The idea that most case manufacturers work with is a simple one: keep the iPad 2 thin, light, and beautiful while still protecting it. Following that logic, the best case would be one that does not add bulk or weight, maintains Apple’s design aesthetic, and keeps the device safe from bumps and scratches — that naturally leads to something like a thin film. That is what United SGP has released with its new Incredible Shield Ultra Coat and Ultra Matte for iPad 2 ($34 each). Offering almost total body coverage, these sets include a plastic sheet to adhere to the back of the iPad 2 — glossy for the ultra coat, matte for the matte — and both come with a crystal clear screen protector. The screen protector is the standard dry installation style with static cling rather than classic adhesive, while the pieces for the back are applied with a moisture-aided adhesive. To help with the installation, the company packs in a vial of application solution, LCD cleaner spray, a silicon squeegee, and a microfiber cloth. Notably, there are two different models for each finish: one for the Wi-Fi and CDMA versions of the iPad 2, and another for the GSM version, differing only in offering a cut-out for the GSM version’s SIM card slot.
Installation of the front film is no different than that of any other model from United SGP. Clean the screen of the iPad 2 very well with the included cleaner and cloth, line up the film, and stick it on. It’s not easy the first time you try to do it, but if your fingers are clean and the iPad’s dust-free, you’ll do fine. After using the squeegee to flatten the protector, we were happy to see very few bubbles, and none of significant size. The protector is precision-cut, fitting around the front-facing camera and Home Button perfectly. When installed, the film is almost unnoticeable; it is completely clear and does not alter the image on the screen like other films may. Just like the iPad 2’s screen, the crystal protector is glossy and quite reflective; it hides fingerprints just a little bit better than nothing at all. While we prefer anti-glare films, the quality was pretty high, and it should be noted that film like this on its own costs $22 from United SGP; these full-body sets also include a separate film covering for the Home Button.
While the application of the front film is pretty easy, the back films are certainly a bit more difficult to put in place. Rather than simply placing the back film on like a sticker, these protectors use a wet application method. After removing them from their backing, you must use the included pre-mixed soap and water solution to moisten the entire adhesive surface. We have found that wetting the tips of your fingers and evenly spreading out the beads that form helps immensely. The next step is to line everything up, using landmarks like the camera, Dock Connector, and speaker as guides. Once the placement is correct, the squeegee is used to remove all of the liquid under the surface. This is something that has to be done very carefully, as there are many openings on the back where moisture can enter the iPad 2; using the cloth to wipe up liquid on the edges helps. Overall, this is not an easy process, but it pays off if done correctly.
We tested both the Ultra Coat and the Ultra Matte finishes, which are exactly the same in size and shape. First was the glossy version. Everything lined up well, leaving full exposure to all buttons, ports, and the back camera. The corners, always difficult for the manufacturer to cut due to the curvature of the iPad 2, were done well with just a bit of exposed metal. Surprisingly included with the film set was a very slim piece to fit underneath the speaker grill. When applied, Ultra Coat was almost invisible, but it does have a glossy, plasticky sheen. We were left with a few unattractive bubbles underneath the surface of the film that could not be removed with squeegeeing, and remained 24 hours later.
The fit of the Ultra Matte version was exactly the same as its glossy counterpart, down to the protector underneath the speaker. Where the two differed was the look. Ultra Matte, while still transparent, had less of a reflective glare but a bit of a prismatic effect, visible solely on the iPad’s back where it doesn’t really matter. It was a bit smoother to the touch, and showed fewer bubbles.
For those brave enough to attempt the installation, and lucky enough to succeed at it, United SGP’s Incredible Shields are a very good way to protect the iPad 2. While they certainly don’t offer much protection against drops, normal wear and tear becomes much less of an issue with these in place. We would feel very comfortable using these films when tossing an iPad 2 in a bag or sleeve, with or without Apple’s Smart Cover. Compared to the price of stand-alone screen films, the value is high, although $34 isn’t cheap in any absolute sense for two iPad-sized pieces of plastic film. Lowering the price, including backup pieces of film for installation accidents, and/or providing the option of an anti-glare film for the iPad 2’s screen, would all make Ultra Coat and Ultra Matte truly great options. That being said, we would still offer a strong recommendation either version of the film, leaving the choice of finish up to personal preference. We’d go with the Ultra Matte, but both look quite nice.
Company and Price
Company: United SGP
Compatible: iPad 2