Though there may be a debate over the value of screen protectors for iPads — one that we’d weigh in on by supporting anti-glare film — there’s little question as to what’s the most expensive, fanciest solution around: Spigen SGP’s GLAS.t for iPad (3rd-Gen) ($70). Unlike virtually every rival in the marketplace, and even SGP’s own Incredible Shield division, GLAS.t eschews thin, static cling- or adhesive-based film in favor of a hard piece of glass that attaches to your iPad, adding a virtually invisible additional layer of protection to the display. While the result looks and nearly feels as good as using an unadorned new iPad, the high cost of this solution is so prohibitive that only seriously obsessive users will consider it viable, and a couple of ergonomic considerations modestly limit its tactile appeal, as well.
Because it’s even more fragile and expensive to manufacture than a sheet of flexible film, GLAS.t is packaged in a particularly rigid box that opens more deliberately than common film-encasing envelopes. Included are a dry cloth, a bubble-removing squeegee, and a wet wipe for removing everything from the front of your iPad before installation. Like most film solutions, GLAS.t requires you to pull off one piece of protective plastic, align the glass with the front of your iPad, press lightly down, then work air bubbles out before pulling off the second piece of protective plastic. We found the process to be fairly simple—assuming you can align it properly, and your iPad’s face has been properly cleaned off, GLAS.t will pop right on and stay completely rigid. Our installation went perfectly on the first try, and the protector hasn’t moved for literally three months.
GLAS.t has a couple of advantages over traditional film. The tempered touch-through glass is virtually invisible—you hardly know it’s there—and it features an oleophobic coating that resists finger prints at least as well as Apple’s Gorilla Glass surface, quite possibly better. The optical clarity is nothing short of great for the new high-resolution display, presenting pixels with every bit of the Retina sharpness one would expect from a proper screen protector. If we hadn’t seen similarly impressive results from thinner and less expensive pieces of plastic, we’d be cheerleading GLAS.t to all comers.
Yet GLAS.t’s disadvantages are non-trivial. Like the iPhone 4/4S version we previously tested, this iPad edition is is susceptible to edge chipping, though you’ll need to make a personal determination as to whether you’re reckless or clumsy enough with a tablet-sized device that this might matter: over three months of use, the iPad version hasn’t actually chipped at all due to its lack of interaction with other objects, but the iPhone 4/4S version we tested did develop edge issues when it was placed with other items inside a pocket. Prospective users would benefit from using this with a soft case that slightly overlaps the sides of the 0.4mm glass.
Choosing the right case to use with GLAS.t isn’t easy, however, as the added thickness of the glass winds up stretching the edges of soft cases, and will likely have issues with hard-bezeled versions. Even though 0.4mm doesn’t sound like a lot, it also manages to recess the iPad’s Home Button in a modestly uncomfortable way that constantly reminds you of GLAS.t’s presence—the only clue most users will have that it’s there. Spigen SGP could have included a Home Button cover in the package, but didn’t, and probably should have given the crazy high price.
Taken as a whole, GLAS.t is a challenging accessory to rate. On one hand, it provides spectacular optical quality, feels almost identical to using an unadorned iPad, and adds only a little thickness to the tablet’s screen. If it were comparably priced to traditional screen film, we’d consider it worth of recommending. However, the price tag is unbelievable—around twice what alternative products cost—and the additional glass detracts from case compatibility and Home Button comfort in ways that traditional film protectors avoid. While there are certainly reasons to like GLAS.t for the new iPad, high-quality crystal clear film from leading providers offers most of its advantages without the added cost. We’ll keep our fingers crossed for a more affordable sequel, hopefully in the near future.
Company and Price
Company: Spigen SGP/United SGP
Compatible: iPad (3rd-Gen)