of pricing isn’t unusual for premium leather cases for Apple kit. Apple’s own leather sleeve (review, with video below) for the 15-inch version costs $199, and this is a much more substantial product. Journal is both beautiful and functional, and you’ll be able to use it for as long as you keep the MacBook – or any subsequent model of the same size – so I’d say it justifies the price.

If the price is too steep, I can also recommend the Woolnut leather sleeve for $89/$99 for 13- and 15-inch models respectively. That’s what I use when I’m slipping my MacBook Pro into most bags. But in my cabin bag, when I want the extra protection, and anytime I’m carrying the laptop on its own, it’s BookBook cases I’ve used in the past – and this Journal case I’ll be using now.

The Twelve South Journal case is available from Amazon, priced at $149.99 for the 13-inch MacBook Pro and $169.99 for the 15-inch.

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Avatar for Ben Lovejoy Ben Lovejoy

Ben Lovejoy is a British technology writer and EU Editor for 9to5Mac. He’s known for his op-eds and diary pieces, exploring his experience of Apple products over time, for a more rounded review. He also writes fiction, with two technothriller novels, a couple of SF shorts and a rom-com!

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