Review: United SGP Steinheil Ultra Crystal + Ultra Fine Screen Protectors for iPad 2
Despite Apple's advancements in oil-proofing the glass used in its iOS devices, there's no question that an unprotected iPad, iPhone, or iPod screen can be scratched and smudged without some form of protection. The iPad 2 is no exception, and thankfully, companies have already begun to produce protective films to combat these issues. United SGP has released its Ultra Fine Screen Protectors for iPad 2 ($25), while Wrapsol has its Ultra Screen Protector Film for iPad 2 ($30), both of which offer anti-glare and anti-smudge protection, so we review them together today. (There's also a less expensive SGP version called Ultra Crystal Screen Protector ($22), which is completely clear, offering only anti-scratch and not anti-smudge protection; we are not fully reviewing this version for the time being.)
Unlike most of Wrapsol’s earlier wet-applied protectors, the Ultra Screen Protector Film uses a dry application method, which the company claims will automatically release air bubbles within 24 hours. Included in the package are a thick cardboard squeegee and a microfiber towelette. There’s a U-shaped cutout for the front-facing camera and ambient light sensor, and a larger U-shaped cutout for the Home Button. This differs from most screen protectors we’ve tested from other companies, which instead use precisely-tailored circular holes to expose these elements for unimpeded use.
Though these are still early days for iPad 2 screen protectors, we found Wrapsol’s fit to be about two millimeters short on Ultra, and even after using the included cardboard squeegee, a number of bubbles remained under the film after installation. Since Wrapsol states that bubbles under two millimeters will dissipate after a day, we gave the film more than 24 hours to cure before continuing with our testing. We did see a small decrease in the number of bubbles after this period, but numerous large air pockets did remain, even after attempting to squeegee them out with the included cardboard, a credit card, and SGP’s rubber squeegee. We found that the cardboard was so ineffective as to be almost useless. After another 24 hours had passed, we again tried to squeegee the remaining bubbles out, and were left with fewer but still numerous spots on the screen—this, after probably two hours of installation and bubble-removing labor.
United SGP’s Ultra Fine film is also anti-glare and capable of providing fingerprint resistance. Notably, it fits the iPad 2’s new front glass considerably better than the Wrapsol film, leaving only the tiniest sliver of glass exposed at each edge when properly installed. Made in Japan and finished in Korea, the quality of SGP’s film is amongst the best we’ve tested for previous iPad, iPhone, and iPod devices, in the same general league as films we’ve liked from Power Support. Also using a dry rather than wet application, SGP’s film used static cling, which made air bubbles considerably easier to remove than with Wrapsol’s film, though there was a fair amount of dust in the package that contributed to a less than ideal first go at installation. SGP packages the film with LCD cleaning spray, a cleaning cloth, a rubber squeegee, and stickers for dust removal.
Compared to the United SGP film, Wrapsol’s film exhibited more of a glittery rainbow prismatic effect, which was particularly evident in white spots and around text. The Wrapsol version also had a higher level of cloudiness that softened the screen’s pixels a bit, while SGP’s film did a better job of maintaining the sharpness of the display. Both films did a very good job of preventing fingerprints. Between the two, however, United SGP’s film felt much better, with a smoother surface that was easier to touch and swipe, while Wrapsol’s had a slightly more rubbery, “dragging” feel.
Ease of installation is a crucial factor when it comes to screen protector films. Most consumers will only apply a film once per device, and that device may last for several years. It should not require practice to get the installation right. Rather, clear instructions and all necessary tools should be included to ensure that the film goes on correctly the first time, or that it can be cleanly repositioned if not. In this area, United SGP was superior. Its film is firmer during installation and easier to position, then packed with a better squeegee to remove air bubbles. If there’s a problem, the film can be peeled up at an edge easily at any time after installation, a dust speck removed, and the film re-seated as if it’s new.
Between these two films, there is a clear winner. United SGP’s Ultra Fine Screen Protectors have an edge on Wrapsol’s Ultra Screen Protector Films in every category: not only are they a little more affordable, but they’re also easier to apply, leaving fewer bubbles, providing a cleaner view of the screen, and have a better feel when touched and swiped. That being said, $25-$30 per sheet of film is still a high cost for simple screen protection, especially when compared to full cases that can be purchased for similar prices. The addition of a second piece of film with either set would make them much better values, and help users who find initial installation particularly challenging. SGP’s Ultra Fine Screen Protector for iPad 2 receives a B+ overall rating, and our general recommendation, while Wrapsol’s Ultra Screen Protector Film merits a flat C, as it falls behind the SGP version in every way.
[Editor’s Note: We’ve also been testing United SGP’s Ultra Crystal Film, which we are leaving unrated pending the conclusion of our tests. The Ultra Crystal Film is nowhere near as impressive as the Ultra Fine, with considerable air bubbling issues, an even more rubbery feel than the Wrapsol film, and no anti-smudge protection. As of this moment, we would not be inclined to recommend it at all, but we’ll update this review with additional details in the near future.]