Early Comparative Insights on iPad Screen Protectors | iLounge Backstage

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Early Comparative Insights on iPad Screen Protectors

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By Jeremy Horwitz

Editor-in-Chief, iLounge
Published: Thursday, April 29, 2010
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They have fancy names and come from well-known companies in the iPod and iPhone accessory industry. Their packages and web sites tout unique finishes and multi-layer technologies that enable them to protect your brand new iPad’s screen while permitting unimpaired access to its touch controls. But is it really worth spending $25 for a piece or two of plastic film?

We’re in the middle of testing a bunch of different and competing screen films right now, but since we’ve had inquiries from readers, we wanted to offer an interim answer—we’d say “yes”—and some useful information for people who are trying to decide between the increasingly numerous options that are out there now.

1. Your unprotected iPad’s screen is going to show scratches. One of our iPads went without screen protection for a week before getting its first cover, while the other was bare only for a couple of days. Both screens already have small but visible surface scratches; the one that went unprotected longer has more of them. They’re similar to ones we saw on the oil-resistant iPhone 3GS screen, which is to say not deep or wide enough to impair use or enjoyment of the iPad, but they probably will impact resale value at some point.

2. There are in fact differences, and major ones, between competing brands. We would love to be able to tell you that Incipio’s Anti-Glare Screen Protector—which includes two sheets of film for the same $25 price charged by Power Support for its Anti-Glare Film—is equally useful, or that the $23 Steinheil Anti-Fingerprint Film from United SGP offers a better value for the money. So far, that’s not the case.

Power Support’s film thus far is the best of the bunch on quality, which isn’t a surprise given that this Japanese company has been as quality-obsessed as anyone in the film-manufacturing business for years. Its Anti-Glare film has the best overall combination of optical clarity and fingerprint resistance we’ve seen; the screen can go for days without being wiped down if you choose. We found the film to be easier to apply than we’d expected, particularly when it came time to work the air bubbles out. But Power Support includes nothing more in its package than the single sheet of film, leaving you to supply your own microfiber cloth and applicator card—not a dealbreaker, but for $25, this film is as light on frills as we’ve seen.

Incipio’s Anti-Glare Film includes two sheets of film, a cloth, and an applicator for the same price. It was the first on the market, fit the iPad properly—though it was tailored so close to the screen’s edges that we found it a little challenging to install—and we were extremely thankful to have something protective for the iPad so early in its life. But over a week of use, we found that this film picked up fingerprints at a much higher rate than Power Support’s version, and showed oil smudges, both of which needed to be wiped off with frequency. You pay half the price per sheet and wind up with a lower quality experience.

Another film we’ve tested is United SGP’s Steinheil Anti-Fingerprint Film. It sells for a little less than Power Support’s, includes a bottle of LCD cleaning spray, a cloth, and a rubber squeegee. This was the easiest of all of the films to install, tailored to fit just within the iPad’s edges, and like the Power Support film, it’s made in Japan—the precision of its cuts and the quality of the film are both impressive. It’s designed to reduce the evidence of fingerprints, as well as reducing glare. SGP accomplishes this by using a coating that is noticeably milkier than Power Support’s, which gives text and other on-screen content a softer, blurrier look. Those seeking maximum anti-glare and anti-fingerprint protection may find it here, but at the cost of screen clarity.

3. Touch responsiveness is diminished only a tiny bit. Expect only a modest diminution of touch sensitivity when using these films with most cases. We can’t say this about every generic option out there, and we’ve seen little hints of further reduced responsiveness under limited circumstances when combining some of these films with Apple’s iPad Case, but for the most part, film helps a lot more than it hurts.

There are other options that we’re testing right now (see Speck and Simplism for examples), and we’ll have more to say on them in the near future. For the time being, our recommendation would be to check out Power Support’s film if you’re looking for the highest-quality protector, and consider other options if you’re willing to accept some compromises in the name of saving dollars or getting more film for the same price. You can obviously save even more cash if you’re willing to let your iPad’s screen get scratched up, or use a flip-style case with a part-time screen flap built in. Many protective options are available in our iPad Accessory Gallery.

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Comments

1

Thank you so much for this!  I am one that emailed you, and I’m happy to get some initial feedback.
I guess I’ll wait on the results of the next batch as I like Speck’s products.
Thanks again, this is one of the reasons why I read and recommend iLounge.

Posted by sb on April 29, 2010 at 11:45 AM (PDT)

2

Regarding Incipio’s anti-glare ... you did hit on some of the problems with that product, but IMO there were worse issues with it. First, it REALLY degraded the image sharpness, IMO. Pure whites—like the background of a new SketchBook Pro document—looked noticeably fuzzy or cloudy and the image quality of video was degraded.

Also, the texture of the plastic was such that it “gripped” my finger a bit, making the touch interface not quite so effortless as a bare screen. Even worse, though, was the way it gripped my Pogo Stylus! It literally made my iPad unusable as a drawing device. I took the thing off after less than a day and mailed it back to the company for a refund.

Posted by Brian Hudson on April 29, 2010 at 2:10 PM (PDT)

3

Thanks for the initial review. However, you seem to be under the impression that everyone is interested in anti-glare protectors.  I want to know which is the best, sharpest, clearest screen protector.  I like the contrast and sharpness of the iPad screen and would like a screen protector that is as close to maintaining that sharpness and crispness while protecting the screen and being easy to apply.

Posted by John on April 29, 2010 at 2:47 PM (PDT)

4

@ #3,

Not sure where you come to that conclusion?  Seemed balanced based on the limited samples thus far.

Posted by sb on April 29, 2010 at 3:35 PM (PDT)

5

Please review Invisible Shield. Preferably both the Full Body Max coverage and Full Body Easy install

Posted by GregL on April 29, 2010 at 5:18 PM (PDT)

6

I installed the bodyguardz on my iPad. I’ve put them on 4 previous iPods/iPhones and consider myself experienced. The iPad was a chore to be sure - but overall it has worked perfect. I learned with my last two to buy the film before the product and install it immediately upon opening it.

The bodyguardz works great - and with discounts was only $12.00 for the screen cover only. Overall highly recommended - just use patience installing it!!

Posted by Paul Smith on April 29, 2010 at 5:50 PM (PDT)

7

I think that a review of InvisibleShield is very unlikely. The stuff yellows and has problems over time, and we get too many complaints regarding Zagg’s products from readers. At least on iPods and iPhones, other products we’ve tested are smarter buys.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on April 29, 2010 at 6:25 PM (PDT)

8

Thanks for this article. I bought the Power Support Anti-Glare Film based on your write-up, and I couldn’t be happier. I originally had a basic screen film from Incipio on to my iPad (because it came with my Incipio Feather case), and there’s definitely a big difference in quality between the two.

Posted by John on May 4, 2010 at 8:54 AM (PDT)

9

I have weak eyes. My new iPad is a tremendous help as I can read with it close up and can enlarge the print size. However the Kindle is still easier on the eyes because one is not looking at a light source. Is there a good screen cover that brings the iPad reading experience closer to the Kindle reading experience. The answer will be of importance to many older readers.
Thank you

Posted by Lois Kane on May 9, 2010 at 5:53 AM (PDT)

10

This is my second reply because I would like to add that The perfect conversion of the screen into Kindle type look would also not diminish screen sensitivity as I’d like to use a stylus in drawing apps.
Thanks some more.

Posted by Lois Kane on May 9, 2010 at 6:01 AM (PDT)

11

Thanks for the early insights. Is there any chance you could update the article with your thoughts on the Speck ShieldView? I’d really like to know how it compares to Power Support’s.

Posted by Stephen on May 12, 2010 at 10:15 PM (PDT)

12

Yes. The ShieldView’s a good product for the price, but scratches really easily and feels thinner than the Power Support option, which is so far the best in our testing. We’ll have more to say soon.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on May 13, 2010 at 6:18 AM (PDT)

13

A response, which I hope will be helpful, to Ms. Kane.

I would strongly recommend using an ereader app, such as Stanza, that permits you to change the text and background colors.  If you haven’t explored this before, different combinations of colors will greatly improve your reading comfort.  I use a blue or green text on a black background for nighttime reading.  Lower the brightness of the screen as well, and you’ll soon find that you’re no longer thinking about “light source”, “e-ink”, etc., and just reading!

By the way, playing around with different fonts and sizes, which Stanza and eReader also permit you to do, will also greatly improve your reading experience on the i-devices.

Posted by astroman33 on June 15, 2010 at 5:54 AM (PDT)

14

As to this early review… it’s much, much appreciated!  Power Support here we come.  I assume, though, that you will also be reviewing their crystal clear one.

Posted by astroman33 on June 15, 2010 at 6:13 AM (PDT)

15

Can anyone comment on if the PowerSupport antiglare film has less of the “prism” effect than does the product form Incipio?  I’ve been using the latter ever since I got my iPad and really do like the fingerprint and glare benefit, but I’m growing annoyed at the crystalline effect (most noticeable on white pages) - especially after using the awesome iPhone display. I realize any anti-glare protector has some downsides. Just curious if the PowerSupport has less of this artifact than does the Incipio product…

Posted by PowerSupport vs Incipio on July 5, 2010 at 9:52 AM (PDT)

16

Hi everyone, I installed the Belkin shield protector and couldn’t get it to look any better than your 2nd pic. I’m a bit of a perfectionist in this regard (unfortunately for me) so I’m wondering if anyone has a surefire way of installing a shield proctector WITHOUT pesky mini-bubbles or imperfections. Is this something we should expect of the shields?

Keep up the good work!

Cheers,
Alicia

Posted by Alicia on July 26, 2010 at 12:36 AM (PDT)

17

The Power Support film is the best of the ones we’ve seen.

Advice for avoiding imperfections: (a) buy properly made film (cheap ones have roughly cut edges that peel up, other problems) and (b) prep your screen by using tape and a wipe to completely remove all dust before the film is applied. Then (c) turn the iPad to horizontal orientation, use the Home button hole to get the initial proper alignment, and gently adjust the angle of the other side - before plunking the film down - to make sure the film doesn’t hit the iPad’s surface and then need to be pulled up and pushed down. (d) Apply and work air bubbles out. Anything that’s small and remains there is most likely a dust speck you missed. With good film, you can gently pull up the film and tweeze it out, sometimes made easier with a little moisture on a finger. Bad film will get ruined, so it might just be best to accept the imperfection as is.

We’ve had a piece of perfectly (self-) installed Power Support anti-glare film on one of our iPads for nearly three months now, and it looks as good as the day it was put on. Basically eliminates the need to care about smudges etc.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on July 26, 2010 at 7:03 AM (PDT)

18

Wow Jeremy I’m really impressed with your great tips - sounds like you’ve done this often grin I’ll lose patience with the Belking shield shortly, then try out the Power Support one.

Cheers,

Alicia

Posted by Alicia on July 27, 2010 at 3:15 AM (PDT)

19

I have the Invisible Shield and wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.  I had it “professionally” installed and yet two weeks later it is full of bubbles.  The feel of the shield is sticky - your fingers don’t move smoothly.  The glare is horrendous.  I’m looking for something else but suffering in the meantime.

Posted by Anna on July 30, 2010 at 8:30 AM (PDT)

20

Have you tried the Martin Fields Overlay Plus Screen Protector.  It seems to get some very good reviews online.

Posted by Neil on August 17, 2010 at 11:20 AM (PDT)

21

I installed Power support Crystal Clear version and I found it too reflective. I can hardly read my ebook now due to the reflection of the light.

Posted by Lim on September 16, 2010 at 3:18 AM (PDT)

22

I have had to replace my iPad due to a fault and got given a brand new one.  Problem is I have lost the screen cover that I had put on it.  I bought mine in Thailand (Japanese made) and it was absolutely perfect! I am trying to get the name of it so I can buy again.  It cost like £10 but I think worth every penny.

Posted by Jason on January 25, 2012 at 6:41 AM (PDT)

23

I’m an IT Manager and I’ve put the Power support anti-glare films on Every iPhone & iPad in our Company they are incredible. we put them on as soon as the unit comes out of the Box Prior to Powering them up for the first time. I’ve tried the Others and threw them away either Immediatly or within a week once they started peeling.. the Power support is easy to install and will outlast Your phone or iPad..

Posted by Barney on March 5, 2012 at 2:06 PM (PDT)

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