Review: SwitchEasy Pure(AR) for iPad 2
Updated from prior, similar products for the iPad and iPhone, SwitchEasy's new Pure(AR) ($18) for iPad 2 -- also known as PureAnti-Reflect -- is the company's latest entry into the anti-glare protective screen film market. Like most others, the concept with this film is simple: you get a sheet of specially designed plastic that adheres to the iPad 2's screen with static cling, reducing the natural glare of the glossy display, hiding fingerprints, and keeping the glass face protected from scratches. As with most of its accessories, SwitchEasy provides everything needed for a full solution, which in this case is a single piece of film, a microfiber screen wipe, and a squeegee.
Pure(AR) uses a three-layer film design, and installation is a very straightforward process. After cleaning the screen thoroughly, being sure to remove any possible dust or fibers, you peel off the first layer to expose the statically-adhesive side of the film. Using the holes in the film for the Home Button and front camera—the addition of which has made iPad 2 film installation somewhat easier than on previous models—for alignment, you lay the film down slowly, pushing out any air bubbles as you go with the squeegee. Once the film is flat, the squeegee can again be used to attempt to remove any remaining pockets of air. The final step is peeling off the top protective layer of the film, leaving the anti-glare finish unobstructed on the device. SwitchEasy cut of the film exactly right; it precisely fits the screen up to the edges with the right amount of clearance for openings. While we otherwise found the process to be easy, the included squeegee was not the best implementation we have seen. A flexible piece of thin plastic, it did not seem to have enough of an edge to be as useful as other options such as the silicone wedge that United SGP includes with its films. The bubbles that we did have did mostly disperse after a few minutes of working at them, but a stiffer credit card will be a better tool for most users.
While it does certainly reduce glare, Pure(AR) has a very noticeable prismatic effect on the iPad 2 screen, creating little glimmers of color at every pixel, most visible against white backgrounds. In addition, we saw that the display looked significantly dimmer and the images on it were hazier. Our test unit was set to about one-third brightness for these pictures. Though neither of these issues is a deal breaker, they were very evident from the beginning. When the screen is turned on, fingerprints disappear immediately, but they are still somewhat visible when the device is powered off. In terms of feel, Pure(AR) is noticeably different than an unadulterated iPad 2 screen. There is a definite drag when moving your finger across the surface—something that does not change the functionality of the device, but could possibly hinder smooth use in certain games or other apps.
We like anti-glare screen protector films a lot; they are a great way to protect the scratch-susceptible glass screen of Apple’s iOS devices, and help to remove the reflective sheen that can be a problem in certain circumstances. SwitchEasy’s film isn’t perfect, but it’s still a pretty good option, especially for the fairly aggressive $18 price. Most competitors cost $5-$15 more for similar offerings, though some use superior anti-glare film with less prismatic dispersion of light. While we would like to see some improvements to the overall finish, we would still recommend Pure(AR) to those looking for an affordable way to improve and protect the iPad 2; you’ll only do better by spending a little more.
Note: SwitchEasy has also released PureProtect ($15), a glossy film, and PureReflect ($20), a mirror-finished version, very similar to its previous versions for iPhone 4 and iPod touch 4G. We’re not reviewing them today, as they do little to improve the iPad 2’s glare—the PureReflect version actually dims the screen and makes reflections worse—but they’re available for users who want to cover the iPad 2’s screen with something shiny.