Review: BodyGuardz UltraTough Clear Skins for iPad (3rd-Gen)
UltraTough Clear Skins Back Only
UltraTough Clear Skins Full Body
Although they're not the only companies in the game, BodyGuardz and Wrapsol are two of the bigger developers of protective body films for Apple's devices. Both have recently introduced new film options tailored to the third-generation iPad: BodyGuardz is offering UltraTough Clear Skins in back-only ($25) and full-body ($30) variants, while Wrapsol has back-only Original Film ($30) and full-body Ultra Hybrid Protective Film ($40) -- Wrapsol's film is more expensive, but promised to be compatible with the iPad 2 as well. Although each film set includes body and screen protection, as well as the tools necessary for installation, there are some real differences between them.
UltraTough Clear Skins is a wet-application set; the film for both the front and back of the tablet adheres when combined with the contents of the two packets of application gel. Also included in the set are a pre-moistened cleaning cloth and a fabric cleaning cloth. Installation involves putting a dozen or so drops of the gel on the film, spreading it around with your fingers, and then putting the film in place. Because it takes a little while for the adhesive to dry, you have the ability to slide the film around, achieving the right position before removing excess liquid by wrapping a credit card in the cloth. The cloth is helpful, catching the gel as it’s squeezed out rather than letting it seep into the iPad’s holes. After about 15 minutes, the glue becomes more tacky, holding the edges of the film down. The film is totally clear, with a glossy finish, covering almost all of the back of the tablet; it leaves just a slim portion of the edges exposed. BodyGuardz accommodates cellular iPad users with an optional cutout for the Micro SIM slot, although the material can be left in place for those with Wi-Fi only units.
While the back film is pretty good, we weren’t as impressed with the front film, and then because it’s unlike most standalone screen films in two ways. First, it’s “soft”—that is, it bends over under its own weight when removed from its backing. It also requires the application gel to adhere to stick to the screen, which is the case with almost no other screen protector, and for good reason. If not completely removed via squeegee, adhesive remnants can cloud up the screen, seriously detracting from the beautiful Retina Display’s appearance. The company claims that this haziness will go away, but most of it was still there after a few days. That’s a shame, because it’s otherwise clear film without any sort of prismatic effect like most of the screen protectors we’ve seen on the new iPad.
Wrapsol’s Ultra Hybrid Protective Film is so-named because it uses a wet-application method for the rear “Original” film but dry application for the front film. In the box, you’ll find two squeegees, a cloth, and a vial of soapy solution. The instructions tell users to fill the vial up to the top with water, and then squirt the combination onto the side of the film that will stick to the tablet’s aluminum shell. Doing so activates the adhesive material, and allows you to slide it around a little bit—not as much as UltraTouch Clear Skins. Once it’s in place, the smaller squeegee is used to push out the liquid and allow for direct contact. We were able to remove almost all of the bubbles for a flat and well-aligned application. Unlike the glossy BodyGuardz film, Wrapsol’s has a slightly sparkly matte finish. It covers just about the same amount of the iPad, although the corners are shaped a bit differently, and there’s no option for protecting the Micro SIM tray area.
We definitely preferred Wrapsol’s dry-application front film over what was included with UltraTough, although we still don’t like it as much as most of the stand-alone screen protector options we’ve seen. Ultra Hybrid includes “soft” screen film that arrives sandwiched between two protective sheets. Wrapsol instructs you to use the larger squeegee to push out air bubbles while applying the film, and notes that some may remain, but most will dissipate within 24 hours. We found that there were indeed bubbles left, even after a full weekend. Some of the bubbles may have been removable with further label, but the total number was far higher than we’ve seen from most films. On the other hand, the film is completely transparent, and doesn’t affect the iPad’s Retina Display apart from the bubbling.
The big problem with any film solution is there’s very little room for error. Line something up incorrectly, or let a piece of dust sneak under, and you either have to live with the consequences or buy a whole new set. Results will vary widely between those who are novices or a bit sloppy, and pros or professionals. Even with considerable experience in putting film onto devices, our attempts fell somewhere in the middle.
That having been said, we do appreciate the concept behind both sets: you get a well protected iPad with almost no added bulk, and a visually appealing look. Ease of rear installation is about equal, and the matte versus glossy finish question comes down to a matter of preference. Our advice would be to go with either company’s rear film only and choose another company’s screen film, but if you want a full-body set, Wrapsol has the edge on screen film quality, and BodyGuardz has the edge on price. Wrapson’s screen film is not as clear as the best standalone options on the market, but it makes more sense than BodyGuardz wet-application protector. Installed under perfect conditions, there mightn’t be huge differences between the two, but since installation is highly unlikely to be perfect, Wrapsol has a slight edge that helps to mitigate their price difference. With that in mind, all of these options are worthy of our general recommendation; the BodyGuardz UltraTough rear film merits a slightly higher rating than Wrapsol’s version because it is more aggressively priced without compromising on rear protection.